“Designing Women” was all about four women and one man who worked for an Atlanta interior designing firm in the 1980s. Julia Sugarbaker, Dixie Carter’s character, was the president of the firm. Delta was Julia’s snobbish sister, who helped fund the firm as a silent partner. Annie Potts played Mary Jo Shively, the head designer, and Jean Smart was office manager Charlene Frazier.
Meshach Taylor was at first a deliveryman and then had a starring role as a partner named Anthony Bouvier. The show ran for a total of seven seasons, with one-hundred and sixty-three episodes. It was a smash hit.
Designing a Star
“Designing Women” was a TV sitcom, the brainchild of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that ran from September 1986 to May 1993. With each season as main character Suzanne Sugarbaker, an attractive, selfish, and self-centered former Miss Georgia, Delta had a bigger and bigger audience. Things were ever-brighter for Delta, but a number of influences, including those of her husband, would change her life before she knew what was happening.
Before we get to that, though, let's look back at Delta's beginning, how she got to where she was. It takes a long time to design a woman like Delta Burke, and she took the time to prove she was worth it.
Through its seven seasons, “Designing Women” was nominated for a huge number of Emmys, though their win rate was a bit disappointing. After eighteen nominations, the show brought home only one: Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series. Apparently, it's a real category! They won this in 1988, which also saw a nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Editing for a Series — Multi-Camera Production.
It won awards from the BMI Film & TV Awards, the GLAAD Media Awards, TV Land Awards, and had a bevy of wins from the Viewers for Quality Television Awards. There were plenty of other awards they were up for but didn't bring home.
Getting the Eyes on Them
When the first season debuted, it got respectable ratings, but it really took off and hit its stride in the second season. CBS moved the show's airtime around a lot after dismal ratings in the Sunday and Thursday night slots. The network was about to cancel the show, but thankfully, a viewer campaign saved it for another year.
The show's ratings increased, and it landed in the top-twenty ranking of primetime shows. It formed a highly successful hour-long block with the help of “Murphy Brown,” another show that had strong and opinionated female characters. CBS had a hit on their hands, and it was thanks, in part, to Delta.
Delta Burke was born to a single mother, Jean, in Orlando, Florida. An Orlando realtor named Frederick Burke adopted her after marrying her mother, but Burke never met her biological father.
She attended Colonial High School, graduating in 1974, earning the superlative “Most Likely to Succeed.” While attending high school, the Orlando Fire Department chose her as Miss Flame. She later went on to become the State Miss Flame. She also won a talent scholarship from the Miss America Organization, allowing her to attend a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.