And eight years ago, the aptly named “Desperate Housewives,” set in a fictional, idyllic suburban world that masked the characters’ true pain, sharply captured that timeless internal struggle in a way that truly resonated with the audience.
But this is also an era of swiftly canceled shows — so what was it that made the ABC series stick through all these years? During nearly a decade of character ups and downs, falling ratings, and some truly absurd storylines, one thing stayed consistent:“Desperate Housewives” showed us that it’s okay to be a mess.
Sunday night, the soap-tastic dramedy bids farewell for good with a mediocre amount of fanfare for a show that, eight seasons ago, truly started out with a bang.
More specifically, it was a gunshot — a self-inflicted bullet that killed a housewife on Wisteria Lane in the first scene of the pilot back in October 2004. It was a gunshot meticulously planned by a sweet, friendly woman named Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), and it happened only after she had served her family waffles for breakfast, done a load of laundry and picked up the dry cleaning.
A grim catalyst for the show, but one that captured millions of people wanting to know the answer to the same question as the characters: Why did a woman with a seemingly perfect life want to die? Soon, it evolved into something more than a mystery. It forced the characters to take a closer look at their own lives, and reevaluate the cost of keeping an image of perfection vs. facing the truth about their troubles — a tantalizing idea for viewers tuning in to a prime-time soap.
Despite its tragic beginnings, “Desperate Housewives” has always been billed as a comedy, collecting dozens of award nominations over the years in the category. It took only seconds in the pilot to go from dark to darkly funny: The nosy neighbor who discovered Mary Alice’s body screamed, called the police and then after grieving for a few moments, ripped off the “Property of Mary Alice Young” sticker on a borrowed blender.
The scene was a sign of the show’s tone, different from anything else on TV at the time, and viewers took notice. It worked: About 22 million people tuned in to the premiere to see Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Kamp, the uptight, Martha Stewartesque homemaker; Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, the harried executive who stopped climbing the corporate ladder to raise her kids; Eva Longoria as Gabrielle Solis, the former fashion model adjusting to the suburbs; and Teri Hatcher, making her return to TV as Susan Mayer, the klutzy single mom with a disastrous love life.