Buena Vista // 2007 // 721 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 18th, 2008
Katherine Mayfair: Wait. I need to talk to you first.
Bree: [chuckles] I misunderstood the situation, that's all. Can we just leave it at that?
Katherine Mayfair: No, we can't. And do you know why? Because I thought things were going well. I was having fun with you. Obviously...I misunderstood. So tell me, was there a straw that broke the camel's back? Or were you planning on killing me all along?
Bree: Here's the thing you need to understand about me and my friends. We each have our niche. Gabrielle's the glamorous one, Susan's the adorable one, Lynette's smart, Edie's...Edie, and I am the domestic one, the organizer, the one that knows that there are three tines on a dessert fork. I'm the one who gets teased for that. That's who I am. And that's also who you are.
Katherine Mayfair: So?
Bree: So...I don't really know *how* to be friends with you.
Katherine Mayfair: That's a shame, because I understand you better than all those other women do. I know how following the rules and all observing those little graces make you feel like you're in control. We've both had days where it was either set a beautiful table or curl up in a ball and die. [tears welling in her eyes] We're the same, Bree. And if you think that means we can't be friends, then I'm sorry. But it might also mean we could be *best* friends.
Four years running and Marc Cherry's Desperate Housewives remains one of the best satires on television with the greatest cast assembled for a TV show currently on the air. It's a guilty pleasure, and one smart enough to not take itself too seriously. That keeps it safe enough for hip viewers to admit they are on Wisteria Lane every week as the show's solid ratings continue. Admittedly the first season remains superior to anything that has come after it, but season four has great moments and powerful turns that take the show in new directions.
Season four of Desperate Housewives revolves around a new mysterious neighbor called Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delaney, Live Nude Girls). She moves in at the start of the season along with her husband (Nathan Fillion, Serenity) and daughter, and in short order we discover she has lived on Wisteria Lane before. The rest of the season concentrates on finding out why she left all those years ago, and why her daughter mysteriously seems to not remember living in the old house as a young child. Katherine becomes a target for Bree (Marcia Cross,Melrose Place) who feels her perfect "Stepford Wife" routine is a threat to her standing as the Martha Stewart of the neighborhood.
The other characters are given separate story lines outside of the main mystery including: Lynette (Felicity Huffman, Transamerica) battling cancer; Gabrielle (Eva Longoria Parker, The Sentinel) marrying the Mayor but cheating on him with ex-husband Carlos (Ricardo Chavira, The Alamo); Edie (Nicolette Sheridan, Code Name: The Cleaner) scheming a way to get Carlos back; a gay couple from Chicago (Kevin Rahm, Route 30 and Tuc Watkins, One Life to Live) moving in; Bree faking a pregnancy to hide the truth that her teenage daughter is pregnant; and Susan (Teri Hatcher, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) grappling with issues in her marriage to Mike with a baby on the way. Throw in a tornado to devastate the fictional Wisteria Lane, and you have a comic soap opera of epic proportions.
Desperate Housewives had an abbreviated season four thanks to the writer's strike, but they still managed to crank out 17 episodes, which completed an entire story arc nicely. The entire thing is missing five or six installments, but creator Marc Cherry seemed to know how to handle his series with precision to land exactly where he wanted by the closing sequence of a shortened year. DVD fans are asking what distributors like Buena Vista are willing to do to make up for the lack of material, and the answer seems to be loading up each DVD with extras and commentaries. Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season overflows with five discs containing the following bonus material:
* Crew Commentary for "Now You Know" by Creator Marc Cherry, Writer / Producer Bob Daily, and Writer/ Producer Jeff Greenstein
* Couples Commentary for "Now I Know, Don't Be Scared" by actors Marcia Cross and Kyle MacLachlan
* Couples Commentary for "Distant Past" by actors Dana Delaney and Nathan Fillion
* Couples Commentary on "Something's Coming" by actors Eva Longoria and Ricardo Chavira
* Couples Commentary on "Welcome to Kanangawa" from actors Felicity Huffman and Doug Savant
* Couples Commentary on "Mother Said" by actors Teri Hatcher and James Denton
* "Mother Said" features additional commentary by Marc Cherry, actor Nicolette Sheridan, and director David Warren
* "Getting Desperate: From Beginning to End" -- a 27-minute look at the production of the tornado episode from conception to post production
* "Spare Time: Hanging with the men of Wisteria Lane" -- nine minutes of the male cast going bowling, and talking about their characters
* "Cherry-Picked Scenes" -- creator Marc Cherry showcases his six favorite scenes from season four available with optional commentary
* "Alternate Ending" -- the original scene shot to wrap up the season
* "Deleted Scenes" -- 12 cut sequences with optional commentary from Marc Cherry
* "Gag Reel" -- the official bloopers from Season Four
* "ABC Pilot Disc" -- complete first episodes for Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, and Private Practice
These extras represent the best presentation of Desperate Housewives since they raised the bar with the first year's supplemental material. Video and audio aspects remain strong with the show having a clear source material thanks to being broadcast in high definition. The colors pop, the skin tones are spot on, and dialogue and music are mixed nicely together. Chapter stops allow for nine to ten separate marks for every episode, so getting to a favorite moment is simple. Menus are simplified from previous releases without the heavily animated opening, it is replaced with a shot of a house and options in text.
Acting this year remained strong, and the show got a nice bump up in quality with the arrival of Dana Delaney. Strangely enough the actress was considered for the original cast to play the pivotal role Bree. Delaney refused the part three times claiming it was all too similar to another character she played on the nighttime soap Pasadena. It's an ingenious idea to bring her on now to provide an appropriate foil to the character she was going to create if Marc Cherry had gotten his way back in 2004. Coming along with her for the ride is Nathan Fillion, and he gets to showcase his skill with both drama and comedy as her younger husband. The core ensemble plays off each other as well as they always have with each actress getting a moment or two to showcase what they do best. By now the writers and cast know how to handle each other, and season four hums along nicely until the big final two hours. Singling them out is hard to do, but Felicity Huffman's cancer story line seemed to provide the biggest emotional blows. Meanwhile Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, and Nicolette Sheridan all got to play broad comedy as well as heartbreak often in the same scene.
Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season showcases a series that has been on for a while, and it seems this year wisely goes back to the strengths of the first year. But the danger in doing this is often the show has a feeling of "been there, done that," and it is impossible not to notice it was all more powerful the first time around. Major changes need to happen if Desperate Housewives wants to continue, and thankfully they did reveal jaw dropping twists during the final moments of the fourth year. There is going to be a huge jump in the time line promising to change the rules and roles of these characters that we all know too well. It will be interesting to see how they pull this off in the fifth season.
Season Four finds the beloved comedy drama in fine form, and chugging along with all the soap operatic glee the show has always had. Acting and stories remain faithful to the American Beauty-style satire of suburban America, and thankfully it seems "evil still drives a mini van." The program is a celebration of women in the U.S. who seek to maintain a certain lifestyle at any cost, even if it means burying dangerous secrets in their own backyard. Even though season four is shortened by the writing strike that hit all the shows hard in 2007 and 2008, Buena Vista has seen to it that the DVD set provides enough extras to keep fans happy and content with a purchase. It's well worth checking out, because this is television at its sudsy best.
Guilty of still being juicy enough to be one of television's best shame filled pleasures.
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
* 1.77:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 721 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 7 Producers and Couples Commentaries
* "Getting Desperate From Beginning to End"
* Featurette on Male Cast Members
* Favorite Scenes from Marc Cherry with Commentary
* Alternate Ending for Season Four with Commentary
* Deleted Scenes with Commentary
* Promotional Pilot Disc for ABC Shows
* Official Site
* Fan Site