WOMEN OF THE HOUSE – THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS 1995) Delta Burke, Terri Garr, Patricia Heaton, Valerie Mahaffey, Julie Hagerty, Jonathan Banks, Brittany Parkyn, Lisa Rieffel
Woman of the House is an American sitcom and a spin-off of Designing Women that aired on CBS. The series starred Delta Burke, reprising her role of Suzanne Sugarbaker, who had reconciled with producers of Designing Women after a bitter, highly publicized, off-screen battle.
Suzanne Sugarbaker's latest husband, a 76-year-old congressman, has died, and as his widow, she assumes his political office for the remainder of his term. Washington, D.C. is ill-prepared for the outspoken, "big, dumb, hick beauty queen's" arrival to the United States House of Representatives, though she did form an unusual bond with then-current President Bill Clinton, who was frequently heard off-screen. Along with her, Suzanne dragged her mentally disabled brother Jim (Jonathan Banks); her young, adopted daughter Desiree (Brittany Parkyn); and her often mentioned (but only once seen) maid, Sapphire Jones (Barbara Montgomery).
Congresswoman Suzanne takes Washington by storm with the help of her staff: cynical press secretary Sissy Emerson (Terri Garr), a washed up reporter who has never heard a rumor she didn’t spread and who turned to the bottle a few years earlier, but now is cleaning up her act; her humorless bun-wearing Administrative Assistant Natty Hollingsworth (Patricia Heaton, “Malcolm in the Middle”, “Everybody Loves Raymond”), whose married Congressman boyfriend is serving a prison sentence; and her naive secretary Jennifer Malone (Valerie Mahaffey then Julie Hagerty) a recent divorcée whose hobby is making doilies out of typing paper. Years of sexual repression had taken its toll on Malone and she begins to become obsessed with sex.
Malone was later replaced by Veda Walkman (Lisa Rieffel), a ditzy young woman who took an internship at the office. In more minor roles were William Newman as Dave, an older gentleman with bad arthritis who worked in the office and Adam Carl as Adam, another intern (which was not the same-named character Carl played in several episodes of Designing Women).
Debuting in January 1995, CBS did little to promote the series (which initially aired opposite the powerhouse Roseanne over on ABC). After bouncing it around the schedule, the network pulled the series after only eight of the episodes had aired and unceremoniously cancelled it.
Although this short-lived series only produced a dozen episodes, the notable guest stars make this a show worthy of watching.
- Jamie Farr guest starred as himself in the episode "Guess Who's Sleeping in Lincoln's Bed?", and he gave a nod to the series M*A*S*H by appearing in drag. Amongst the writing staff of M*A*S*H was Women of the House writer/creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.
- Gerald McRaney made an appearance in "The Afternoon Wife," playing Suzanne's ex-husband, novelist Dash Goff, a character that originated on Designing Women. By this point, McRaney and series lead Delta Burke were married in real life.
- Meshach Taylor reprised his Designing Women role of Anthony Bouvier in the episode "Dear Diary."
- Susan Powter was initially announced as a cast member of the series. She finally showed up in the penultimate episode, "Dear Diary."
- Charles Frank appeared as the oft-spoken of Congressman Ed Sharkey in the final episode, "The Conjugal Cottage." Frank starred opposite Delta Burke and Dixie Carter in Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's 1982 sitcom Filthy Rich.
- Telma Hopkins starred as a wisecracking cop in the episode "The Conjugal Cottage."
- The episode "Women in Film" featured cameos by Loni Anderson, Roseanne Barr, Carol Burnett, Brett Butler, Rita Moreno, Marilyn Chambers, Marilyn McCoo, Deidre Hall, Eliabeth Ashley, Joan Van Ark, and Stefanie Powers.