Killing All the Right People
|"Killing All the Right People"|
|Designing Women episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Harry Thomason|
|Written by||Linda Bloodworth-Thomason|
|Original air date||October 5, 1987|
"Killing All the Right People" is the 26th episode of the sitcom Designing Women. Originally airing on October 5, 1987, as the fourth episode of the second season, it features Tony Goldwyn as Kendall Dobbs, a young man dying of AIDS who asks the women to design his funeral. Series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's mother died of AIDS and her experience with her mother's disease and the prejudice associated with it inspired the episode.
Kendall Dobbs (Tony Goldwyn), a young interior designer and friend to the Sugarbaker firm, approaches the women with an unusual request: He wants them to design his funeral. Kendall is gay and dying of AIDS. The firm, including Suzanne (Delta Burke), normally not at all sympathetic towards gays, agrees to take the assignment.
Later, Mary Jo (Annie Potts) is at a PTA meeting at which a resolution to the school board about distributing birth control to students on request is being discussed. Mary Jo is in favor both for preventing pregnancies and for preventing the spread of HIV. A decision is made to hold a debate the following week. Mary Jo, as the only person to speak in favor of the proposal, is reluctantly drafted to argue for it.
Mary Jo frets a few days later over what she is going to say at the meeting and about being nicknamed the "Condom Queen". (Suzanne concurs, adding that it's not a title that even she, herself would try out for.) She notes that she wishes she had some of Julia's eloquence and passion when expressing herself in such situations, and asks Julia if she can get "fired up", so that Mary Jo can watch and learn; Julia explains that she "doesn't feel fired up right now".
Kendall drops by to go over the arrangements. He is shocked when Charlene (Jean Smart) casually takes his hand, saying that even some of the nurses in the hospital refused to enter his room. In the background, Imogene Salinger (Camilla Carr), an acquaintance of Julia's and a client of the firm, overhears the plans for the funeral and states that gay men like Kendall are getting what they deserve. "As far as I'm concerned, this disease has one thing going for it: it's killing all the right people." Julia (Dixie Carter) angrily confronts Imogene over her belief that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality. "Imogene, get serious! Who do you think you're talking to?! I've known you for 27 years, and all I can say is, if God was giving out sexually transmitted diseases to people as a punishment for sinning, then you would be at the free clinic all the time! And so would the rest of us!" Imogene storms out of the store, announcing that she will take her business elsewhere in the future. Julia then slams the door on her. It is noted that during the confrontation, Suzanne sticks up for Kendall by asking that if AIDS was so rampant in the gay community, "Then how come lesbians get it less?"
At the PTA debate, Mary Jo struggles to make her points but is cut off repeatedly by the opposing parent. As Kendall enters with Anthony (Meshach Taylor), Mary Jo is finally able to articulate her closing statement:
|“||I think that it really shouldn't matter what your personal views are about birth control, because, you see, we're not—we're not just talking about preventing births anymore, we're talking about preventing deaths. 25,000 Americans have died and we're still debating. For me, this debate is over. More important than what any civic leader or PTA or board of education thinks about teenagers having sex or any immoral act that my daughter or your son might engage in, the bottom line is that I don't think they should have to die for it.||”|
The meeting applauds Mary Jo and the camera cuts to Kendall and freezes on his face. The last shot of the episode shows Kendall's funeral. A closed coffin is shown and the room is designed as Kendall requested. A Dixieland band plays "Just a Closer Walk with Thee". All of Sugarbaker's and Bernice (Alice Ghostley) are in attendance.
"Killing All the Right People" was written by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, the creator of Designing Women, whose mother died after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion. Although there was a screening test available that could have been used to identify unsafe blood, not all blood banks utilized it, allowing infected blood to be unknowingly spread through transfusions. During her mother's illness, Bloodworth-Thomason saw the prejudice people with AIDS experience, particularly the prejudice against gay men with AIDS. The episode's title is derived from a comment she overheard in the hospital: "The good thing about AIDS is that it's killing all the right people." She incorporated a version of the remark into the script.
In a 2014 interview with the Huffington Post, Goldwyn acknowledged that he had received extensive advice not to take a gay role (specifically, the role of Jeff Mitchell in "The Sum of Us" at the Williamstown Theater Festival) because of the damage it might do to his career. He decided to disregard the advice because he believed in the importance of talking about the AIDS issue.
"Killing All the Right People" was nominated for two Emmy Awards. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Roger Bondelli received a nomination for Outstanding Editing for a Series - Multi-Camera Production.
- Bianco, Robert (1988-08-05). "The Lady Behind 'Designing Women'". Deseret News (Scripps Howard News Service). Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- AIDS Information and Controversy - CDC summary, May 16, 1994, retrieved October 3, 2007
- PopMatters review of The Best of Designing Women DVD, September 2, 2003, retrieved October 3, 2007
- Capsuto, p. 221
- "Tony Goldwyn Was Advised Against Playing A Gay Role, But Said 'Screw You'". Huffington Post, July 16, 2014.
- Vancheri, Barbara; Weiskind, Ron (1988-12-13). "Networks play it 'safe' with AIDS". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 17. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- Capsuto, Steven (2000). Alternate Channels: The Uncensored Story of Gay and Lesbian Images on Radio and Television. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-41243-5.