“Desperate Housewives” is an American comedy-drama and mystery television series created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC Studios and Cherry Productions. It originally aired for eight seasons on ABC from October 3, 2004 until May 13, 2012 for a total of 180 episodes. The series features an ensemble cast, headed by Teri Hatcher as Susan Mayer, Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Kamp, and Eva Longoria as Gabrielle Solis. The supporting cast included Nicollette Sheridan as Edie Britt, Dana Delany as Katherine Mayfair, and Vanessa Williams as Renee Perry. Brenda Strong narrates the series as the late Mary Alice Young, appearing sporadically in flashbacks or dream sequences.
The storyline covers fifteen years of the women’s lives over eight seasons, set between the years 2004–2008, and later 2013–2019 (the storyline includes a five-year-jump in time, as well as flashbacks and flashforwards ranging from the 1980s to the 2020s). They work through domestic struggles and family life while facing the secrets, crimes, and mysteries hidden behind the doors of their—on the surface—beautiful and seemingly perfect suburban neighbourhood.
Set on Wisteria Lane, a street in the fictional town of Fairview in the fictional Eagle State, “Desperate Housewives” follows the “normal” suburban life for a group of close-knit housewives takes a dark turn when one of their closest friends mysteriously commits suicide. Now while trying to deal with their own hectic problems and romantic lives, each year brings on a new mystery and more dark and twisted events to come. Life behind closed doors is about to be revealed as suburban life takes a funny and dark turn.
“Desperate Housewives” features a large ensemble cast that is headed by four protagonists and a series’ narrator: Teri Hatcher plays Susan Mayer, a klutzy romantic, always searching for the happy ending but never quite getting there; Felicity Huffman portrays the role of Lynette Scavo, a harried super-mom, always trying to balance her careers and family life; Marcia Cross gives life to Bree Van de Kamp, a neurotic and perfectionist home fairy, who becomes looser as the series goes along; Eva Longoria embodies Gabrielle Solis, a former top-model turned trophy wife, who eventually becomes a more selfless person who gets used to life in suburbia; and Brenda Strong rounds out the core cast as omniscient narrator Mary Alice Young, who shares with us the juicy details of life on Wisteria Lane, from her elevated point of view.
Season 1 (2004-2005)
The show opens with the mysterious suicide of housewife Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) on a beautiful day in the suburbs, on a street called Wisteria Lane. Mary Alice, who narrates the show from the afterlife, had four close friends: Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross), the seemingly perfect homemaker struggling to save her marriage; Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), the mother of four who gave up her successful career to care for them full-time; Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), the divorced mother in search of love, who finds it in the form of her new neighbour, Mike Delfino (James Denton), who has a secret of his own; and Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria), the materialistic ex-model who cheats on her husband, Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira). While trying to be good wives and/or mothers, the four friends also try to find out why their friend committed suicide. The discovery of a blackmail note among Mary Alice’s belongings, a therapy session tape in which she admits her real name was Angela, and her widowed husband Paul‘s (Mark Moses) strange behaviour really make them wonder about the mystery surrounding their deceased friend.
Season 2 (2005-2006)
After discovering Mary Alice’s dark secret, the housewives continue to move on with their lives. Bree, whose husband (Steven Culp) just died, is not coping well with being a widow and is unknowingly dating the man who poisoned her husband to be with her, pharmacist George Williams (Roger Bart). Susan, still searching for love after breaking up with Mike, ends up tangled with her ex-husband, Karl (Richard Burgi), who is now dating the neighbourhood hussy, Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan). Lynette goes back to her career in advertising, as her husband Tom (Doug Savant) becomes a stay-at-home dad. And a now-pregnant Gabrielle decides to be faithful to her husband Carlos, who is in jail. While managing their busy lives, the women cannot help but notice something suspicious about the new neighbours: Betty (Alfre Woodard) and Matthew Applewhite (Mehcad Brooks), who moved in in the middle of the night and are keeping something or someone in their basement.
Season 3 (2006-2007)
When the season premieres, six months have occurred since Orson Hodge (Kyle MacLachlan) deliberately ran Mike over with his car. Gabrielle, who found out Carlos cheated on her with their former maid and now surrogate mother, Xiao-Mei (Gwendoline Yeo), refuses to take him back, and now they’re getting divorced but both want to raise the unborn child. Bree, who has finally put Rex’s death behind her, marries Orson. At their engagement party, Orson’s nosy former neighbour, Carolyn Bigsby (Laurie Metcalf), accuses him of having killed his wife Alma (Valerie Mahaffey), and Bree can’t help but wonder if that’s true. Lynette, meanwhile, has to adjust to having another child around the house when Tom’s bastard daughter, Kayla (Rachel Fox), is taken in. Susan, who had been waiting for Mike to wake up from his coma, meets a British gentleman, Ian Hainsworth (Dougray Scott), and falls for him. And Edie has her nephew Austin (Josh Henderson) move to Wisteria Lane, after she finds him trying to break into her house, and he sets his eyes on Julie Mayer (Andrea Bowen).
Season 4 (2007-2008)
Edie survives her “attempted suicide”, causing Carlos to stay with her, whilst having an affair with Gabrielle, who is married to the town‘s mayor, Victor Lang (John Slattery). Meanwhile, Susan and Mike enjoy their married life and the former discovers she’s pregnant, but portraying the role of the “suburban dad” takes its toll on Mike. Lynette deals with cancer, a boozy mother (Polly Bergen) and a rascal stepdaughter, whereas Bree tries to fake her pregnancy so she can cover up for her own daughter’s (Joy Lauren). In addition to this, Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delany), who used to live on the lane, moves back, 12 years later, with a new family, new attitude, and new secrets…
Season 5 (2008-2009)
The events of this season take place five years following those of the 4th season finale. Five years into the future, Bree Van de Kamp is a successful catering businesswoman and cookbook author, and her partner and friend Katherine feel overshadowed by her success. Meanwhile, Lynette deals with her rowdy ruff teenage boys, as well as a rough economy that jeopardizes her business, whereas Gabrielle has become the frumpy mother of two little girls, having cared over the years for them and a blind husband, all on a limited budget. Susan and Mike have separated, following a tragic car crash, and the former’s been sleeping with her painter, Jackson Braddock (Gale Harold), whereas the latter tries to adapt to being a distant father and to getting back in the market. Edie Britt moves back in with a new husband in tow, Dave Williams (Neal McDonough), who wants something out of the lane: revenge.
Season 6 (2009-2010)
Julie Mayer returns to town to attend her mother’s second wedding to Mike Delfino – a wedding that drives Katherine Mayfair to have a nervous breakdown – and winds up being strangled by an unknown attacker. Meanwhile, Lynette tries to keep her unwanted pregnancy a secret, and Bree starts up an affair with Karl Mayer, one that brings tragic repercussions to all involved. Gabrielle takes in a spoiled, bratty teenage niece (Maiara Walsh), who is a lot like she was growing up, and must portray the role of home-schooler to her daughter Juanita (Madison De La Garza). A new family moves in, headed by Italian-American housewife Angie Bolen (Drea de Matteo), who is a tough, candid lady on the run from something.
Season 7 (2010-2011)
With the shady Paul Young, Mary Alice’s widower, back in town, the ladies have her hands full. Paul brings with him not only a new wife, the quirky Beth (Emily Bergl), but a vengeance scheme as well, whilst at the same time falling victim to a bigger plan concocted by his nemesis, Felicia Tilman (Harriet Sansom Harris). In the meantime, the Delfinos move to an apartment outside of the suburbs and struggle to make ends meet and to make it possible for them to move back onto the lane. Bree gets divorced from Orson, and starts up the process of rebuilding her life after losing her business and her husband, mainly by hooking up with a much younger contractor (Brian Austin Green). Gabrielle finds out that her daughter was switched at birth, and this puts a toll on the whole Solis clan, and Lynette welcomes to the street her old college roommate and best friend, Renee Perry (Vanessa Williams), a New York City diva who decides to settle for life in the suburbs.
Season 8 (2011-2012)
When the women all cover up the murder of Gabrielle’s evil stepfather, Alejandro (Tony Plana), their friendships become strained and endangered, especially after Bree receives a note much like the one Mary Alice got years before, and after she breaks up with Detective Vance (Jonathan Cake), who then sets out to take revenge and discover the girls’ secret. Meanwhile, Carlos develops a drinking problem, and so does Bree, who falls off the wagon due to all the stress. Susan feels incredibly guilty and worries that she’ll be the one ratting everyone else out, and Lynette has her head full as her marriage to Tom quickly dissipates and her children act out on it. Meanwhile, Renee becomes infatuated with the shady new neighbour, aussie Ben Faulkner (Charles Mesure).
The idea for the series was conceived as Marc Cherry and his mother were watching a news report on Andrea Yates. Before Desperate Housewives, Cherry was best known for producing and writing episodes of Touchstone Television‘s hit comedy series “The Golden Girls” and its successor, “The Golden Palace“.
Cherry had difficulty getting any television network interested in his new series; HBO, CBS, NBC, Fox, Showtime, and Lifetime all turned the show down. Finally, two new executives at ABC, Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne chose to greenlight it.
Since its US premiere, Desperate Housewives has been broadcasted by the ABC network, with reruns on Lifetime Television. Also, it has been sold to over fifty countries worldwide.
The show was the big success of the 2004-2005 television season and gained much critical acclaim. The pilot episode which aired in October 2004, gained a stunning 21.3 million viewers making it the best new drama for the year, the highest-rated show of the week, and also the best performance by a pilot for ABC, since Spin City in 1996.
Many critics agreed with Cherry’s initial comparison to the popular black comedy film American Beauty, while its themes and appeal to female viewers were compared to those of the award-winning series “Sex and the City” and its mysteries were said to resemble those of David Lynch‘s classic series “Twin Peaks“.
In the footsteps of the show, the term “desperate housewives” became a cultural phenomenon. This warranted “real” desperate housewives features in magazines and TV shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Dr Phil Show”. The show, along with “Lost”, has been credited with reviving ABC’s ratings. Later on, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” have helped further this revival. Prominent names like Oprah Winfrey and Michele Lee have stated that they are fans of the show.
“Desperate Housewives” was well received by viewers and critics alike. It won multiple Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards. From 2004 to 2005 through the 2008 to 2009 television seasons, its first five seasons were rated amongst the top ten most-watched series.
In 2007, it was reported to be the most popular show in its demographic worldwide, with an audience of approximately 120 million and was also reported as the third-most-watched television series in a study of ratings in twenty countries.