Judge Brett Cullum finds desperation appealing in the right circumstances.
Our reviews of Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season (published October 10th, 2005), Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season (published September 11th, 2006), Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season (published September 18th, 2008), Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season (published September 9th, 2009), Desperate Housewives: The Complete Sixth Season (published December 8th, 2010), and Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seventh Season (published September 14th, 2011) are also available.
Edie: I don't trust friendly women.
Desperate Housewives debuted in 2004, and immediately became one of ABC's biggest hits. The first year was a tight mystery that ingeniously wove together the lives of four housewives as they scrambled to learn why one of their best friends ended her own life. The cast was amazing, scripts were crackling with dark humor, and the series filled a void on Sunday nights left by Sex and the City. It deftly mixed comedy and drama and delivered one of the best stories the broadcast medium had to offer. The second season found the compelling mystery resolved, and the show seemed to coast on the good will of the amazing ensemble. Many claimed that Desperate Housewives had lost the edge of its freshman year, so creator Marc Cherry experimented with different plots to bring things back. Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season brings us twenty-three episodes which confirm the original promise. A new mystery is introduced centering around a wedding, and things continue through a myriad of plot threads designed to take full advantage of each actress's particular talents. Is the magic back, or are we just wishfully hoping that everything is back to normal on Wisteria Lane?
Facts of the Case
The third season of Desperate Housewives was all about weddings. Three characters got married, thus narrowing the number of single women on Wisteria Lane significantly by the finale. But I'm getting ahead of myself with the multiple nuptials. Originally, Season Three was concerned with Bree's wedding to Orson Hodge (Kyle MacLachlan, Dune), an OCD dentist obsessed with cleaning who may or may not have killed his first wife. His scheming mother (Dixie Carter, Designing Women) even showed up to make things more complicated, and secrets were unearthed before the season was over. Way before the season finale actually! This plot was wrapped early because of the real life pregnancy of lead actress Marcia Cross (Melrose Place). Medical complications which involved mandatory bed rest before twins were delivered took Bree's character out for the last half of the season.
With the other remaining Wisteria Lane residents, things were just as complicated. The show had to rely on the three other actresses (and the character Edie) to spice things up with Bree gone. First Lynette (Felicity Huffman, Georgia Rule) had to deal with Tom's (Doug Savant, Melrose Place) newly revealed daughter and her crazy mom (Kiersten Warren, 13 Going on 30). Then the Scavo's struggle continued with opening a neighborhood pizzeria. Susan Mayer (Terri Hatcher, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) met a wealthy, charming, British suitor (Dougray Scott, Dark Water) at the hospital while Mike (James Denton, The Pretender) was in a coma. And don't think that was all Desperate Housewives covered in its third year. There was a hostage crisis in a supermarket, a dead body in a freezer found on the street, meddling butlers, crazy in-laws, a shocking possible affair,and other events that left viewers' jaws on the floor.
In the cannon of Desperate Housewives, Season Three is better than the second year but not as exemplary as the first year. Things move much faster, and the show finds a rhythm missing from the plodding second season. Desperate Housewives is like a glossy, amped-up version of the classic sitcom Soap, or more accurately a comedy-infused Knots Landing with an American Beauty edge to it. The series seems self-aware in creating outrageous, sexy situations and dire, dramatic turns in equal doses. The characters are fleshed out and acted with sincerity. Yet the tongue is firmly locked into the cheek in the scripts and plot machinations. It's addictive, guilty fun and it rarely angles to be anything else. This season is nowhere near as lofty as the first season, but the show has developed a faithful following and continued its success. It reaches a worldwide audience of 115 to 119 Million viewers according to estimates made in April of 2007. The only concern is that Desperate Housewives has slid from the fourth most-watched show to the tenth in American ratings.
It is one of television's greatest casts. Very rarely does television center around women in their 30s and 40s, and this show allows them to be sexy and funny. Felicity Huffman, Terri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, and Nicolette Sheridan remain the focus of the plots. Even though the show can get extremely silly, these actresses play everything seriously and to the hilt. Part of Season Three stumbles when Marcia Cross exits for a while, but they make up for it by giving Nicolette Sheridan more screen time. As long as Desperate Housewives can hold onto the core characters, the plots can go anywhere.
One of the largest criticisms lobbied at the second year of the show was that Marc Cherry wasn't as intimately involved with the writing. This has been rectified in season three; he took a central role in the creation of each episode. Cherry supplies the right tone which skillfully blends serious drama and camp comedy. That's a hard juggling act, because the series can go in either direction too far and loose some of its luster. Desperate Housewives is a tragic comedy—with equal emphasis on each. Season Three is heavy enough to move the viewer—but with belly laughs during even the most dramatic of proceedings.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The biggest disappointment with Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season is that the extras aren't as extensive as they were with previous sets. There are no commentaries, no extended episodes, and less cast interviews than what came before. We get a handful of featurettes, some bloopers, and a look at the Spanish version of the show. All of these can be found on the final disc along with the finale episodes. For any TV show this would be considered a good package, but Buena Vista had set the bar so high with their first two releases it seems a little paltry in comparison. Features include:
• "On Set With Eva"(5:36) This is a look at what it is
like to work with Eva Longoria from the cast and crew.
There's nothing to complain about with the rest of the DVDs. The transfers for Season Three are very good and Buena Vista always delivers in this department. Episodes are shown widescreen in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio. Detail is amazingly high, and the only distraction is a slight grain which pops up periodically. Desperate Housewives is a gorgeously shot show that makes for great viewing on DVD. The audio is a rich 5.1 mix which provides a lot of oomph to the unique Danny Elfman theme and Steve Jablonsky compositions. The packaging mirrors the first two seasons with a clear plastic slipcase surrounding a cardboard digipack and six discs. Artwork this time centers around the "Dirty Laundry" promotional theme.
According to an eight-figure deal inked in 2007 with creator Marc Cherry, Desperate Housewives will run for seven seasons with all the major players under contract. He would like to see the show disappear after that last season, and claims he has a definite ending in mind (much like the creators of Lost). I don't think anyone can tell from these first three seasons where life on Wisteria Lane will reach a natural conclusion. Seems anything can and often does happen, and that is the beauty of the show. That and the fact they have one of the best looking casts on television who can also act anything thrown at them. Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season is incredible to watch for those reasons alone. It doesn't rise to the brilliant level of the first season, but it continues to provide smart drama and comedy. Hopefully Season Four will be just as good with Dana Delaney (China Beach) and Nathan Fillion (Serenity) joining the cast. Maybe Buena Vista will also amp up the extras on the next season release. Whatever happens, I'll be in front of the TV set until the bitter end.
Guilty pleasures don't come any guiltier. This show makes me want to move out to the suburbs, and inspires just a touch of paranoia about what those soccer moms are hiding in the back of those minivans.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
• On the Set With Eva Longoria
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