I know what you’re thinking: “Desperate Housewives is still on the air?!”
Once you find out the answer is “Yes,” you immediately ask, “Who’s still watching that show?”
The answer to that query would be that last year’s seventh season averaged 11.9 million viewers, a far cry from its 23.7 million viewers in its first season back in 2004/05. So that audience of Desperate Housewives would consist of all those millions of viewers. And me.
This past Friday, ABC announced that Desperate Housewives would end this upcoming May, after eight seasons. Eight seasons of high drama, low slapstick, cat fights, and an ever-rotating line-up of lovers for Bree Mason/Van de Camp/Hodge. Eight seasons of supermarket shootouts, tornadoes, crowded club fires, plane crashes, and neighborhood riots (and that’s just for November sweeps). Eight seasons of episodes titles inspired by Stephen Sondheim songs and lyrics (hence this post’s title, drawn from Company).
Anecdotally, it would seem that those who once tuned into this soapy series gave up at one point or another. Even I sat out on the latter half of season three, when Mad Men’s Roger wooed Eva Longoria to win the Hispanic vote on his quest to become mayor of the Eagle State. (Where does Desperate Housewives take place, anyway?) And to be sure, Desperate Housewives will never again be the cultural zeitgeist it once was. I still remember the Good Morning America segment airing after the eighth episode of the series, after a worn-out Lynette experiences a mommy meltdown and fantasies about killing herself due to the stresses of motherhood.
But something in the series still strikes a chord even today. How many television series can we point to that feature an ensemble of seemingly well-rounded female characters? And how many series have attempted and failed at recreating Desperate Housewives’ signature blend of zingy, sassy one-liners (cue Eva Longoria!), tense and often violent crises, and heart-wrenching emotional moments? That is Desperate Housewives at its effortless best: pure campy fun.
Before we look to the show’s future, I’d like to quickly look back and acknowledge a strength of its past. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of Desperate Housewives’ emotional weight lies squarely on the shoulders of Tom and Lynette Scavo. Perhaps it’s the every-couple aspect to Tom and Lynette Scavo that so resonates with the audience and has become the emotional cornerstone of the series. Perhaps it’s that Emmy Award-nominated Felicity Huffman acts the hell out of her dramatic pleas and confrontations. I will always consider one of the show’s shining moments to be in the fourth season finale. Tom confronts a cold-footed Bob and Lee on the merits of commitment, and in the process reaffirms his love for his wife. That despite a tornado tearing up their home, a secret lovechild, cancer, and everything else the show has thrown at them, nothing can tear them apart. I may or may not have shed a tear during this incredibly moving speech.
Now onto the upcoming season wherein Tom and Lynette have since split. (Oh, the perils of long-running serialized television!) I must admit, before the news that this would be the final season, I had my reservations about returning Desperate Housewives to my weekly rotation. At the Television Critics Association press tour this past weekend, showrunner Marc Cherry stated:
I wanted to go out when the network still saw us as a viable show and doing well in ratings. I’ve worked in TV for 23 years and I’m very aware of shows that overstay their welcome. I wanted to go out in the classiest way possible… Harder than creating a hit show is knowing when to end it, especially when you have such an amazing cast.
And just like that, I am returning to Wisteria Lane one final time this fall. I was reeled back in: hook, line, and sinker. Bravo, Cherry and ABC.
True to form, there will certainly be a fair number of intriguing mysteries worth investigating in this farewell season:
- Will Tom and Lynette reconcile and get back together?
- Will Desperate Housewives see a ratings boost? While this is the final season, the series faces a formidable time-slot opponent in CBS’ The Good Wife.
- Will there be a new ABC series to take the soapy reigns once Desperate Housewives leaves the tv landscape? Calling
Good Christian Bitches Good Christian BellesG.C.B.!
- Will Brenda Strong (Mary Alice) win an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance? Yes, Desperate Housewives is nominated in a category long-dominated by animated series.
- And most important of all, will Vanessa Williams get a halfway-decent story line?