Case Number 22280


ABC Studios // 2010 // 989 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 14th, 2011

The Charge

The guilty pleasure returns.

Opening Statement

Lawyer: "It would be completely understandable if you hated them a little."
Paul Young: "Oh, I don't hate them...a little."

Facts of the Case

As usual, the residents of Wisteria Lane are dealing with a lot of startling developments. Lynette (Felicity Huffman, Transamerica) becomes flustered when her old friend Renee (Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty) arrives and starts stirring up trouble. Gabrielle (Eva Longoria, Over Her Dead Body) has just discovered that her eight-year-old daughter was switched at birth with another child at the hospital years ago. Bree (Marcia Cross, Everwood) has officially split up with Orson (Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks) and begins a flirtatious relationship with a hunky young contractor. Susan (Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark) has been having some financial difficulties, and reluctantly takes on a risqué new career in an attempt to stir up some extra cash. The biggest news of all: Paul Young (Mark Moses, Mad Men) is out of jail, and he's returned to Wisteria Lane with vengeance on his mind.

The Evidence

As of the writing of this review, Desperate Housewives is ABC's longest-running scripted show on the air. Though many have suggested that the series has run out of fumes and passed its expiration date, it could also be argued that the show has more or less defined ABC's identity in recent years: the bright colors, the sprightly music, the quirky tone and the soapy plotting can be seen in so many of the programs the network has tackled lately. The program's influence is estimable, but is the series itself still worth checking out?

I'd have to go with "partially." This season's central storyline is pretty engaging, as Paul Young is an engagingly slippery villain whose motivations remain enjoyably elusive for much of the season. The threat of his vengeance is just about the only thing which adds a consistent measure of intrigue to the show, and Mark Moses rides the line between charm and menace quite persuasively. Granted, the storyline that got Paul into this season is impossibly contrived (see, he murdered the woman who murdered his wife and then was framed for the staged murder of the actual murderer's sister, but then the sister was found out and Paul was released from prison), but it's a solid core to build this season's assorted subplot around.

Unfortunately, most of those subplots are either tiresome, unconvincing or both. Gabrielle's "switched at birth" business is almost too soapy even for this show, leaving the gifted Eva Longoria stranded in too many scenes of earnest melodrama. Teri Hatcher is actually pretty hilarious when dealing with her new job as a sexy internet maid, but it's difficult to buy the fact that her character would so willingly jump into such a scandalous career (or the fact that a PG-rated website featuring women cleaning houses in lingerie would be so financially successful). The arrival of Renee doesn't do too much for the show either, leading to some wheezy scenes of insult-trading with Lynette and a whole lot of little storylines of one-upmanship with numerous characters. Vanessa Williams more or less seems to be reprising her Ugly Betty performance, which might make this brand new character feel a bit less fresh than she might have otherwise. As for Bree's silly relationship business: sigh.

I like these characters, but they're best when they're given a reason to work together. Unfortunately, this season gives the gals precious little time as a group, instead simply leaving each character to deal with their own dull subplot for the bulk of the season. If the Paul Young subplot were at the center of attention a bit more, perhaps the assorted subplots might have grown tiresome less quickly. Additionally, the show's quirky, chipper, tongue-in-cheek tone can grow grating when the material isn't actually any fun, meaning that the narration, music and cheesy one-liners sometimes seem a little more exasperating than usual. Desperate Housewives is a show that doesn't fare too well when it actually seems desperate, and too much of this season feels like Marc Cherry and co. are just killing time and collecting paychecks.

Desperate Housewives does look pretty solid on DVD, as the show's trademark bright colors have a lot of pop and detail is pretty good. While I wish the series had been spread across six discs instead of five (meaning most discs are stuffed with five episodes instead of the customary four), it's a perfectly acceptable transfer. Audio is sparkly and problem-free; sporting clean dialogue and robust music. Supplements are very lightweight: a "Desperate for Trivia" featurette (in which the cast members answer questions about what their characters were up to in early seasons), a "Growing Up on Wisteria Lane" featurette (spotlighting the younger members of the cast), some deleted scenes and a blooper/outtake/gag reel.

Closing Statement

While this show was once a groundbreaking critical darling, these days it's a shrug-worthy bit of fluff. The faithful will be pleased with another solid DVD presentation, but there's no reason for new viewers to jump into the proceedings at this point.

The Verdict

The cast is free to go, but Cherry is required to give this show some higher-quality storytelling during the eighth and final season.

Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 60
Acting: 80
Story: 71
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile
Studio: ABC Studios
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 989 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Gag Reel

* IMDb