'Designing Women' TV Sequel Lands at ABC (Exclusive)

Creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason will return to pen the script for the Disney-owned broadcaster.
Photofest
'Designing Women'

Designing Women just took a big step closer to its TV return.

Twenty-five years after wrapping its seven-season run, ABC has handed out a script commitment to what is being billed as a "sequel" to the CBS comedy from original series creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason and executive producer Harry Thomason.

The new Designing Women — which is a multicamera comedy like its predecessor — will follow the next generation of Sugarbakers with a crop of new, young, female designers at an Atlanta interior design firm. The new take will still have the same razor-sharp dialogue and ability to cut through the political, cultural and social factions that rarely agree on anything. Bloodworth Thomason will pen the script and exec produce alongside her husband, Thomason.

The project, which has been in the works for months with the ABC deal being worked out over the past few weeks, comes from the same studio that produced the original in Sony Pictures Television. Sources say original castmembers will occasionally stop by should the new take move to series.

"I'm very excited to be working with ABC. And Sony has always been a great partner for Designing Women. Normally, I'm not a fan of reboots but Designing Women does seem to have the right fengshui for all that is going on right now. We could definitely have some fun," Bloodworth Thomason told The Hollywood Reporter a day after she penned a blistering guest column in which she revealed that former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves kept her shows off the air for seven years.

Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart and Meshach Taylor starred on the original multicamera comedy, which took on subjects including women's rights, domestic abuse, homophobia and racism during its run from 1986-1993. A season two episode exploring AIDS prejudice — inspired by Bloodworth Thomason, whose mother died from the disease — earned two Emmy nominations. Designing Women was nominated multiple times for the best comedy Emmy but never took home the trophy in the category. Burke earned two lead actress noms, and Taylor was also nominated.

Toward the end of its run, the series underwent some major casting changes. Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks replaced Burke and Smart in season six. (Duffy was not brought back for the seventh and final season and was replaced by Judith Ivey.)

Carter passed away in 2010; Potts is a series regular on CBS' The Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon; Taylor died in 2014; Smart is a series regular on FX's Noah Hawley Marvel drama Legion; and Burke, who is married to This Is Us favorite Gerald McRaney, last acted on TV in a 2009 episode of Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva.

The Designing Women sequel arrives as reboots continue to remain in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming platforms look for proven IP in a bid to cut through a cluttered landscape that is expected to top 500 scripted originals this year. Key to them is having the original producers involved — which Designing Women has with Bloodworth Thomason and Sony, whose Columbia Pictures was the studio behind the original.

Designing Women is of particular interest as broadcasters look to reboot hit comedies that help speak to the state of the politically divided country. For its part, ABC found huge ratings success with Roseanne, which represents the working class in middle America; CBS will launch its new Murphy Brown with star Candice Bergen on Sept. 27; and NBC has renewed its Will & Grace revival through 2020.

It's also worth noting that Potts acknowledged the climate is right for a Designing Women reboot. "I would love that," she told EW. “I don’t know when I’d find the time for it, but I think that they could use a show like Designing Women — feisty smart women that didn’t take any B.S. from anybody. Every Monday night was a #MeToo moment for us, and we were talking about it; we were very political. I’m sad that there’s not such a strong voice, I don’t think, in any singular show. Nobody is doing what we did then. So yeah, if [creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason] wanted to write six episodes and do it in my hiatus, I would be there in a minute."

Bloodworth Thomason is repped by Innovative Artists and Hansen Jacobson.