ReRuns

ReRuns: Why I’ll Always be Desperate for ‘Desperate Housewives’

Courtesy of ABC Studios"Desperate Housewives" forever changed TV for the better, writes A&E editor Alec Karam.

Yes, there comes a time when we must write a “ReRuns” about our favorite show. When the past resurfaces in the form of a nostalgic column. When I write in the cadence of the late Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), the prolific narrator of the best show to have ever existed.

“Desperate Housewives” changed not only my life but the entire television industry. It spawned the entire “Real Housewives” franchise and served as a lead-in to the legendary “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

The series begins with a bang when suburban housewife Mary Alice Young kills herself. Leaving her neighbors on Wisteria Lane with suspicions and heartbreak, Mary Alice’s death serves as the overarching mystery of the show’s first season.

Mary Alice’s four best friends try to unravel her enigmatic death, all the while dealing with their own drama.

Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) is a recent divorcée trying to find love again after her husband left her for his secretary. 

Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross) lives a perfect suburban life — a doctor husband, two children, a country club membership — but it’s merely a facade that unravels when her husband asks for a divorce.

Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) settled in the suburbs with her businessman husband, only to find herself hungry for more, beginning an affair with her teenage gardener.

Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) is the quintessential stay-at-home mom, with four young children and a husband often gone for work, leaving her run-ragged and without a lifeline.

“Desperate Housewives premiered in 2004 on ABC.

“Desperate Housewives” has the most fully-formed pilot episode of a show I’ve seen. There’s no awkwardness, no slow burn. The show immediately knows what it is, and it never loses sight of that.

It’s a glossy melodrama full of soapy twists and turns, and dark-edged humor lifting the show to satirical greatness.

Through eight fantastic seasons, the show has ups and downs, highs and lows — the season two mystery is undoubtedly a dud — but it never loses its shine.

With lines such as “No, I can’t kill you today. I have pilates,” “Rex cries when he ejaculates” and “You could have an affair with anyone and you choose the pharmacist? You are such a Republican,” the show pumps out prime quotes each episode. 

That last quote is courtesy of neighborhood floozy Edie Britt (Nicolette Sheridan), a regular thorn in the side of the ladies.

Not only is the script sharp but the show’s score is breathtaking. As episodes close with a melodramatic Mary Alice voiceover, the music is like a lullaby, tucking viewers into the comfort of the show’s gravitas. 

Oscillating between outlandish humor and poignant drama, the show masters the tonal tightrope. There’s no greater example than season three’s “Bang,” easily the series’ best episode. 

Depicting a shooting and hostage situation in a local grocery store, the episode is heartbreaking, bittersweet, shocking and laugh-out-loud funny. 

The episode bookends on the grief Lynette feels about Mary Alice’s death, having run into her the day she later killed herself. Although Lynette sensed something was off, she ignored her gut and headed inside to unload groceries.

Courtesy of ABC Studios The series ended in 2012 after eight seasons.

Wracked with guilt, Lynette dreams of that day, wondering if she could’ve saved her. By the end of the episode, she finds solace in life’s fragility. 

She dreams once more of Mary Alice, and this time, she ignores her groceries to help her friend. But instead of saving Mary Alice, Lynette merely learns it’s a fruitless endeavor.

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” Lynette pleads. 

Mary Alice tells her, “Yes. You can enjoy this beautiful day. We get so few of them.”

That’s where “Desperate Housewives” excels. It’s a sublime reflection of the American paradox, showing the glossy sheen of suburban excellence that masks the atrocities, terrors and unhappiness at the core of society. 

It’s beautifully saturated and saccharine. And it’s honest. 

Mary Alice narrations often sound like parables from The Bible. But they’re not, they’re something far greater. 

There’s a reason the show’s promotional material shows the women surrounded by apples and snakes, after all. Perhaps “Desperate Housewives” is the newest testament.

I began watching the show as a 12-year-old, buying the entire first season on iTunes. My family caved and got Netflix just a month later — probably to save money so I didn’t buy seven more seasons. 

I binged this show like it was my lifeline, and in many ways it was. Coming home to my favorite neighbors was the best part of each day for me.

Within six weeks, I finished the entire series. Immediately after, the rewatches began. When I would babysit my little sisters, we’d order Dominos and watch “Desperate Housewives.” 

Last spring, when my parents and sister visited Chicago, my sister Gabriella was in the middle of her own rewatch. We spent our days as a family strolling the Chicago streets and our nights watching “Desperate Housewives,” the true American dream.

I still spend each day accosting everyone I know to watch the show. Few are brave enough to take up that mantle. Those who do, though, enter the next realm, the final lane. I shouldn’t say more. You’ll need to watch for yourself.

“Desperate Housewives,” rated TV-14, is streaming on Hulu.

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