In the vast wasteland of reality television series ABC had a novel idea, hire professionals to act the parts using words written by other professionals, what a concept, scripted programming.
One series in this new set from ABC was this show, a show that almost immediately captured the attention of the American public.
Focusing on a group of suburban housewives Desperate Housewives: Season 1 successfully managed to combine mystery, camping night time soap opera with just the right touch of dark humor thrown in for good measure.
As Desperate Housewives: Season 1 begins the narrator Mary Alice (Brenda Strong) is busy with her everyday chores, at one point she takes out a gun and kills herself. In order to introduce the actual cast of Desperate Housewives: Season 1 the principles are gathered together at Mary Alice’s wake.
Bree Van de Camp (Marcia Cross) is a woman that makes Martha Stewart look like a rank amateur; she is precise in the home, ready with a craftwork for any and all occasions and able to whip up a multi course formal diner with little notice. Everyone around her may think her home has to be perfection except for her family who is at the brink of rebellion over the hyper retentive nature that is Bree.
Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) was once a high-powered corporate executive able to handle the most grueling deal possible. Now, she has traded her briefcase for a diaper bag has she is constantly chasing after her four children. There are the twins who are the poster children for hyper activity disorder. They are rambunctious to the nth degree. When you add a sibling about a year younger and an infant poor Lynette is at her wit’s end.
Ex model and current trophy wife Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) is another wife that gives the appearance of a perfect marriage that is until you discover that she is having a torrid affair with her 17-year-old gardener (Jesse Metcalfe).
One of the best characters is in the form of Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) who was divorced last year and now lives with her precocious teen age daughter Julie (Andrea Bowen). Julie is often more the adult in the relationship-encouraging mom to take a chance and go after the hunky new plumber in town, Mike Delfino (James Denton).
Much to Susan’s chagrin she has a rival for Mike’s attention, the every plotting and sluttish Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan). As the four housewives try to figure out their personal dilemmas they are also pulled into just what drove their friend Mary Alice to suicide.
What makes Desperate Housewives: Season 1 work so well is the combination of humor and mystery. The writing is witty beyond what television has seen for a very long time. While each character has aspects that are exaggerated to an almost cartoon like fashion there are real people represented here, ones that the audience can emotionally bond with.
For example Susan has the comical trait of being a klutz, constantly falling or bumping into something. When it appears that Mike’s dog prefers Edie over her Susan dabs some gravy on her neck to entice the animal. As the dog licks her he swallows Susan’s earring resulting in a mad dash to the vet.
Lynette is so overwhelmed by her kids that she takes an ill advised tip from another mother and begins to take Ritalin in order to keep up. This results in her addiction. The problems shown in the lives of these women may be exaggerated but they are founded in reality, something the audience can associate with.
Throughout all this there is the underlying mystery of what happened to Mary Alice. As the clues are brought to light it seems that even less of what happened makes sense. This multi genre approach is difficult to work successfully but this show masters it.
No matter how great the writing may be you need talent to bring the words to life. Desperate Housewives: Season 1 is blessed with the cast they gathered together. Even the male roles are expertly portrayed in this estrogen heavy series.
Ricardo Chavira plays Gabrielle’s husband Carlos with flair. He is somewhat whipped by his over baring mother beautifully played by one of the great character actresses Lupe Ontiveros.
Bree’s husband Rex is portrayed by Steven Culp who gives us a man brought to the edge by his wife’s devotion to every aspect of the household but him. Naturally, the women here are the real stars.
Marcia Cross is absolutely perfect as the uber-housemaker Bree. With the slightest look on her face she can show the extreme displeasure this woman has over a drip about to happen, even if it occurs when she is about to make love to her husband.
I have followed the career of Felicity Huffman for years and have never been disappointed. She has been in numerous independent films and stared in another smart television series, Sports Night. She has the acting control necessary to play a woman whose life is spiraling out of control, going close to the edge but never crossing the line.
There is no doubt that Eva Longoria is one of the most beautiful actresses around today, she also has a natural sense of comedy that pulls her character together.
The real breakout star here is Teri Hatcher. Her real life somewhat reflects her character, she is a single, divorced mom, but her almost slap stick ability for physical humor is fantastic. Her relationship with her daughter is something like a more sexually open Gilmore Girls; her daughter is her best friend and confidant.
Teri Hatcher imbibes a great heart to Susan. In one episode she befriends Edie even after the neighborhood tramp did everything possible to humiliate Susan. Together there is a great chemistry between the cast mates that brings Desperate Housewives: Season 1 away from being just another nighttime soap to a real gem worth watching.
Created by Marc Cherry, who also was responsible for the ‘Golden Girls’ he has hit television pay dirt once again. There is really no target audience here; Desperate Housewives: Season 1 has something to appeal to almost everyone.
The production values for Desperate Housewives: Season 1 is among the best on television. There is a flow and pacing that keeps the plethora of sub plots moving along, constantly entertaining the viewer. I have to admit I had my doubts when I first started watching Desperate Housewives: Season 1 but I found myself immediately drawn into the wacky and dark world of Wisteria Lane.
Buena Vista scores big time with the DVD release of Desperate Housewives: Season 1.
The Dolby 5.1 audio is rich and well balanced. There is a full audio spectrum that is a pleasure to listen to.
The video is full screen but it does sport a true color balance and is free of defect.
The extras are far above the norm here. There are unrated extended episodes presented, sort of the director’s cut for television. One featurette called ‘A Stroll Down Wisteria Lane’ features creator Marc Cherry’s take on the series. There is ‘Behind The Scenes With The View's Meredith Viera’ which is humorous and obviously presented by a fan of the show.
Another big name fan, Opera Winfrey has a little featurette where she moves into Wisteria Lane. Add some deleted scenes and a featurette on the set and design and you have hours of entertainment after your initial viewing of Desperate Housewives: Season 1.
For once Desperate Housewives: Season 1 is a series that has lived up to all the hype. While more for the older members of the family Desperate Housewives: Season 1 is something to watch and enjoy after the kids have gone to bed.
by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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