In its prime; Desperate Housewives was truly something to behold. The comedy/drama about 5 women living in the lush Wisteria Lane pioneered the extent to which television shows can flourish and consume society while offering valid nods to many issues and offering quite notable meaning.
There’s little doubt than in 2004/2005; Desperate Housewives was the biggest thing on the planet; the pilot episode was the most-watched pilot since 1996, it was the 4th most watched series in the U.S1, it filled magazines and talk shows, won numerous awards and just got everyone talking regardless of age (including schoolkids which i can attest to) or gender or celebrity status; both Oprah Winfrey2 and Laura Bush3 publicly declared their fanship. It was really something new; while both M*A*S*H and Seinfeld’s finale episodes caused a global stir, and The Simpsons no doubt grew over 20 years into a cultural powerhouse, It was Desperate Housewives that really broke the mold of how a tv show could cause such a large commotion so quickly and so widely upon its debut.
But how? The show so neatly combined quality with shock that it pleased critics and audiences thoroughly and concurrently; the former though the pristinely lavish production, top-quality acting and storytelling with supremely juicy one-liners and the latter being overt sex, a literally M-rated promotional ad (don’t think i’ve ever seen such a thing before or since), to a galore of sensitive issues and guilty pleasure moments that probably fuelled more water cooler gossip than most shows had done before. It no doubt blazed a trail on which many shows would graduate beyond playing it safe and keeping budgets low.
The show’s meaning however is interesting and only really surfaces in the finale; the epilogue reveals that eventually all the main characters leave Wisteria Lane and only then do they excel and realise their dreams and potential, the sense of frustration and futility that plagued them during the show was finally lifted when they broke free of a life they didn’t want to live. A valid message for everyone.
1 Jaffer, Murtz: ‘Housewives’ Premiere Cleans Up for ABC], Prime Time Pulse, April 10, 2004
2 Brioux, Bill: Oprah pays a visit to ‘Housewives’, Jam Showbiz, February 2, 2005