Archive for March 4, 2011
Linda Bloodworth Thomason is a writer and television producer. Born in 1947 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she went on to obtain an English degree from the University of Missouri. Upon graduation she secured a teaching position at an inner city high school in Los Angles’ Watts neighborhood.
Later, she worked as a journalist for the Los Angles Daily Journal and did some freelance writing for television. Her breakthrough was with a script written for an episode of M*A*S*H*, co-authored with actress Mary Kay Place, and entitled, “Hot Lips and Empty Arms.”
Linda also wrote the original pilot for the Norman Lear produced One Day at a Time, which introduced the American public to a young Valerie Bertinelli. The show was created by Whitney Blake (the mother on TV’s Hazel and the real life mother of Meredith Baxter) and Blake’s husband Allan Manings.
This freelance writing eventually led to the opportunity for Thomason to create her own series, Filthy Rich. Filthy Rich was quickly cancelled but not before she forged friendships with two talented performers, the late Dixie Carter, and Delta Burke.
Designing Women was a show that centered around an interior design firm helmed by the Sugarbaker sisters (Carter and Burke), a divorcee with two young children (Annie Potts) and a naïve single woman (Jean Smart). The four women employed an African American man (Meshach Taylor) who had previously spent time in jail for a wrongful burglary conviction. In later seasons the cast changed. The only original cast member who wasn’t Southern was Smart.
Designing Women explored many feminist themes and contemporary women’s issues through the lives of its female characters. The show featured broad physical comedy and standard sitcom fare but also frequently raised topical issues like racism, homophobia, domestic violence, AIDS, and prejudice towards overweight women. The show ran for seven years, from 1986 to 1993 and was a Nielsen hit for much of that time.
This success led to other shows such as Evening Shade and Hearts Afire. Hearts Afire starred John Ritter and Markie Post and marked the introduction of Billy Bob Thornton to most of the world, although he undoubtedly had earlier acting jobs. With the addition of Evening Shade and Hearts Afire, Bloodworth Thomason and her husband Harry Thomason were producing three television sitcoms at once, which makes her the female Chuck Lorre of her day, only one with a greater social conscience.
The Thomasons were friends of the Clintons, dating back to his days as governor of Arkansas, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father made a cameo appearance on Hearts Afire. The Thomasons helped with the Clinton presidential campaign by writing excerpts for some of his speeches and producing promotional spots for television.
Currently, Thomason sponsors the Claudia Foundation, a charity that provides opportunities for young people, especially young women. The charity gives scholarships to young people who might not have the chance to go to school and provides the chance to engage in community service. The Claudia Foundation also supports literacy causes and allows young women to have cultural experiences that they might not have otherwise had the good fortune to appreciate, such as Broadway plays.
Linda Bloodworth Thomason has contributed significantly to American popular culture as well as to politics. She’s even stood up for fair reporting in this media age of increasingly polarized talking heads. Thomason and other Hollywood insiders stood up to call out MSNBC on their coverage of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential race.