Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You'd Be at the Free Clinic all the Time

In honor of World AIDS Day, below is one of my favorite clips in all of television.

Back in the fall of 1987, when so many people -- even in Hollywood -- remained ignorant about the disease, Designing Women became the first sitcom I can think of (yes, even
before The Golden Girls) to tackle the issue. And as Linda Bloodworth-Thomason always does in her writing, the show did so with grace and class. (Bloodworth-Thomason wrote from experience; her own mother Claudia had at that point contracted HIV from a blood transfusion and had died, inspiring the writer to create episode "Killing All the Right People," the fourth in the show's 2nd season.)

Tony Goldwyn guest starred as Kendall, a rival decorator who hires Sugarbaker's Design Firm to redo a room at the local funeral parlor in a New Orleans theme, to be used for his own unfortunately impending service, and as a gift to future AIDS victims who die without the resources for proper burial. The storyline dovetails nicely with the B story, in which Annie Potts' Mary Jo Shively is tasked with debating a local tight-ass in front of the PTA, and advocating for the dispensing of condoms to teens to save lives.

As Julia Sugarbaker, Dixie Carter practically patented the angry rant, and seeing her get "fired up" was the highlight of any Designing Women episode. Here, watch her rip evil Imogene a new one -- and deservedly so.

And if you have the Designing Women season 2 box set, I urge you to check out the full episode of "Killing All the Right People." I defy you to make it through, to the "Closer Walk With Thee" sequence at the very end, with a dry eye. Like all of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's writing at its best, the episode entertains, informs, and once you've seen it, it will remain forever in your heart.

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