The residents of Wisteria Lane have become household staples in the last four years. Even after watching the show, I’m still not sure I understand what it’s about, but I’ll try to give my take on it anyway. It would appear to this reviewer that the show owes at least part of its genesis to the HBO hit Sex And The City. There is the same narrative angle, this time by a deceased member of the group. Still, that narrative contains many of the same kinds of observations as the HBO show and appears to imitate it as often as not. The show also deals with the exploits, often sexual, of a group of women. This time they are married, but that doesn’t seem to stop the flings, or at least the fantasies any. Finally, the best correlation between the two shows is how much both depended almost entirely on the personalities of the women themselves instead of any particular element of story or concept. Here the women are the concept. In the first season it appears young housewife Mary Alice (Strong) commits suicide. She now looks down (or up, I guess) on her neighbors, offering the commentary that is the show’s narration. At the end of each episode she offers some tidy little wrap-up, adding comments on how the lives of these women are evolving.
The plot is pretty much standard soap-opera fare. There are love triangles, diseases, and the typical complications you can find on any given weekday during the networks’ afternoon programs. Of course, here we have prime-time production values and a decidedly A cast of actors. It’s very likely that Desperate Housewives might have actually benefited from the writers’ strike, which reduced the run of episodes down to 17. The writers spent more time dealing with the characters and less trying to pretend they were creating compelling drama. Where the show works is in these quirky, almost black-comedy moments between the characters. Since there is no “story” to really speak of, I guess it’s more important that you meet the residents of Wisteria Lane. Susan (Hatcher) is married to Mike (Denton). She’s kind of an airhead and is the housewife most likely to be on the outside of a joke or reference. Her husband might or might not be a murderer. Perhaps denizens of the show have a better grasp of the 411 on that situation than I got. Susan was raising her daughter Julie (Bowen) on her own before she married Mike. Lynette (Huffman) was once a big-time corporate executive who is now raising four kids and is married to Tom (Savant) who also left corporate America and runs a pizza shop. They are also raising Tom’s daughter from a previous affair, who absolutely hates Lynette. Katherine (Delany) is the local “perfect housewife”; she’s a cooking champion and is a bit of a snob, refusing to share her lemon meringue pie recipe with anyone. She and gynecologist husband Adam (Fillion) are the newest residents of Wisteria Lane. Bree (Cross) is a rival to Katherine in all of this homemaking stuff, but it appears they learn to work together before the season ends. Bree is married to Orson (MacLachlan), who has had more than one ex-wife turn up dead. Unfortunately for Orson, it is the husbands that are expendable in this show. Last but certainly not least is Gabrielle (Parker). She’s obviously the best-looking of the group and acts like she knows it. Her husband is the town’s mayor, but she spends far more time with lover Carlos (Chavira). She has expensive tastes and wants to be pampered. Together these ladies go through guys and catfights like they were pitches at the All Star Game.
There are some new faces on Wisteria Lane this year. The most notable addition to the cast has to be former Sopranos star Drea de Matteo who joins the cast as the newest housewife Angie. Together with newcomers Jeffrey Nordling as Nick and Beau Mirchoff as Danny, they bring the year’s new drama and mysterious circumstances. This family has some dark skeletons in the closet, and they bring them to the neighborhood. Julie Benz appears on the show this season as a stripper friend of Susan’s. But it will be Katherine who ends up with complicated feelings for the dancer.
The season picks up with Mike’s impending marriage to Katherine and the tension that is causing with Susan. Of course, all of that is about to change as circumstances will work to bring Susan and Mike back together. Lynette is pregnant with twins. Gabby is dealing with a live-in niece who is about to drive her to murder. It’s all really just the beginning of another year on Wisteria Lane. It’s another season of affairs, indiscretions, and betrayals for the ladies of Desperate Housewives.
Each episode of Desperate Housewives is presented in a sweet 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Again, I can’t compare to broadcast versions of the series, but these DVD transfers are quite nice. The sharpness is excellent. Black levels are well above average for television, even in the HD age. Colors aren’t necessarily bright at all, but remain constant and solid throughout. Flesh tones are dead-on reference. These women often dress flashy, and the transfer does its job to try and make them look good.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is more aggressive than I expected going in. There are not a lot of dynamic opportunities for an audio track to particularly shine here, but it does a wonderful job of immersing the viewer in the show. The plentiful musical numbers are well-placed, usually not interfering with the action. Dialog is always easy to hear, and placement is spot-on. Not much for the subs here, but who cares?
Miss Piggy Gets Desperate: (10:40) That lovable Muppet visits the set to interview the cast and crew of the show. She’s really trying to get herself put on the cast.
Master Class: (13:04) Cast members talk about acting and give would-be thespians their tips.
Cherry Picked: Creator Mark Cherry picks out his favorite scenes from season 5. Of course you’ve already seen them, but you get an optional commentary so he can tell you why he likes them so much. You can see them individually or use the handy-dandy play-all option.
Deleted Scenes: I’m not sure any of these added anything. They are mostly extra character moments and pretty much more of the same. Again you get an optional commentary by Mark Cherry and a convenient play-all option. There are 8 in all this time around.
Bloopers (4:34): You know what these are, right?
The show is a little darker this year and the arrival of de Matteo spices things up in more ways than one. It’s a bit of a refresher from the same old stuff. Of course, the typical antics are still there so it’s still one of the country’s guilty pleasure. Like that’s not what you really wanted to know. “Pleaaaaase“.