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DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES
Season One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars: Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Nicollette Sheridan, Teri Hatcher
Audio:  Dolby 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Touchstone
Features:  See Review
Length:  23 Episodes, 6 discs
Release Date: September 20, 2005

“Hi. My baby-sitter cancelled.”
"I've got millions of errands to run so....”
"Please hear me out, this is important. Today I have a chance to join the human race for a few hours - there are actual adults waiting for me with margaritas. Look I'm in a dress, I have make-up on.”
"If it were any other day…”
"Oh, for Gods sake, Bree, I'm wearing pantyhose!”

Show ***1/2

Like many married men, I have to sit through plenty of soap operas and other shows which have mostly female audiences.  I would normally not be caught dead watching most of them.  One technique women use to lure their men into watching these shows with them is pointing out how many gorgeous women are on them, usually conveniently half-dressed.  It works for me, especially with a show as witty and sexy as Desperate Housewives. 

When I heard about this show, I assumed it was a “serious” nighttime soap with a bunch of has-been actresses.  I am sure the network didn’t know what to do with this cast or the show itself, since it is not really a soap at all but a comedy which has soap-like twists and turns but laughs at itself constantly. And the cast is anything but a bunch of has-beens, though their bios might seem to indicate that they are.  Teri Hatcher in particular seems more attractive now that in her Lois and Clark days despite her character Susan’s clumsiness and ditzy ways. 

In the first episode, Mary Alice kills herself and leaves a cryptic note behind, revealing that all is not well in Wisteria Lane.  But the unique twist is that she narrates the rest of the season and makes occasional flashback appearances and her haunting, soothing voice ties the shows together, as though she wants to reveal everything she knows, but won’t just yet. 

“Before we got married we made a deal, remember? No kids.”
"Deals are meant to be renegotiated.”
"We're not negotiating my uterus.”

As with The O.C. we actually get to know these characters and see them as flesh and blood.  The usual soap story lines are there, but they seem to be happening to real people.  Daytime soap operas are at their lowest viewership levels ever, and nighttime soaps are usually dead on arrival these days. My theory is that they are being replaced by smarter, more realistic shows that don’t take themselves so seriously. 

For example, when Gabrielle’s husband notices that the lawn boy did not even mow the lawn (because he was busy…with her), she makes sure her husband has plenty to drink at a party and leaves to go home and mow the lawn.  At night.  In her heels.  When they come home together and he sees the short grass, he realizes he must have been mistaken.   Desperate but smart, aren’t we?  

Marcia Cross is a wonderful actress and I can’t get her riveting portrayal of the psycho-bitch Kimberly in Melrose Place out of my head.  But her portrayal of the conservative Brie works well also, showing Cross’ range.  Bree is so obsessive-compulsive that she runs her husband’s handcuffs through the dishwasher before using them on him.    

Some have called this a great replacement for HBO’s Sex in the City.  That was a dumb show about shallow over the hill bimbos who dressed nicely and seemed to love going to gay clubs.  I can’t relate to that and I think it is a poor comparison.

I am especially glad that Felicity Huffman won an Emmy since she is not only an excellent actress playing a housewife who really is desperate but also because she is overshadowed in most reviews by the more glossy images of the better-known cast members.

Video ****

Excellent widescreen color presentation, better than the original broadcast!

Audio ****

Hopefully Dolby 5.1 is the standard now.  The excellent soundtrack by Danny Elfman shines through without interfering with the well-engineered and tastefully mixed audio.

Features ****

Too many to go into detail on each one, but these alone are worth the price of the set.  In addition to unrated, extended versions of Who's That Woman, Anything You Can Do, Every Day a Little Death, Impossible, Sunday in the Park with George, and Goodbye for Now, there is commentary by series creator and cast members on several episodes and the cast comments on their favorite scenes.  There are also seven deleted scenes with optional commentary by Marc Cherry, A Stroll Down Wisteria Lane, Desperate Housewives Around the World, multi-language sequence: Bree's dinner party, Dressing Wisteria Lane: A look at the costume and set design, Behind the Scenes with The View's Meredith Viera, Secrets of Wisteria Lane, Bloopers from the Set, and “Oprah Winfrey Is The New Neighbor.

The extended, unrated scenes are especially valuable because as regular viewers like me know, on Monday morning the network news featured an unaired clip of the episode from the night before, which blurred the line between news and entertainment but did make the news more palatable on Monday morning.

“Oh, sweetie, they didn't abandon you because you're a whore, they abandoned you because you weren't all that nice to begin with.”

Summary:

So did Rex really die?  Will Susan find happiness?  Will Edie win Mike’s affection?

I will end with the most interesting line from the series, which is so true for many of our lives and which shows how smart the show is.  Living a pampered life in suburbia is hardly “desperate” yet we all feel this way sometimes:

“Yes, each new day in suburbia brings with it a new set of lies. The worst are the ones we tell ourselves right before we fall asleep. We whisper them in the dark, telling ourselves we're happy, or that he's happy. That we can change, or that he will change his mind. We persuade ourselves that we can live with our sins, or that we can live without him. Yes, each night before we fall asleep we lie to ourselves in a desperate, desperate hope that come morning - it will all be true.”

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