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Patricia Heaton, Delta Burke, Teri Garr and Valerie Mahaffey
Women of the House aired from January until March 1995 on CBS.
Following the death of 76 year old Ray, her fifth husband, Suzanne
Sugarbaker (Delta Burke) moved to Washington D.C. to fill out his term
in the House of Representatives. With her were her young adopted
daughter, Desiree ( Brittany Parkyn), and her mentally retarded
brother Jim ( Jonathan Banks). Since nobody in Washington expected her
to be around long-she was considered a political lightweight who would
be gone after the next election-few people were interested in being on
her staff, so she hired the 3 who were at her office when she arrived.
They were chief of staff Natalie ( Patricia Heaton), former lover and
chief aid to a congressman who was now in prison; press secretary
Sissy ( Teri Garr), former Washington Post reporter whose drinking had
gotten her fired; and naive receptionist Jennifer Malone ( Valerie
Mahaffey and Julie Hagerty) ,known to her co-workers as
"Malone,",whose football coach husband had run off with a Washington
Redskins cheerleader and left her with no money and two sons to
raise.The years of sexual repression had taken its toll on Malone and
she had begun to become obsessed with sex. Natalie had hopes of
shaping Suzanne into her own highly efficient and politically savvy
image but found the self-centered, out-spoken and flamboyant Miss
Sugarbaker difficult to mold. She did what she wanted to do, said
whatever came to mind and was oblivious to Washington protocol, though
she did form an unusual bond with then-current President Bill Clinton,
who was frequently heard off-screen.
For star Delta Burke, this was a strange homecoming. She had been
fired from Designing Women after feuding with series producers Linda
Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry thomason. Now four years later, she
reprised the role and co-produced the series with her former
employers. The Thomasons' original choice for the role of Jennifer
Malone was Julie Hagerty, who was in a play when production began.
Valerie Mahaffey filled in for her until she was available and ended
up back in the part when Hagerty quit after taping only 2 episodes.
Mahaffey agreed to return for one last episode before the show was put
on dreaded hiatus due to low ratings, returning to the network with
unaired episodes five months later -- minus the Malone character. In
her place was a new "Generation X" intern, Veda Walkman ( Lisa
Then the series was yanked from CBS again after network censors
insisted on cutting the crucial epilogue scene from the episode Women
in Film. Linda and Harry Thomason were publicly vocal about the
scene's importance and insisted that the one-minute montage featuring
enactments of women being brutally tortured, raped, and murdered was
needed to drive home Linda's message about the abuse of women in the
film industry. The national headlines and controversy surrounding
CBS's decision prompt LIFETIME Television to air the episode in its
entirety along with the three other unaired episodes (all aired out of
production order) on a Friday night dubbed An Evening of Women of the
House, with Delta Burke popping in between episodes as the hostess on
Basic Instinct - The infamous scene with Sharon Stone's pantiless
crotch is discussed in the episode "Women in Film."
Boxing Helena - Suzanne launches into a rant about the film in the
episode "Women in Film", referring to it as "Waltzing Matilda."
Crossfire - Suzanne appears on the political talk show in "Miss
Sugarbaker Goes to Washington".
Deliverance - The film is referenced in the episode "Bad Girl";
the infamous rape scene with Ned Beatty is discussed at length in the
episode "Women in Film".
Driving Miss Daisy - In the episode "That's What Friends Are For",
Suzanne writes an article about the interracial bond she shares with
her maid, tentatively titled "Driving Miss Suzanne." A few other
references to the film appear in the episode.
Forrest Gump - Referenced as the number one film in America in the
episode "Women in Film"; in the episode "North to Alaska", Suzanne
says she was distracted while watching the film and didn't hear the
final word in the line "Life is like a box of chocolates."
Inspector Morse - The plot of an episode is discussed in the
episode "You Talk Too Much".
M*A*S*H - Jamie Farr guest-stars as himself in "Guess Who's
Sleeping in Lincoln's Bed?", and he ultimately gets into drag.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Referenced numerous times in the
episode "Miss Sugarbaker Goes to Washington".
Nine 1/2 Weeks - The film is discussed at length in the episode
"Women in Film".
Sonny Bono - In the episode "Women in Film", Suzanne is jealous
that Senator Bono was awarded "Best Buns" in a superficial 'best and
worst of Washington' article.
Bill Clinton - Mentioned in many episodes, heard off-screen at times.
Hillary Clinton - Numerous references throughout the series.
Newt Gingrich - The butt of jokes in many episodes.
Jesse Helms - A plot in "You Talk Too Much" finds Sissy pulling a
prank on Natty by saying she spit in Senator Helms's soup. When Helms
is rushed to the hospital under mysterious circumstances, Natty
reporters Sissy to the F.B.I..
James Stewart - Referenced numerous times in "Miss Sugarbaker Goes
A Review from variety
January 3, 1995 11:00PM PT
Women of the House: Miss Sugarbaker Goes to Washington
By Kinsey Lowe
The timing could not be more fortuitous for the debut of a smart-mouthed comedy set in the nation’s capital, and the hilarious hourlong premiere of “Women of the House” makes the most of its premise — Suzanne Sugarbaker inherits her deceased husband’s seat in the House of Representatives — with the promise of many more laughs to come.
Delta Burke returns as the character she played — excuse me, was born to play — on “Designing Women.” After a much-publicized falling out, brief detour to “Delta” on ABC and subsequent truce with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, Burke is back on CBS, and better, as the outrageously plain-spoken former beauty queen.
“I’m back, and I’m bad,” Suzanne declares, “and this time I’m staying for good.”
Die-hard fans of “Designing Women” are sure to check this out, and if writer Bloodworth-Thomason can sustain the high-velocity, sharp-tongued wit of the premiere, she’ll have a hit on her hands when the show settles into its regular half-hour timeslot at 8 p.m. Wednesdays.
(The first half-hour episode, which after a slow start is almost as funny as this premiere, airs at 8:30 p.m. Monday and hints at possible future appearances by Dixie Carter as Suzanne’s “Designing” sister, Julia. A different half-hour episode airs in the regular Wednesday slot Jan. 11.)
The format is not unlike that of the original “Women”– a core ensemble, perhaps more perfectly cast this time around, of four women and a man. Even art director Ken Johnson’s main set, the congresswoman’s office, has functional similarities to the Sugarbaker design firm.
Warming up for Burke’s entrance, supporting players establish their chemistry almost immediately.
Teri Garr pours delightfully into place as a boozing reporter-turned-press secretary who gets her facts confused but has an uncanny flair for unexpected irony.
Patricia Heaton maintains a tightly wrapped, wry decorum (sound familiar?) as an administrative aide. Valerie Mahaffey brings just the right amount of spaciness as a housewife in her first job outside the home. Jonathan Banks adds a dimension of male daffiness as Suzanne’s retarded brother, a shameless but mostly effective echo of “Forrest Gump.” Brittany Parkyn rounds out the regular cast as Suzanne’s young, adopted daughter, Desiree.
Jokes fly about everything from gays in the military to Sen. Bob Packwood, with sly digs at the press and Washington’s worship of guile over integrity. Director Thomason keeps things moving fast and furiously, no small feat in a sitcom stretched to an hour.
Michael Kinsley and John Sununu look bewildered (don’t they always?) when Burke appears on “Crossfire.” Among several other things, Suzanne boasts about her cleavage, prompting Heaton’s character to quip, “This town hasn’t seen a pair of boobs like that since Haldeman and Erlichman.”
Burke’s character says a lot of outrageous things, and some of the jokes may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when the script plays retardation for laughs. But in the time of “Gump” and “Dumb and Dumber,” this may be an unreasonable quibble.
Segment with Burke and Parkyn lip-synching vigorously to Jennifer Holliday from “Dreamgirls” seems a tad belabored, as does Suzanne’s speech to the House. A fleeting salute to James Stewart provides a nice touch as the sergeant-at-arms tugs Suzanne off the House floor.
Camerawork by Lennie Evans is fine, editing by Pat Barnett taut.
Selection of tunesmith Shirley Eikhard’s “Something to Talk About” as the show’s opening theme song proves apt as the Thomasons — no strangers, as it happens, to certain goings-on in D.C. — have delivered just that.
Women of the House: Miss Sugarbaker Goes to Washington
Wed. (4), 8-9 p.m., CBS
Production: Filmed in Studio City by Mozark Prods. in association with Perseverance Inc. Executive producers, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Harry Thomason, Delta Burke; producers, Douglas Jackson, Tommy Thompson; co-producer, Lamar Jackson; director, Thomason; writer/creator, Bloodworth-Thomason.
Crew: Camera, Lennie Evans; editor, Pat Barnett; art director, Ken Johnson; sound, Norm Webster; music, Kimberly McLean.
Cast: Cast: Delta Burke, Teri Garr, Jonathan Banks, Patricia Heaton, Valerie Mahaffey, Brittany Parkyn, Michael Kinsley, John Sununu, Jeff Doucette, M.C. Gainey, James Tartan.
An Article from the LA Times
Putting 'House' and Past in Order : Old Nemeses Delta Burke and Thomasons Combine Forces for New CBS Series
January 04, 1995|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER
In one corner on the set of CBS' "Women of the House" waits Delta Burke, ink-haired and flamboyant in the reprise of her "Designing Women" role as Suzanne Sugarbaker. In this new comedy about the politics and pretensions of Washington, the former beauty queen/interior decorator inherits her late fifth husband's seat in the House of Representatives.
He was a Republican, but she, befitting a zany TV persona, is an Independent.
Along with a triumvirate of staff, including Teri Garr as her irreverent, somewhat loopy press secretary, Burke prepares to do a pickup scene for the hourlong pilot airing tonight. Her eyes are trained on the couple with whom she once feuded as ferociously as opponents in a hot election. Now she is their co-executive producer.
In the facing corner are that couple, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, the high-profile, sometimes controversial FOBs (Friends of Bill--and Hillary). Bloodworth-Thomason is the creator/writer/executive producer powerhouse of "Women of the House" (and "Designing Women," "Evening Shade"--which Hillary Rodham Clinton titled--and "Hearts Afire"). She also made "The Man From Hope," the elegiac biopic about Bill Clinton that was shown at the 1992 Democratic Convention. Her husband, who was inaugural co-chairman, is the show's director/executive producer.
As Thomason peers into a TV monitor, his wife chats it up with longtime Clinton political adviser Paul Begala. So what's he doing there?
"He's just passing through. Oh, please don't print that," whispers Thomason, then amends: "You'll see. We hit them both (Republicans and Democrats) equally."
But in the scene they are taping, the target is the press. Cautioning Sugarbaker, newly arrived in Washington, is a tight hair-bunned chief of staff (Patricia Heaton). It doesn't matter, she says, if President Bush was "never mystified by a supermarket scanner" or that President Clinton's "haircut never held up any airplanes" at LAX. "All that matters is that it's repeated over and over again . . . (and) the retractions are on page 78."
Bloodworth-Thomason, who sees the series as "a 'Designing Women' on the Potomac," said she felt Sugarbaker was " the character to infiltrate Washington because she's totally politically incorrect and (would) puncture all the pomposity and pretentiousness there."
Bloodworth-Thomason bases her opinion on her and her husband's experiences with the national press, which helped inspire the series.
"I think," she said, "we were assigned the role of Bill Clinton's rich, sleazy, liberal friends from Hollywood who brought a steady stream of celebrities to the White House, arranged a haircut that held up international air traffic, attempted to steal the White House travel office for our own charter business and tried to change the U.S. Constitution."
But what about the other bit of bad press: the stuff the Thomasons and Burke said about each other during the "Designing Women" acrimony? The actress accused Thomason of "abusive behavior" by screaming at her and others, and Bloodworth-Thomason of insulting her on numerous occasions.
On their side, the Thomasons got Churchillian, saying, "Never have so many done so much for one person and gotten so little in return."
It's history. Both sides blame miscommunication and unnamed third parties for the breakup.
Watching Burke and the Thomasons working together again, sugar could melt. "Do you want me to be here? " Burke asks Thomason plaintively. "Right there. Fine, fine," he replies soothingly.
Rather than zinging each other, now they are targeting a potpourri of politicians, from incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich--Garr's press secretary jokes about having his "love child"--to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, whom Garr parodies: "I Just Haven't Met the Right Man Yet."
To a degree, the Clintons get it too. Garr says she heard Hillary "threw" a lamp, a sofa "or maybe it was a party," but it has "something to do with how she's secretly running the country." And the next week, Sugarbaker tells the President that his appearance is doing him in, that his hair has "a life of its own," it will "stick straight up . . . a bad look even for Lyle Lovett," and that his jogging shorts must go. "Nothing will make people turn on you faster than having big white thighs."
Burke, whose spiraling weight in 1990 seemed to fuel the feud with the Thomasons, supplied the last line--she knows about that from experience.
CNN's "Crossfire" team of Michael Kinsley and former Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu appear in the first episode, interviewing Sugarbaker about "Knickknackgate"--her mentally disabled brother Jim makes ceramic spoon rests, which she tries to sell in the House gift store. (In the series, Sugarbaker also has an adopted daughter of Latino heritage.)
"Why on earth would I come all the way to Washington just to steal a little poorly run knickknack shop from the federal government?" retorts Sugarbaker. "Get real! That would be like me trying to take over a dinky little lemonade stand. Anyway, my five husbands left me plenty of money. . . ."
A ring of familiarity? In May, 1993, when Bloodworth-Thomason was defending against "Travel-gate," she cited the couple's six-figure weekly salary: "Setting our sights on the White House travel office would be the financial equivalent of us taking over someone's lemonade stand."
Sugarbaker is "closer to a Republican" and "more toward the conservative except on women's issues," Bloodworth-Thomason explains. "(She's) kind of a female Newt Gingrich--in style. Her mouth is as open as his," she says with a laugh, "but what comes out of it, of course, is going to be quite different."
So, on gays in the military, Sugarbaker allows "homosexuals have as much right to kill and be killed as anyone else. But . . . I wouldn't want to leave the beauty salons shorthanded."
"She's perfectly capable of looking at things from a shallow perspective," says her creator. But she's no fool. "As the series evolves, she becomes a lot more savvy, (using) her street smarts and beauty-contest smarts."
The producer dismisses any notion that she's facing a double-edged sword: attack the Clintons and she's hurting friends; let them off easy and viewers might tune out. "I've always put my ideals in my shows, and I'm not going to stop doing that just because I have a friend who's President of the United States. He doesn't tell me how to run this show, and I don't tell him how to run the country. . . . They'll handle this just fine." Still, she tried out some lines on Clinton a while back. She won't say which ones, but she did say that he laughed. A month or so ago, at the Thomasons home near Santa Barbara (the one once planned as the Clintons' vacation retreat), she and Hillary watched the pilot at something like 3 a.m. She won't say what the First Lady said.
Bloodworth-Thomason made her first break-ice call to Burke during her "Travelgate" troubles. "I was struck dumb," says the actress. Nevertheless they met and hugged, both say, but Burke, who was dealing with her failing ABC series "Delta," said she needed time. When Burke was ready to go ahead last fall, Bloodworth-Thomason was busy on "Hearts Afire." Ultimately it was CBS and Bloodworth-Thomason's pursuit of Burke, along with the role itself--"a blessing"--that inspired her to take the show.
The series, Bloodworth-Thomason says, is "not (about) settling any scores--for my husband or myself." She adds: "I have a big pen. I have a legal pad. My pen is bigger than (the critics) because I can reach 30 million people. . . . We're just throwing some grenades back into their yards, the press yard . . . in the spirit of fun."
* "Women of the House" debuts with a one-hour episode tonight at 8 on CBS .
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
Women of the House
January 13, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST
New Year, New Show, New Rules” is the slogan CBS has come up with to promote both Cybill and Women of the House. Yes, it’s a new year, and these are indeed new shows, but the ”new rules” part — well, no. Proof that neither of these sitcoms is breaking fresh ground is the fact that you can get the best idea of what they’re like by comparing them to old material: Cybill is sort of Murphy Brown crossed with Absolutely Fabulous; Women of the House is Designing Women by way of the Kevin Kline movie Dave.
Cybill heralds the return of Cybill Shepherd to series television. She plays Cybill Sheridan, a small-time Los Angeles actress feeling the cruel pinch that Hollywood inflicts upon middle-aged women. Her best friend is Maryann (the terrific stage actress Christine Baranski), a substance-abusing divorcee who recently completed her third stay at the Betty Ford Center and celebrated by having three martinis. Cybill has a 16-year-old daughter who is (naturally) a sullen brat but, as portrayed by Alicia Witt, not altogether unlikable. She also has two ex-husbands, who in an example of delightfully disparate casting are played by The Dukes of Hazzard‘s Tom Wopat and L.A. Law‘s Alan Rosenberg.
This all sounds so promising — why isn’t it funnier? Cybill is the latest project from the Carsey-Werner Company (Roseanne, Grace Under Fire), and it attempts to transplant Absolutely Fabulous‘ politically incorrect celebration of wretched excess. Baranski does her considerable best to be amusingly dissolute, but American sitcom standards won’t permit her to drink and drug in as devil-may-care a manner as Ab Fab employs to achieve its comic shock effects.
While Shepherd is to be commended for plunging so fearlessly into a topic U.S. television finds virtually taboo — showbiz’s prejudice against women who don’t look like 20-year-old she-cats — Cybill ends up making its central character look foolish by having her recite vulgar variations on Dorothy Parker, such as, ”Men don’t make passes/At girls with fat asses.”
If the star of Cybill is struggling to revamp her image, Delta Burke in Women of the House has caved in and listened to her fans: They loved her as the sassy Southern belle Suzanne Sugarbaker in Designing Women as they have in nothing else since. So she’s patched things up with Designing executive producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason and they’ve brought Suzanne back in a different format. Now Sugarbaker is freshly widowed and has taken over her husband’s seat in the House of Representatives. She moves to Washington, D.C., with her adopted daughter (Brittany Parkyn) and a brother, Jim, whom the proudly anti-PC Suzanne calls ”retarded.” He’s played by Wiseguy‘s Jonathan Banks as an unsettling cross between Forrest Gump and Jerry Van Dyke.
Jim — who’s also called ”mentally challenged” — exists to make naive jokes; we’re supposed to coo over his innocence as if he were a puppy. (Have I begun to suggest how offensive Jim’s character is?) So far, however, the primary focus of Women of the House hasn’t been on Suzanne’s family but on the gals in her office: a press secretary played by Teri Garr, an aide portrayed by Patricia Heaton, and a receptionist currently embodied by Northern Exposure‘s Valerie Mahaffey, but not for long — after four episodes, Mahaffey will vanish, to be replaced by Julie Hagerty.
When this week’s episode concludes with the spectacle of these three women plus Suzanne all tucked in together in the White House’s Lincoln Bedroom (don’t ask), you can’t help but think of the wacky shenanigans of the ladies in Designing Women, an association Bloodworth-Thomason clearly intends. This quartet of performers struggles to make something original out of the roles, but they’re stuck reciting clumsy one-liners such as, ”No one tells the truth in Washington unless they’re in an underground parking lot and terminally ill.” The bland bipartisan political humor of House never lets you forget that Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband are chums with Bill and Hillary. I give Women of the House a month before Burke’s husband, Gerald McRaney, shows up as a loudmouth conservative radio star. Cybill: C+ Women of the House: C
For clips of Women of the House go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=women+of+the+house+tv+show
For more on Women of the House go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_of_the_House
For a page dedicated to Women of the House go to http://www.designingwomenonline.com/History/WOTH.php
To see how Designing Women and Women of the House were related go to http://www.poobala.com/designingandwomen.html
To read Women of the House Magazine go to http://designingwomenonline.com/WOTH/index.html
For some Women of the House-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/women-house
� Date: Tue February 15, 2011 � Filesize: 50.0kb, 107.1kb � Dimensions: 1000 x 780 �
Keywords: Women of House Cast