Release Date: April 3, 2012 (Shout! Factory)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 540 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None
The time has come for a little more comedy and interior decorating with Designing Women - The Complete Sixth Season! Julia (Dixie Carter), Mary Jo (Annie Potts), Anthony (Meshach Taylor) and Bernice (Alice Ghostley) are back in the 1991-1992 season of the landmark CBS sitcom, but not everything is the same this season. Delta Burke, who played the much beloved character Suzanne, is gone from the cast, only to be briefly mentioned a few times as having moved to Japan. Also, Jean Smart's character Charlene makes a somewhat unceremonious departure as well, appearing only in the season premiere, in which she mentions that she will be taking a trip to England to meet the queen, never to reappear afterwards. But both Suzanne and Charlene are replaced with very similar characters, with Suzanne being replaced with Julia and Suzanne's extremely obnoxious (by her own admission) cousin, Allison Sugarbaker (Julia Duffy). Meanwhile, in the season premiere, Charlene's sister, Carlene (Jan Hooks) is introduced as she drops in to Atlanta fresh out of her divorce, and much like her similarly named sister, she is a bit naive--perhaps much more so than Charlene. All of these changes set the stage for the sixth season of the iconic series, which essentially reinvents the series as we all knew it.
Changes are happening all over the place when new "silent" partner Allison moves from New York City back to Atlanta to terrorize Sugarbaker's in the double-length season premiere "The Big Desk." Jean Smart appears as Charlene for one last (unceremonious) appearance in this episode. Julia begins to date again in "A Toe in the Water," but is this new guy even heterosexual? Carlene's ex-husband is in town in "Dwayne's World," and Mary Jo wants Carlene to demonstrate how independent she is. In "Marriage Most Foul," Allison's former boyfriend (whom, by the way, she helped put in prison) is released, so what are his plans? Mary Jo's desire to get pregnant leads her to a bank--but not a traditional bank--in "Picking a Winner."
A prison outreach program ends up with the women all being in the middle of a prison riot in "Last Tango in Atlanta." Everybody is in disagreement over a prominent (now historical) current event in "The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita." Mary Jo's brother is in town in "Just Say Doe," and takes an instant liking to Allison. Julia goes on a date with the repairman which goes surprisingly well in "Julia and Rusty, Sittin' in a Tree," but a second date where all of the women and their dates go to a drive-in (along with Anthony taking Bernice) certainly does not. Julia and Mary Jo's competitiveness in a Christmas decorating contest ends with them trapped under the bed of a playboy during a very heavy six-hour love making session in "Mary Jo and Julia Get Stuck Under a Bed." In "Real, Scary Men," the women become unwelcome guests at a very bizarre men's club after the van breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
Anthony is puzzled when his unfriendly law professor takes a liking to Carlene in "Tales Out of School." Julia and Mary Jo take Mary Jo's mother back home on an overnight bus trip in "Driving My Mama Back Home," while Anthony, Carlene, and Allison are trapped in the storage room overnight. Julia's son returns home following marital problems in "Payne Comes Home." In "Carlene's New Apartment," Carlene is very excited about her new place to live, but the others are a bit concerned about the constant gunshots and police sirens that seem to blare nonstop in the neighborhood. Anthony is putting together a community theater production that turns into a battle between Julia and a Broadway has-been in "Mamed." In "A Scene From a Mall," Julia organizes a sit-in at the mall in response to an incident involving Anthony and mall security.
Carlene enters an Atlanta theme song contest in "All About Odes to Atlanta." In "I Enjoy Being a Girl," the women work together on an overnight Girl Scout trip, where nobody is having a pleasant time. Allison gets scammed when she invests $25,000 in a film project in "L.A. Story." Match Game legend Charles Nelson Reilly guest stars. Julia is in the hospital awaiting some test results in "A Little Night of Music" while the employees are on strike. Amy Yasbeck guest stars. The season ends with "Shades of Vanessa," where using Anthony as "date bait" end with huge wedding plans. Jackée guest stars as Vanessa in this semi-cliffhanger episode.
The episodes on the set are all unedited (as far as I can tell), and every episode has the original opening credits with the theme song as performed by Ray Charles with the women surrounding him at the piano. If there is ever any theme song that would be in danger of being edited on DVD, this one would be at the top of the list, and fortunately, Shout! Factory didn't destroy it. Other music within the episode all seems to be intact as well, including the episode "Mamed," which included music from the Broadway hit Mame. Episode runtimes are as follows:
1. "The Big Desk" (46:11)
2. "A Toe in the Water" (23:25)
3. "Dwayne's World" (23:36)
4. "Most Marriage Foul" (23:35)
5. "Picking a Winner" (23:24)
6. "Last Tango in Atlanta" (23:24)
7. "The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita" (24:02)
8. "Just Say Doe" (23:27)
9. "Julia and Rusty, Sittin' in a Tree" (23:45)
10. "Julia and Mary Jo Get Stuck Under a Bed" (23:50)
11. "Real, Scary Men" (23:23)
12. "Tales Out of School" (23:24)
13. "Driving My Mama Back Home" (23:30)
14. "Payne Comes Home" (23:06)
15. "Carlene's New Apartment" (23:25)
16. "Mamed" (23:25)
17. "A Scene From a Mall" (23:20)
18. "All About Odes to Atlanta" (23:25)
19. "I Enjoy Being a Girl" (23:26)
20. "L.A. Story" (23:23)
21. "A Little Night Music" (23:24)
22. "Shades of Vanessa" (23:24)
The artwork for the set is similar to the previous releases, with the discs being packaged in a Viva case (just like the fifth season). There are photos of each of the cast members on the cover, which are of course updated this season with the changes in the cast. On the back, there is a larger cast photo, along with some episode snapshots. There is also a brief description of the season on the back of the case. Inside, there is a listing of all of the episodes on the set, along with a brief description for each episode. The set contains four discs, with a photo of Julia on Disc 1, Allison on Disc 2, Carlene on Disc 3, and Mary Jo on Disc 4. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-5, Disc 2 contains episodes 6-11, Disc 3 contains episodes 12-17, and Disc 4 contains episodes 18-22.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are basic and functional, but also very nice. On the main menu, there is artwork similar to the cover art, while the sixth season version of the theme song plays in the background. The options include Play All and Episodes. Selecting Episodes takes you to a text list of all of the episodes on the disc. There are chapters throughout each episode.
The menus on the set are very basic, with the main menu featuring similar artwork to what is seen on the cover of the set. In the background of the main menu, the theme song plays, but only once (which I prefer it that way, continuous looping of theme songs can get annoying very fast). The options on the main menu include Play All and Episodes. When you select Episodes, you get a text list of episodes on a menu that has no artwork except for a rose in the lower right hand corner (just like on the opening credits). Chapters have been placed throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The episodes on the set look pretty good, though the episodes do look a bit blurry at times. It certainly seems that the quality of the episodes improves with each and every season, and these episodes look better than any of the episodes on the previous releases. The audio quality of the episodes seems to be pretty good this time around as well. The episodes are all presented in stereo, and every episode is closed-captioned.
There aren't any special features on this release at all. This season would have provided an excellent opportunity for Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks to provide some sort of interview or something, since they were new to the series in this season. But I guess that wasn't meant to be.
Absence of special features aside, this is another great release of the series. This is definitely not the strongest season of the series, as the absence of Delta Burke and Jean Smart are very much noted in these episodes, but oddly enough, this season was the highest rated season of the entire series. Still, that doesn't imply that fans necessarily liked the changes in this season. Julia Duffy's character of Allison Sugarbaker, in particular, was essentially hated by fans. In watching these episodes again, I can completely understand why. Even though the character was supposed to serve as a replacement for Suzanne Sugarbaker, the main difference between Allison and Suzanne is that Suzanne, despite her issues and complaining, showed a side of her that was human and caring every now and then. Allison, on the other hand, was essentially just bitter, whiny, bossy, and hateful all the time. It is too bad, because Julia Duffy could have offered much more to the series if the producers had not misused her. It is no surprise that this season was Duffy's first--and last--season on the series. Jan Hooks' Carlene, on the other hand, was a well-suited replacement for Jean Smart's character, although Carlene definitely seemed less realistic than Charlene.
With the character analysis of the season aside, fans will enjoy this release, as there is nothing to really dislike about this release. It is great that Shout! Factory has made it this far in to the series, and it would only seem appropriate for them to release the seventh (and final) season soon, although a release hasn't been announced so far. We hope that one is announced, though. If you are a fan of this series, or a fan of other ensemble comedies of the era (The Golden Girls, in particular, comes to mind; the characters are almost analogous from one series to the other), you'll want to own this set. Despite the weaknesses of this season, I think that those who are unfamiliar with the series could still watch this season and find the series enjoyable.