When it was originally on: 2004-2012
Original network: ABC
Where you can stream it now: Hulu or IMDb TV
Had I seen it before: No.
What IMDb says: Secrets and truths unfold through the lives of female friends in one suburban neighborhood, after the mysterious suicide of a neighbor.
Why I picked it: As I’ve alluded to in some of my other posts, I’m endlessly intrigued by the way tv shows secure different legacies based on who they were made for. Shows that are obviously aimed at women never seem to reach the levels of prestige as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or The Sopranos, and I’m always curious to see if this is actually because these shows are of lower quality or simply because men don’t watch them.
Desperate Housewives was freaking huge when it was on, but seems relatively forgotten now. I was actually a little shocked to see it was on for eight seasons given how little I hear about it now. Even compared to other female-centric shows like Sex and the City or Grey’s Anatomy, it’s just not on people’s radars. I was a little too young to get into this show’s original run, but I thought it could be fun to revisit it now. Why has this show seemingly fallen out of favor in spite of its huge popularity during its run?
What I liked: This one does a remarkably good job of developing four very different women. Each one has some piece of the ideal housewife life, and also some way in which their life isn’t measuring up to that ideal. I have a firm grasp on the internal struggles of Gabrielle, Bree, Lynette, and Susan and I sympathize with each one of them. The fact that all four of these women seem as vivid and fully realized as they do within 43 minutes is impressive.
- Gabrielle has practically unlimited money, but her marriage is completely loveless.
- Bree appears to be the perfect homemaker to any outsider, but her family just wishes she could be a little more approachable.
- Lynette was able to quit her job to stay home with her kids, but misses her life as a corporate powerhouse.
- Susan’s husband left her, but she’s the only one who seems to have a fulfilling relationship with her kid. Honestly, I’d take Susan and her daughter over the Gilmore Girls any day.
Each of these conflicts is unique and interesting in its own way, but they’re still variations on a common theme. Each woman is trying to hide their struggle from the outside world and maintain the perfect housewife facade. That exploration of the American Dream and how pursuing it can still lead to hollow, empty lives is never-ending supply of rich stories. It’s The Great Gatsby. It’s Mad Men. And apparently, it’s also Desperate Housewives. And here I was, always thinking this show was just about ladies getting horny and trying to sleep with the hot neighbor.
The show also does a really good job of balancing heavier storylines with lighter storylines. I had fun watching Susan flirt with Mike. But I’m also dying to know Mike’s true identity, since it’s revealed that he carries a gun and appears to be spying on the families of Wisteria Lane. I’m dying to know what the note from Mary Alice’s closet alludes to. The pilot does such a great job of being easily consumable with guilty pleasure appeal, but yet never quite crosses the line into vapid. If they play their cards right, I could almost see it being in the same zone as Jane the Virgin or Crazy Ex Girlfriend.
What I didn’t like: It’s another pilot that’s incredibly reliant on voiceover for exposition. The somewhat interesting choice they did make is to have the show narrated by Mary Alice, a character who commits suicide in the first scene. She then continues to tell us what is happening after her death.
I can actually see how this choice might’ve worked if they’d bothered to make Mary Alice a fully realized character in her own right. A more stylized voiceover that adds humor to the story a la Jane the Virgin could have actually worked really well here. But instead Mary Alice doesn’t have a purpose besides telling us what the other four ladies are up to. I wish they had either found ways to characterize the other four ladies without voiceover, or found a way to make Mary Alice her own character so that she doesn’t just feel like a lazy shortcut for exposition.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! It seems like a show that would be easy to binge. It’s fun to watch and left enough loose ends to make me want to keep watching.