"Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Teri Hatcher as SUSAN MAYER
Felicity Huffman as LYNETTE SCAVO
Marcia Cross as BREE VAN DE CAMP
Eva Longoria as GABRIELLE SOLIS
Nicolette Sheridan as EDIE BRITT
Created by: Marc Cherry
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I heard a lot about “Desperate Housewives” during the course of the season. I even watched a couple episodes. It was a strangely addictive show and literally became a weekly event in my family. Even my father, who deplores much of what’s on television, gathered with the rest of the clan to watch it every Sunday night. Second to “Lost,” it was the biggest deal on TV last fall.
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After the hype died down, I had a chance to review the entire season on DVD. And yes, it’s a neat little show. In fact, it has a Seinfeld level of appeal. All of the characters are such creeps that it’s fun to watch all the horrible stuff happen to them.
“Desperate Housewives” follows the four-woman ensemble formula that was so successful in “The Golden Girls” and “Sex in the City.” Susan (Teri Hatcher) is the cute, somewhat normal lead. Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) is the slut. Bree (Marcia Cross) is the prude. And Lynette (Felicity Huffman) is the less attractive odd (wo)man out.
Still, my favorite housewife is Edie, played by Nicolette Sheridan. I know she’s not one of the main four, but I like her just the same. And it’s not just because she’s a hot little number. (I will quickly admit that she has a smokin’ body, but the lines in her face are a little too sharp from too much plastic surgery.) I like Edie because she goes through life oblivious of the murder, violence, adultery, prostitution and other vices going on around her. She narrowly escapes death so many times and she has no idea she’s done it.
The show has all the elements of a soap opera, but it’s told with the edge and sardonic wit of “American Beauty.” What brings it out of the soap opera dregs is that it’s got teeth. Sure, soap operas have murders and infidelity, but they still pull their punches. Not so with “Desperate Housewives.” The only problem the show is going to have is if its edge (and the mysteries surrounding it) is lost.
The complete first season is available in a six-disc set. It comes packed with bonus features, but like the show, these bonus features can bite you in the ass if you’re not careful. I recommend not viewing them until you’ve completed watching the entire season.
Creator Marc Cherry is plastered all over the bonus material, and that turns out to be a bad choice. Cherry, while adept at showrunning a successful network series, comes across as smug, arrogant and falsely humble. He also has no concept of keeping things secret. For example, there is a behind-the-scenes documentary on the first disc in which he blurts out the secret ending to the season finale. Whoops! Guess I don’t need to watch the other 800 minutes of the show, Marc.
Cherry also gives introductions to extended episodes, which contain only one or two deleted scenes. (What makes these different from the additional deleted scenes highlighted in the bonus menu, I couldn’t say.) Cherry ruins all the surprises of these shows, so it’s not worth watching the extended versions as part of the run. Oh, and the DVD touts these extended episodes as “Unrated,” which misleads us into thinking there’s something titillating in them. No dice, Chicago! They’re just unrated because they were never given a rating by a ratings board. It’s no more complicated than that.
Additionally, Cherry lends commentary tracks to about a half dozen episodes, while the housewives are only brought in to comment on their favorite individual scenes. After dealing with Cherry’s smug mug throughout much of the bonus features, I found him too annoying to watch.
The highlights of the bonus features is a short film episode parody in which Oprah Winfrey plays a new neighbor on Wisteria Lane, encountering the housewives in their most extreme situations.
After watching the bonus material, I don’t have much faith that Cherry will be able to propel this series too far. The main mystery of the first season is pretty much wrapped up by the final episode, leaving the characters to rather hum drum lives. And considering that Cherry admits to not even knowing the answer to the simplest of story questions for season two, I fear the show may stumble as its creator tries to make things up as they go along.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.78:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.