In 2004, Wisteria Lane became televisions hottest address, as "Desperate Housewives" became a massive hit for ABC, who surprised many by bringing out a network show that became widely considered a replacement-of-sorts to HBO's recently departed "Sex and the City". The series spawned a following that grew rapidly and even resulted in contests seeking desperate housewives and a PC (and that likely doesn't also mean politcally correct) "Desperate Housewives" game on the way.
Anyways, the series opened with Mary Alice (Brenda Strong) taking her own life right after she completes her daily chores - she then becomes the narrator of the show. At her funeral, we're introduced to the main characters: Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), a former exec who is now frustrated by having to chase after children that look like they need help from "Super Nanny". Bree Van de Camp (Marcia Cross) sternly runs her family and makes sure that every aspect of her home is perfectly presentable. Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) is a former model and current trophy wife - married to Carlos (Ricardo Chavira), but fooling around with gardener (Jesse Metcalfe). Finally, Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) is a single mother raising daughter Julie (Andrea Bowen), and keeping her eyes on new plumber Mike Delfino (James Denton). There's also Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan), who remains Susan's competition for Mike.
Some characters are certainly more sympathetic than others, but "Desperate Housewives" hooks with a combination of great writing and just the right mixture of mystery, drama and dark humor. The performances are also marvelous, as Huffman leads the pack with a great effort as a frustrated housewife who can't deal with her children and would rather be back in the office that she left. Hatcher is also terrific, and Cross is superb as a perfectionist. Very good in supporting efforts are Denton, Longoria and Sheridan.
I liked the second season of the series, which got some mixed reviews from critics. The subplot involving Woodard's character wasn't handled well, but the elements that made the first season enjoyable were otherwise mostly still present and accounted for. The third season of the show is more of a return to the first season, with plenty of twists and a large helping of drama pie for all of the characters.
The third season picked up where the second season left off, with Mike (Denton) in a coma after an accident. Susan remains by his bedside, but finds herself in a new relationship with Ian Hainsworth (Dougray Scott), whose wife is also in a coma. When Mike wakes up, Susan is faced with a choice, although Mike's amnesia may lead him to make unexpected choices of his own. Meanwhile, Bree has taken up with Orson (a creepy Kyle McLachlan), a man whose secretive ways and shady past aren't something that Bree picks up on - at least at the beginning. Lynette has her plate full as well, including having to deal with Tom's decision to open a pizza place without asking her, which ends up causing a rift in both her personal and professional life. Gaby's divorce with Carlos is finalized, but their conflicts with one another are - of course - not.
The fourth season picks up where the third ended off. Lynette has found out that she's ill with cancer, while Gabby was marrying mayoral candidate Victor (John Slattery) - but was still found herself with feelings for Carlos - who also still had feelings for her. Meanwhile, Susan remains uncertain about her relationship with Mike and Edie is distraught when Carlos decides to end it between the two of them. Bree is lying to the neighbors, in the midst of faking a pregnancy while keeping Danielle's actual pregnancy under wraps.
The fourth season was consolidated down to a shorter 17-episode season due to the writer's strike, which actually resulted in some of the conflicts being less drawn out. Although each of the characters have their own conflicts carried over into the season, the characters are almost all drawn into the larger conflict/mystery of the season - Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delaney), a former Wisteria Lane resident who moved away 12 years ago and now has returned with her daughter and a new husband. Things seem just a touch off early on, when her daughter, Dylan, doesn't have any memory of Susan's daughter Julie, who was her best friend as a child. The season finale takes an interesting twist and attempts to "reboot" the series in a way, the details of which I won't reveal here.
The third season of "Housewives" was a return to form after a second season that many didn't care for, and the fourth season is a continuation of the strengths of season three - we get plenty of surprises, continued strong performances from the leads and an enjoyable balance of laughs and drama. Given the ending of the season, it's going to be interesting to see where the series goes in season five.
71. 4- 1 401 30 Sep 07 Now You Know
72. 4- 2 402 7 Oct 07 Smiles of a Summer Night
73. 4- 3 403 14 Oct 07 The Game
74. 4- 4 404 21 Oct 07 If There's Anything I Can't Stand
75. 4- 5 405 28 Oct 07 Art Isn't Easy
76. 4- 6 406 4 Nov 07 Now I Know, Don't Be Scared
77. 4- 7 407 11 Nov 07 You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover
78. 4- 8 408 25 Nov 07 Distant Past
79. 4- 9 409 2 Dec 07 Something's Coming
80. 4-10 410 6 Jan 08 Welcome to Kanagawa
81. 4-11 411 13 Apr 08 Sunday
82. 4-12 412 20 Apr 08 In Buddy's Eyes
83. 4-13 413 27 Apr 08 Hello, Little Girl
84. 4-14 414 4 May 08 Opening Doors
85. 4-15 415 11 May 08 Mother Said
86. 4-16 416 18 May 08 The Gun Song (1)
87. 4-17 417 18 May 08 Free (2)
VIDEO: "Desperate Housewives" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality isn't flawless, but the efforts here are generally terrific. Sharpness and detail aren't entirely consistent, but the great majority of the episodes look crisp and clear, with some scenes showing good small object detail.
Some darker scenes showed some very slight artifacting, but it was hardly noticable. No edge enhancement, flaws with the elements used, shimmering or other conerns were present. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. Overall, the episodes look great and improved over broadcast quality.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and actually delivers a bit better than one might expect from a TV series. Surrounds do offer some environmental sounds and music reinforcement. Audio is spread nicely across the front soundstage, and audio quality is terrific, with crisp dialogue and well-recorded music.
EXTRAS: "Getting Desperate: From Beginning To End" is a 25-minute documentary that does a terrific job bringing viewers behind-the-scenes to take a look into the process of development and production of an entire episode. We first get interviews with Marc Cherry and members of the cast and crew, who discuss what it was like to bring to life the most expensive event the series has ever done: having a tornado make a rather destructive visit to Wisteria Lane. The documentary visits the writers' room and goes on-set to take a look at how some of the major scenes were accomplished.
"Spare Time" is a featurette that interviews the male actors of the series, who chat about their role and experiences (less work, less preparation and also, not knowing what's next for their characters) working on the show. The featurette takes place at a bowling alley as the guys place their bets on the game.
The final disc also has deleted scenes (w/optional commentary), an alternate ending (w/optional commentary), "Cherry Picked" (Creator Marc Cherry's favorite scenes) and some pretty funny bloopers.
The feature that will likely be the most fun for fans will be the "couples' commentary" tracks, including Ricardo Chavira and Eva Longoria (on "Something's Coming"); Felicity Huffman and Doug Savant ("Welcome to Kanagawa"), Teri Hatcher and James Denton ("Mother Said"); Dana Delaney and Nathan Fillion ("Distant Past") and Marcia Cross & Kyle McLachlan - along with a brief appearance from Nicolette Sheridan ("Now I Know, Don't Be Scared"). We also get commentary from Marc Cherry, David Warren and Nicolette Sheridan ("Mother Said") and Marc Cherry, Bob Daily and Jeff Greenstein ("Now You Know".) While not a hardcore fan of the series, I thought the "couples commentary" concept was fun, and the actors seemed to have a good time chatting together about their episodes - although Cross and McLachlan and Longoria and Chavira are particularly amusing pairs.
Final Thoughts: Season four of "Desperate Housewives" once again brings plenty of surprises, continued strong performances from the leads and an enjoyable balance of laughs and drama. Given the ending of the season, it's going to be interesting to see where the series goes in season five. The DVD presentation for season four offers up very good audio/video quality and plenty of great supplements, including several commentary tracks that fans are sure to enjoy. Recommended.