Case Number 09991


Buena Vista // 2005 // 1008 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 11th, 2006

The Charge

Bree: I cannot afford to break down right now.
Susan: Why not?
Bree: [Bree's mother-in-law pulls up] You'll see why in a moment.

Opening Statement

Desperate Housewives started with a big bang its first season with the suicide of Mary Alice, a neighboring perfect wife and mother. The entire year was concerned with uncovering deep mysteries on Wisteria Lane centering around our ghostly narrator, and then the finale wrapped it all up with a neat bow. The show's creator Marc Cherry was ordered by ABC not to "make the same mistake Twin Peaks made by prolonging its mystery for more than a single season." Viewers lost interest in who killed Laura Palmer in the Lynch series, and there was a fear ratings would drop if Mary Alice wasn't explained. The enigma of the second season became: could the writers and creators find a way to keep these women interesting after the resolution of the biggest gnawing question in the show? The answer to the question is mixed and lengthy like extra juicy gossip, so grab a cup of coffee and join me in the kitchen. We're going to dish about Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season.

Facts of the Case

The second season of Desperate Housewives isn't easy to encapsulate because it went everywhere. The writers scrambled to juggle many plots and subplots including:

* The Applewhites -- Betty Applewhite (Alfre Woodard,Beauty Shop) moved on to Wisteria Lane mysteriously during the night in the finale of the first season. She seemed to be a single mom with an only child, but strange sounds from her basement indicate she is hiding something dark and evil.

* Bree's Nervous Breakdown and Alcoholism -- Bree (Marcia Cross, Melrose Place) has to deal with Rex's unexpected death. Viewers wondered if she would ever figure out that her new boyfriend, George (Roger Bart, The Producers) the pharmacist, was responsible for killing him. What would she do? Also with her son Andrew acting out and coming out simultaneously, could she salvage her relationships with her children? Add to the mix a growing reliance on wine, and you've got the set up for a messy Bree throughout the season.

* Susan's Man Problems -- With her ex-husband dating Edie (Nicolette Sheridan. Noises Off), and Mike (James Denton, The Pretender) the plumber being revealed as a criminal, viewers wondered if Susan (Terri Hatcher, Tango and Cash) could find the perfect man for her. Perhaps she could be better off alone, but probably not going to happen with all the good looking single men hanging around Wisteria Lane. And with her ex (Richard Burgi, The Sentinel) so close, things are bound to get complicated.

* Lynette's Struggle Going Back to Work -- Lynette (Felicity Huffman, Academy Award nominee for TransAmerica) decides to head back to her career, and Tom (Doug Savant, Melrose Place) is going to play Mr. Mom for a while. How long could that last? Lynette finds out office politics are going to be wild once she squares off with her single female boss. Tom can't bear the domestic life, and things get even more touchy once he goes to work for the same firm. Lynette also has some mysteries to uncover about her husband's past that just might end them for good.

* Gabreille's Quest for Happiness Without and With Carlos -- Carlos (Ricardo Chavira, Six Feet Under) headed off to jail at the end of the first year, but thanks to some television continuity he won't be there long. Gabbie (Eva Longoria, The Young and the Restless) deals with her surprising longing for a solid marriage as well as offspring. Yet the road is paved with other women as Carlos seems to get pay back for her indiscretions with the yard boy with an unlikely pair of a nun and a maid. Will their marriage make it?

The Evidence

Desperate Housewives was saved by five women who knew how to turn things around. Twenty-four episodes of the second season, and Desperate Housewives seemed to be flailing to redefine itself after a stellar start and an Emmy win for "Best Comedy" the previous year. Viewers reacted negatively to the first handful of episodes, wondering if the show had lost its magic (and plunged in to shark infested waters, with the cast and crew preparing for the big jump). The Applewhite mystery seemed thin, and all the characters were in dark, yucky places thanks to ongoing ripples of events started a year ago. The show soldiered on bravely, and the ensemble of television's best actresses pulled things up by their fashionable heel straps. No matter how goofy the game got, the women playing characters on Wisteria Lane saved the day again and again. Never underestimate a housewife or an actress desperate to save her number one show. The performances are the most compelling reason to check out Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season. Terri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, and Nicolette Sheridan each have a moment when your jaw will drop at the power of their emotion and comic timing. Bree watching someone die, Susan running after a man crying in a wedding dress, Lynette seducing an entire bar to prove she's as sexy as her single boss, Gabbie taking on a nun in a Dynasty inspired cat fight, and Edie after being stung by bees are simply some of the best moments television has to offer. Another amazing aspect of this show's second season were the incredible celebrity cameos. This second season features the talents of legends such as Bob Newhart, Carol Burnette Lesley Anne Warren, and Kyle MacLachlan. You watch for the actors.

Marc Cherry and his writing team know how to write women, and have a love of camp that is infectious and informs the entire series. It was harder to take the show seriously in this second season, but it was still as fun as ever -- even with homages to the worst of soap opera conventions. The narrative wasn't as compelling, but it was written in broader strokes and allowed to become more wide in scope and possibilities. The women searched for meaning last year, and in Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season the search for what defines them is on in full force. Each storyline played out almost self-contained without the major arc of the first year. Desperate Housewives was trying to become more episodic to allow new viewers in and expand the ratings. You can see the show morphing in to Cherry's original vision of a comedy without the dark mystery (his original intention for the show when he pitched it).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The DVD set is impressive, though it doesn't live up to last year's even more impressive set. I was excited when the first season inserted deleted scenes into shows, but the excised scenes here are relegated to the extras. There are no proper episode commentaries to be found on Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season, but Cherry does offer commentary on his favorite scenes as well as deleted scenes. The cast is only seen or heard commenting on the show during "Juicy Bites," which features the actresses citing their favorite hot moments. Featurettes are included such as Marc Cherry with his mom (who was the basis for the show), a look at fashion on the show, famous TV housewives (like Marion Ross and Shirley Jones) talking about the show , and a behind-the-scenes look at directing an episode. Deleted footage promises unaired storylines, but all we get are Susan stealing an RV for her mom's fiancee (Bob Newhart) and Lynette freaking out an airplane wanting to call her husband. It's all entertaining, though hardly the wealth of extras found in the previous set. Transfers remain solid TV widescreen with full surround sound. Packaging continues the tradition of space saving beauty with its plastic slipcase and stacked discs in a cardboard foldout gate. The most unforgivable aspect are all the previews and marketing spots. The extras disc has no less than nine trailers for various movies and television box sets.

Marc Cherry may write beautifully, but he should thank his cast for saving his ass in the second season. He painted poor Bree (Marcia Cross) into an unforgivable corner with her alcoholism and increasing problems with her children. The character would have been lost had it not been for Cross's immaculate acting, which made things seem bearable. Her grace triumphed over the ill will of the plots. The remaining characters seemed to merely get to amp up their stereotypes. Susan continued mooning, Gabrielle remained self-centered, Edie oozed cruel trampiness, and Lynette was harried even in her new professional setting. There was nothing new, and what was introduced was woefully underused. Wasting Alfre Woodard is criminal, and the writers should mourn their shot at some diversity and real talent on the show. Brenda Strong's (7th Heaven) narration as the deceased Mary Alice no longer makes sense now that her character's ghost has been laid to rest. Why is it still such a heavily used device? Nobody seems to go anywhere, and the journey leads nowhere fast. With the Mary Alice storyline from last year we had a direction as well as an end in sight, but now things just keep moving on with no indication of an overall narrative. The ensemble was mostly kept apart in separate storylines without a question to answer as a collective group. Structurally the show suffers, and Season Two reveals that all too apparently when watched in one marathon chunk. I still remain hopeful the third season will be charmed, because this cast deserves far better than what they have been given.

Closing Statement

Despite any flaws, Desperate Housewives remains one of the most glorious guilty pleasures ever conceived. It comes out of a long line of night time soaps including Dallas and Dynasty, but it revolutionizes the genre by making the tone knowingly comedic as well as dramatic. You laugh, cry, and hoot in indignation often all in one scene of any given episode. People often dismiss the show, but it's truly amazing television in all the right ways. Desperate Housewives is a campfest full of fun shocks and bawdy revelations. It's still the best cast on TV doing what they do best.

The Verdict

Guilty of being...juicy! Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season makes things irresistibly funny and dark all at once. And with plenty of extra fruit to pick, it's a hard apple to pass up.

Review content copyright © 2006 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 94
Audio: 95
Extras: 92
Acting: 97
Story: 84
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile
Studio: Buena Vista
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English

Running Time: 1008 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Marc and Mom
* Directing Desperate Housewives
* Desperate Role Models
* Cherry Picked -- Director's Favorite Scenes
* Unaired Story Lines
* Deleted Scenes
* Fashion and Couture
* Juicy Bites -- Cast Favorite Moments
* The Whole Story Promotional Commercial
* Sample from Desperate Housewives PC Game

* IMDb

* DVDV Review of First Season