There’s a big surprise on Wisteria Lane, and it’s a lot more satisfying than a mentally challenged murder suspect living in Alfre Woodard’s basement. The twist? After its last two iffy seasons, Desperate Housewives has once again become a delightful romp. Like, season 1 good, reminiscent of the days when Housewives was the most talked-about show on TV. It’s ironic that the two series that usurped its buzz, Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes, are now suffering from an invasion of blah newcomers, while Housewives has learned how to introduce characters into its crisp ensemble successfully.
Leading the Housewives’ new wave is Dana Delany as Katherine Mayfair, a Wisteria Lane alum who has returned to the neighborhood 12 years after she fled under mysterious circumstances. She’s got the kind of deep, dark (as yet undisclosed) secret that seems to come with the mortgage on this block. Delany’s ice-princess demeanor has never been mined so perfectly. Her neighborly competitions have been delicious, whether she’s one-upping Bree’s lemon meringue pie or besting Lynette at an election for the presidency of the homeowners’ association. Wisteria Lane’s first major gay couple, buttoned-down Bob (One Life to Live’s Tuc Watkins) and snippy Lee (Judging Amy’s Kevin Rahm), are also welcome additions. Finally, Housewives creator Marc Cherry gives the hood two gay characters who aren’t self-hating! These urban transplants (and modern-art enthusiasts) have provided worthy foils for the needy Susan, and have reenergized Teri Hatcher; the actress has something to do other than pratfalling in an endless supply of sherbet-colored henleys.
In fact, all of the core ladies seem reinvigorated by writing and directing that play to each of their strengths. Gabby’s clandestine affair with Carlos (Ricardo Chavira) has showcased Eva Longoria Parker’s gift for broad comedy. Marcia Cross, whose real-life pregnancy seemed to zap the bitchy joy right out of Bree last season, glows in the aura of her fake bun in the oven. And Felicity Huffman has imbued what could have been a treacly cancer story line with truth and warmth…and humor. Lynette’s marijuana mania while playing charades still ranks as a season highlight thanks to Huffman’s nimble physical antics; it’s refreshing to see the usually stoic Huffman play goofy.
While The Office’s hour-long episodes often played out their jokes, Housewives demonstrates that comedy can actually thrive in a longer format. Even better, the series has proved that its first-season acclaim wasn’t simply a fluke; it is a strong television show. Now that we’ve spoiled the surprise, it’s time for you to move back to Wisteria Lane. A-