Desperate Housewives, ABC
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Um. Well, originally I had this in the "mysterious" category, but now I dunno. Sure, each season has an over-arcing mystery, you know, like a murder mystery or whatever. But often that takes a back seat to the drama, and comedy, of the show. So I might as well call it a dramedy show instead of a mystery show. Of course the mysteries do tend to have a major impact on the characters, but on the other hand, they all have plenty of other things going on in their lives. (On the third hand, those things can somhow tie into the mystery, at times, I guess.) (Years after the show ended, I made a category for soap operas, and this show might well qualify as such, but I decided to leave my review here in the drama section.) Anyway, not sure what else to say in preamble, so I'll get on with explaining things, from the top. I'll try to avoid any major spoilers, but, you know... there still might be a few it's impossible to avoid. We'll see.
Okay. So there was this woman named Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), who lived in a Connecticut suburb called Fairview, on a street called Wisteria Lane, with her husband Paul (Mark Moses), and their son Zach. One day she killed herself, and now she narrates this series. She left behind four friends: There's Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), who is divorced and raising her teenage daughter Julie. Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), a former career woman who's now raising four young, immensely troublesome, stress-inducing children while her husband Tom (Doug Savant) spends most of his time at work. Their eldest sons, twins Preston and Porter, are 10 at the start of the series, I think; their younger brother Parker is 8; daughter Penny was a newborn in season 1. Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross), who is pretty much like Martha Stewart (with just a touch of Adrian Monk), and her husband Rex doesn't like who she's become (though that's not his main problem), and they go into marriage counseling, which Bree doesn't like. They have a teenage son, Andrew, and daughter, Danielle. The kids don't seem to like their mother much. Finally, there's Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria), an ex-model who married a rich businessman, Carlos, but the excitement has gone out of the marriage, and now she's having an affair with their 17-year-old gardener, John. These four women find a note among Mary Alice's belongings which suggests she did something awful, and this will be a great mystery, the over-arching mystery of the first season.
Paul doesn't want to talk about Mary Alice with anyone, even Zach, who wishes he would talk about her. Meanwhile, a plumber named Mike Delfino (James Denton) just moved into the neighborhood, and Susan is interested in him, but has a rival in another woman, Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan). Meanwhile, tangential mysteries arise, such as who was blackmailing Mary Alice, and why. Another neighbor, Martha Huber, is murdered at one point, and the mystery of who killed her and why will tie in to the mysteries about Mary Alice. Also Mike has a mysterious past, which- you guessed it- ties in to the other mysteries. After Mrs. Huber is murdered, her sister, Felicia Tilman (Harriet Sansom Harris), moves to town, and she'll eventually help tie everything together. Yes, everything will be revealed by the end of the first season, including some more related mysteries, which I don't want to mention because they're so intrinsically tied to the greater mysteries... I don't want to give anything away about any of this. In fact I fear I've already said far too much.
And then, just as all the mysteries are being wrapped up at the end of the first season, a new family moves to town: Betty Applewhite (Alfre Woodard) and her son, Matthew, who will provide the over-arcing mystery of season 2.... Which most critics and fans will agree wasn't as good as season 1. And I can't think of much to say about the season or its mystery.
Really, it's difficult to say much of anything about anything in this series, even people's personal lives, without giving away major spoilers, even if it doesn't necessarily spoil the mysteries; I don't want to spoil personal developments, either. But things just keep changing; it's kind of like a soap opera, actually. I suppose I could say that in season three, Tom and Lynette open a pizzeria. And they'll get another kid to take care of for awhile, Kayla Huntington, but I don't want to reveal anything about the circumstances surrounding that. Um, but the major mystery of season three involves a man named Orson Hodge (Kyle MacLachlan). Really can't say any more than that.
Season four involves a woman named Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delany), who returns to Fairview after having moved away 12 years earlier. So she knew Susan, but everyone else in town is new to her. And she develops quite a rivalry with Bree. Moving into town with Katherine are her new husband, Adam (Nathan Fillion), and her daughter, Dylan (Lyndsy Fonseca), from a previous marriage. The major mystery of the season involves the Mayfairs. And eventually Katherine's abusive ex-husband, Wayne Davis (Gary Cole). I should also mention that a gay couple, Lee McDermott and Bob Hunter, move into the neighborhood. And... well, of course there's plenty of other stuff going on, but I can't think of anything to say that wouldn't be too spoilery, I'm afraid. But I will say I thought the season finale was awesome, and made the rest of the season seem to me to be even better, in retrospect. Oh, and then there was a flash-forward to five years in the future, which leaves us with plenty of questions....
...And, those questions are answered in season 5, which is set, you know, five years in the future, at the time of the flashforward at the end of season 4. Anyway, Edie is now married to a guy named Dave Williams (Neal McDonough), who is the center of the season's main mystery, which involves an incident that happened with Mike and Susan sometime during the five years that the show skipped. There are other new characters, as well, and of course, some changes for old characters. But I really don't feel like detailing anything. In season 6, the mystery will center on a new family called the Bolens, who just moved to Wisteria Lane. They include Angie (Drea de Matteo), her husband Nick, and their son Danny. Also, at the end of season 5, Carlos's 16-year-old nice, Ana Solis, moved in with Carlos and Gaby, and immediately started causing trouble for Gaby, which continues in season 6.
Season 7's major story arc involves characters who were important to the season 1 story arc, who haven't been seen since then. But as usual, I don't want to say who they are or where they've been or what they're up to now. There was also a new neighbor on Wisteria Lane, Renee Perry (singer Vanessa Williams), an old friend of Lynette's who recently got divorced from a pro baseball player. Another new neighbor is a young woman named Beth (Emily Bergl), but saying anything at all about her would be too spoilery. So, I must apologize for yet again refusing to add any details about either the mystery or the personal drama going on in everyone's lives...
Season 8 was the final season. The major story arc revolved around the women covering up something that happened at the end of season 7. There were, as always, lots of other things going on. A contractor named Ben Faulkner moved to town, and got involved with Renee. But that's really the only thing I want to mention. There are many dramatic changes for everyone. And the series finale was pretty much perfect.
Anyway, I mostly think the series overall is just okay, but I do care about some of the characters, and it can be amusing, and occasionally quite good. (There were lots of characters I haven't mentioned, of varying levels of importance, in one or more seasons. Probably the most important is Karen McCluskey, who was in every season, but not usually tied to any of the major storylines. I had to at least mention her in passing, though. And I feel bad about not mentioning some other secondary characters; that alone makes me think it might be a good idea to do proper recaps of every season, complete with spoilers, just so I could mention all the characters I haven't mentioned. But I probably never will.) Anyway, the show was good enough that I stuck it out for the whole series. I'm not disappointed that I did so, though I am glad it's finally over. I'm also glad to know that however much things may change for the people who live there (and however much who lives there may change), Wisteria Lane itself will always be the same....