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Designing Women - The Complete Fifth Season



Release Date: December 6, 2011 (Shout! Factory)
MSRP: $44.99
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 555 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None


The Southern Belles of Sugarbaker's are back once again for another season of Designing Women. Join Julia, Suzanne, Mary Jo, Charlene, Anthony, and of course, that nutty Bernice for twenty four more episodes. The fifth season of the series was the final season that the series included all of the original cast members, with Delta Burke and Jean Smart leaving the series after the final episode of the season (with no proper fanfare or farewell). But for now, we have twenty four episodes featuring all of the original cast members in one of the strongest seasons of the series, with some of the most hilarious moments of the series.


The season begins with "A Blast From the Past," where Sugarbaker's is put on a tour of historical homes, but it all turns out to be a nightmare for Julia. Look for an actress who replaced Dixie Carter on a previous series (Diff'rent Strokes) in this episode--Mary Ann Mobley. Anthony meets his father that he never knew in "Papa Was a Rolling Stone." In "Working Mother," Charlene wants to take a year off from work to look after her baby. Julia learns a valuable lesson about skipping jury duty in "Miss Trial." In "The Bachelor Auction," Suzanne buys a date with Anthony in a charity auction. Charlene's new residence is haunted (or at least she thinks so) in "Charlene Buys a House."

It's all about baby wigs and beauty in "Old Rebels and Young Models." In "Nowhere to Run To," Mary Jo takes up jogging and invites Julia to tag along, but Julia's ideas for physical fitness are just too much for Mary Jo. Richard Sanders guest stars as Charlene's professor in "A Class Act," where Charlene signs up for a college course. Charlene dreams of the World War II days when she is missing her husband, who is in the Persian Gulf, in "Keep the Homes Fires Burning." In "My Daughter, Myself," Mary Jo's 18-year-old daughter's new boyfriend is nearly twice her age. Bernice is set to be a big star when she gets her own public access television show in "And Now, Here's Bernice," but you know it is going to be a disaster.

Mary Jo plays a trick on Suzanne that may just cost her thousands of dollars in "Pearls of Wisdom." In "High Noon in the Laundry Room," Charlene helps Anthony take down some laundry room bullies--sort of. Julia is having an identity crisis and secretly performing in a seedy nightclub in "How Long Has This Been Going On?" In "The Emperor's New Nose," Bernice gets a nose job that makes her look like a celebrity, but keep in mind Miss Piggy is a celebrity too. In "Maybe Baby," Mary Jo wants a baby, and meanwhile, Suzanne's latest weight loss scheme involves taking up smoking, as long as it doesn't set her wigs on fire. Julia's purse is sold for thousands of dollars at an art show in "This is Art?"

Crazy things happen for everybody during a trip to New Orleans in "Blame it on New Orleans." In "I'll See You in Court," Mary Jo finds the man who mugged her and is ready for justice, but isn't prepared for the leniency that the perpetrator receives. Julia's boyfriend Reese as recently died in "The Big Circle," and a getaway cruise to help her through the hard times just doesn't happen when a former client shows up at the doorstep with nowhere else to go. Charlene's husband returns from the war in "Friends and Husbands," but he just can't seem to get enough time with her with Mary Jo in the way. In "Fore!," Anthony is invited to join a white's only country club, but why? The season ends with "The Pride of the Sugarbakers," where Mary Jo and Julia coach a Little League team, but neither are good sports.

As far as I can tell, the episodes seem to be unedited. The episodes begin around 23:30 or so at the beginning of the season, but beginning with the sixteenth episode of the season, they go down to about 23:00. This is not at all uncommon for series, though, when the runtimes become lower at a point within the season and remain lower, and likely indicates that the network began adding in more commercial time. Much (most likely all) of the original music seemed to be intact; every original piece of music that I remember in the episodes is there, at least, and it is well-known that Shout! Factory is very particular about not replacing music. And although there are some aberrations here and there, most episodes have the original late 80s/early 90s Columbia Pictures Television torch lady logo on the end. Episode runtimes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "A Blast From the Past" (23:23)
2. "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" (23:37)
3. "Working Mother" (23:31)
4. "Miss Trial" (23:30)
5. "The Bachelor Auction" (23:22)
6. "Charlene Buys a House" (23:24)

Disc 2:
7. "Old Rebels and Young Models" (23:28)
8. "Nowhere to Run To" (23:26)
9. "A Class Act" (23:32)
10. "Keep the Homes Fires Burning" (23:40)
11. "My Daughter, Myself" (23:22)
12. "And Now, Here's Bernice" (23:26)

Disc 3:
13. "Pearls of Wisdom" (23:26)
14. "High Noon in the Laundry Room" (23:35)
15. "How Long Has This Been Going On?" (23:22)
16. "The Emperor's New Nose" (22:54)
17. "Maybe Baby" (22:56)
18. "This is Art?" (22:51)

Disc 4:
19. "Blame it on New Orleans" (22:56)
20. "I'll See You in Court" (22:56)
21. "The Big Circle" (22:56)
22. "Friends and Husbands" (22:59)
23. "Fore!" (22:57)
24. "The Pride of the Sugarbakers" (22:53)


The artwork on the packaging is similar to previous sets, but like most other Shout! Factory releases, the packaging has changed from slimcases to a Viva case now. Like the previous sets, there is a photo of each of the four women, along with a photo of the business on the front. On the back, there are several episode snapshots, a cast photo, and a description of the season. Inside the case, you'll find a listing of all of the episodes along with a brief description for each episode. There are four discs inside, each containing six episodes. There is a photo of Julia on Disc 1, Charlene on Disc 2, Suzanne on Disc 3, and Mary Jo on Disc 4.

Menu Design and Navigation:

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 video quality of the set seems a bit blurry unfocused at times, but then again, this series always seems to have this look, even in syndication. It really shouldn't bother fans at all. It looks about how one would expect for a twenty year old sitcom that hasn't really been restored. The audio on the set is a bit soft, but it is mostly clear, and again, it sounds about like the series does in syndication. All of the episodes are presented in stereo audio, and they are all closed-captioned.

Special Features:

There are no special features on this set, at all. It is too bad, because this series could really shine with special features. Opportunities to do special features with Dixie Carter and Alice Ghostley have already been lost due to their recent deaths, but the other stars are alive and well, and it would be nice to see them add commentaries or interviews to the set.

Final Comments:

Shout! Factory has once again put out a great set that fans will appreciate for the episodes, and the set looks very nice and professional with the (mostly) decent quality of episodes, excellent packaging artwork, and professional (though no-frills) menus. Of course, it is unfortunate that there are no special features again, but it is at least great that Shout! Factory is continuing to put out releases of this series, and even releasing it via standard distribution as opposed to their Shout! Select program. Hopefully, we'll see more releases of the series in the near future, even if the last two seasons had a significant departure from the quality of the first five seasons. But for now, enjoy some "southern comfort" with these twenty four episodes.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 11/23/11

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