Originally written as a play by Robert Harling ('The First Wives Club' and 'Laws of Attraction'), "Steel Magnolias" has been through a range of makeovers. It was first adapted for the screen in a vastly successful film in 1989 overflowing with Hollywood stars Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah and Dolly Parton. Now, in an understandable reversal, the Louisiana-set story has been remade with an African-America emphasis, now starring Queen Latifah and Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives). Earning 6.5 million viewers, it has instantly become the third most watched telecast by the network ever.
The Lifetime network is actively swayed toward female viewers and has a great history of fashion and comedy, with shows as diverse as Project Runway and Frasier- with an all-female lead cast therefore, Lifetime is the perfect network for this film. It is also the perfect adaptation, as New York Times noted about the original film: "not much was said about the fact that in a nearly two-hour film, set in a Louisiana town, only two black actors got to speak." So, in the new version, in a far more realistic Louisiana setting, "White actors hover in the background, and few of them speak". The NY Times also praises this version for being "mostly restrained and relentlessly tasteful, qualities the original could not have been accused of."
"Steel Magnolias" follows six women as they share their tear-jerking stories, trials and tribulations, celebrations and joy, as they all meet in a beauty salon in a small town in Louisiana. The film climaxes with the death of one of their number, the subsequent anguish and the need to come together once again to support one another.