Desperate Housewives: Pilot (2004)

(Original Air Date: October 3, 2004)

4 stars... that's good, lady!4 stars... that's good, lady!4 stars... that's good, lady!4 stars... that's good, lady!

Desperate ABC takes First Base!

J.C. Mašek III... Your Mother's Favorite Critic!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

It's a source of never-ending annoyance to me, right up there with fat guys in thongs on my Beach, that any new show outside the norm, most especially with quirky characters and multi-level plotlines is invariably compared to Twin Peaks! From Northern Exposure to Picket Fences to Push, Nevada (for Alan Smithee's sake), the comparison is always there like a piece of sand in my shell!

Enter a decidedly Un-Twin Peaks-like show, filled with interesting dialogue, memorable characters and more twists and turns than Rapunzel's Pigtails. It's called Desperate Housewives, and it's one of two examples of how beleaguered network ABC's recent problems have told me they're into something good! After several seasons of failure (Who Wants to be a Millionaire only paid off so long), "The Alphabet" could neither keep pushing tin with the same old formulae, nor could they allow themselves to just do nothing! It takes a risk to get noticed, and The Bachelorette Part 8 Zillion ain't gonna cut it, Kemosabe!

Lost and Desperate Housewives are the two attention-getting shows that are aiming to make ABC A Better Channell! And, guess what? They're both two of the best new shows on television (Wonderfalls notwithstanding)! I know it... Viewers know it, and the Press is all over it as either the next Melrose Place or the next... ahem... Twin Peaks! I love Twin Peaks, but I still detest the not-so-apt comparison, like I hate the fact that one of America's most Beautiful and Talented actresses, Teri Hatcher, has been relegated to co-starring in Howie Long's Radio Shack Commercials.

If ABC were a Candidate, I'd vote for it because finally there's a hit show on that I can actually stomach with a little something-something different in it, and it stars Teri Hatcher!

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We're slowly and peacefully drawn into the sanitized and overly Cookie Cutter world of Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), your typical Fifties Housewife transplanted into the 00's. We're so drawn in by this Holly Hobby/ Donna Reed act that when Mary Alice blows her Bow-topped head clean off amid the peaceful ambient music (of Danny Elfman) we, the viewers all raise an eyebrow and realize with a start that this isn't quite Seventh Heaven we're watching here, is it?

From that point on Mary Alice's disembodied voice still with that built-in June Cleaver audio-smile narrates the almost surreal path through the next week, from her wake to her funeral to the aftermath that made her suicide look like a Sherry Lewis and Lambchop skit!

The neighborhood is rounded out by Teri Hatcher's Susan Mayer, the incredibly hot and illogically cuckolded mother of Andrea Bowen's scene stealing cool teen Jenna Mayer. Then of course you've got the fashion-model-and-looking-it Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) who covers up her extramarital affair with the gardener by mowing the lawn at midnight in an evening dress! Bree Van De Kamp (Melrose Place's Marcia Cross) has become a parody of the perfectionist housewife mom wearing ironed panty-hose and not a hair out of place. The life she's built around her is what her husband describes as a "Detergent Commercial", to which she responds with an "accidental" food poisoning. And of course, the most fertile woman since Carla Tortelli, Felicity Huffman's Lynette Scavo, pregnant three times in four years (once with twins), she's traded the exciting insanity of the corporate world to the boring insanity of raising white Smurfs. She might not be bold enough to poison her hubby, but the right hook she gives him when he suggests condom-less sex with her is enough to let you know that Old Faithful is ready to blow, baby!

And as omnipresent as Mary Alice's unseen ghost, you've got your gadfly neighbor peeking in windows (Christine Estabrook's Mrs. Martha Huber), and your block loosey Goosie Nicolette Sheridan's Edie Britt stealing any potential available (or less-so) neighborhood man! By all accounts she's been down on everything but the Titanic... making me wonder where exactly this Wisteria Lane is! (Anytown, USA?)

And yeah, there are men here, but in creators Marc Cherry and Charles Pratt Jr.'s mix of repression and overt feminism, this satirical Little-Pink-Houses world shows us the male animal as an abstract entity to be reacted to in different ways and then dished about over Coffee! And Viva La Difference. Here, the all-male-locker-room sexism is turned on it's crown as we get an inside look at "what a girl wants"... going a lot deeper than sex alone.

An exception to this men-as-backdrop theme is Jamie Denton's new to the 'hood Mike Defino who may, or may not be a plumber out to check Teri Hatcher's Pipes, or may or may not be investigating this so-normal-it's-weird neighborhood. Even Mary Alice's husband and son, who have some unknown skeleton in their closet, seem to be almost caricatured abstractions for character-commentary alone! But hey... that's only "so far"... because as much character development as we get in just ONE episode, there's bound to be more and more clarity in the future... assuming ABC knows how to keep this show going! And assuming "Clarity" isn't a transient muse that is all relative like the near-clarity we almost got in shows like... well... like Twin Peaks!

Four Stars Out of Five for a hell of a great start to Desperate Housewives! If ABC handles this one better than the last season of The Drew Carey Show, and refuses to fall into the patterns of the shows it's invariably compared to, we just might have a rare find on our hands: A hit show that is actually worth watching! God Willing! See you in the Next Reel, Teri!

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Desperate Housewives (2004) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his own views and for the X-Ray Specs he wears during Lois and Clark Reruns!!!
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