`Housewives' make show easy to watch

December 02, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

LET ME SAY this about Desperate Housewives, ABC's mega-hit about fortyish housewives cavorting in suburbia: Don't bother doing a Mapquest search for Wisteria Lane.

Are you kidding? This show is about as far from reality TV as you can get.

Look, I live in the suburbs, OK?

And this is no knock on the housewives in my neighborhood, but they, um, don't exactly look like the ones on fictional Wisteria Lane.

Believe me, I would notice.

If I'm taking the trash cans out to the curb one morning and someone looking like Teri Hatcher goes out to water the lawn in tight jeans, halter top and stiletto heels, this is going to get my attention.

(Then again, you wouldn't mistake the husbands in my neighborhood for a Chippendale lineup, either.)

(Most of us look like we're vying for the same role in George Costanza: The Middle Years.)

The other thing is, the housewives in my neighborhood seem a little too busy for all the shenanigans that go on in Desperate Housewives.

Instead of fooling around with lawn boys and accidentally setting beautiful homes on fire and getting locked out of the house in the nude, the wives in my neighborhood seem to spend more time running after flu-ridden children and putting the Big Wheels away and cleaning the carpet after the dog throws up.

(You know stressed-out Lynette Scavo [Felicity Huffman], the Housewives character hooked on her kids' ADD meds?)

(Now there's someone most wives can relate to.)

Still, there's no question that this Hollywood version of sin in suburbia is the smash hit of the season -- and one of the hottest shows of the past 10 years.

Some 27 million viewers watched Sunday night's episode, in which busybody Mrs. Huber is strangled by her widower neighbor Paul Young.

And it's not hard to figure out what makes the show so popular.

It's intelligent, it's funny, it's sexy.

It's dark -- narrated by a dead woman in the hereafter who blows her brains out in the pilot episode -- but not unrelentingly so, not enough to make you reach for the Prozac after every episode.

Finally, there's this: The cast is not exactly a bunch of trolls, either, if you catch my drift.

Yes, there's a heavy jiggle factor that comes into play here, which apparently accounts for the large male audience Desperate Housewives attracts.

This explains why, no matter what it is that the women of Wisteria Lane have to do, they tend to do it in the skimpiest outfits possible.

Apparently, if you live on Wisteria Lane and have to, say, adjust your satellite dish, you'd consider wearing short shorts and a blouse with a plunging neckline.

Or if you were painting the white picket fence outside your house, you might think: Gee, today's a good day to go without a bra!

And when washing the car, it's not considered unusual behavior at all to hold the sponge chest-high and squeeze it so soapy water soaks the front of your shirt.

Nope, that's all done strictly for the sake of "storytelling."

(On the other hand, if you're ABC, you have to feign regret for offending anyone when one of your Desperate stars, Nicollette Sheridan, jumps seemingly nude into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens during the intro skit for Monday Night Football.)

(Gee, you don't think that skit made even more people tune into Desperate Housewives, do you? Nah. We're probably being paranoid.)

In any event, the show's popularity highlights another TV truism: If there's anything American audiences love more than watching beautiful people, it's watching beautiful people who behave badly.

And, boy, do the Desperate Housewives behave badly.

Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) is carrying on with the teenage gardener, who seems to have a congenital aversion to keeping his shirt on.

Susan Mayer (Hatcher) is throwing herself shamelessly at her hunky new neighbor, to the point where she should just put up a sign that says: "I'm Easy!"

Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross) is the unholy offspring of Martha Stewart and Felix Unger, an eerie-looking perfectionist whose marriage is crumbling and whose kids are weirding out.

Lynette (Huffman) is gobbling Ritalin like it's Tic-Tacs and unraveling faster than a Wal-Mart sweater.

And Edie Britt (Sheridan) is the neighborhood -- oh, what's the clinical word for this? -- tramp.

Each of them seems headed for some sort of horrible crash-and-burn.

I can't imagine what that would do for the ratings.

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