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ABC's 'Housewives' Really Clean Up

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; Page C01

Fans of scripted programming take heart: "Desperate Housewives" stomped on "Survivor" on Sunday night and, in so doing, became the first show ever to beat a season finale of the CBS reality behemoth.

The next morning, "Desperate Housewives" continued to mow down its competitors, clocking more Golden Globe Award nominations than any other TV show, including that fancy-pants "The Sopranos."

"Vanuatu's" verdict between Chris and Twila was the low point in "Survivor" history. (Monty Brinton -- AP)

"Housewives" racked up five nominations, including one for best comedy and one for each of its leading actresses except the American Family Association fave, teen-gardener-seducing Eva Longoria, who was mysteriously snubbed. The show's male actors also were overlooked, which is only fitting.

The "Desperate Housewives" scorched-earth campaign started when it logged more than 22 million viewers from 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday, pounding the "Survivor: Vanuatu" finale. In that hour, the "Survivor" wrap-up logged about 20 million viewers; over its entire two hours, it averaged 19.6 million viewers -- a worst-ever showing for a finale broadcast of the show.

That's nearly 3 million fewer viewers than the previous low for a finale episode ("Survivor: Amazon") and more than 5 million shy of the final broadcast for the most recent edition ("Survivor: All Stars").

CBS kept its upper lip stiff yesterday, noting that the audience size for the "Survivor" finale "mirror[ed] its season average" and that "Desperate Housewives" also was bloodied in the skirmish.

It's true that Sunday's average for "Desperate Housewives" was down considerably from the series-high 27 million who tuned in two weeks ago when, as promised, one of the women of Wisteria Lane got whacked. Fortunately, it was the frumpy, blender-pinching one, Martha Huber (Christine Estabrook).

In the capital of the Free World, however, people were denied the opportunity to see "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday night. WJLA once again shoved its No. 1 program out of prime time and into the wee hours of Monday morning to broadcast another lousy [wildly inappropriate local football team's name] loss at the same time it was telecast on ESPN. WJLA last spring bought the rights to telecast two home games before realizing that ABC might actually have a hit on its hands Sunday night.

(Before you begin crafting that acid-pen letter to the editor, please note that WJLA's previous broadcast of "Desperate Housewives" attracted about 444,000 homes, nearly 10 percent more than Sunday's [wildly inappropriate local football team's name] game. )

When WJLA finally did air "Desperate Housewives" -- beginning at approximately 12:45 a.m. Monday -- it cut 4 1/2 minutes from the episode. (It also misplaced one 3 1/2-minute ad break.)

"We have become aware that a scene was not shown to our audience and we are investigating," a WJLA spokeswoman told The Post's John Maynard.

As a public service, The TV Column now gives you a synopsis of The Missing 4 1/2 Minutes:

Gabrielle (Longoria) fesses up to gardener-lover's mom about the affair, but assures mom it's over. The high school swim coach finds pot in Andrew's locker, the same pot that in a previous scene Bree (Marcia Cross) had found in her son's locker but left for coach to find because she's that kinda mom. Meanwhile, Paul, husband of the late Mary Alice, angrily confronts Julie, daughter of Susan (Teri Hatcher), about the whereabouts of his runaway son, Zach. And detectives question some guy about a toy chest he built years ago that was recently found at the bottom of a lake with the remains of a woman inside. We assume this is the same chest Paul threw in the lake in that debut episode after his wife shot herself in the head.

On Monday morning, HBO scored more Golden Globe nominations than any other network. But nobody cared. All the talk was of ABC's "red-hot freshman series," as the Hollywood Reporter put it, while Variety announced, "Alphabet steals HBO's sizzle." They were most excited about "Desperate's" five nominations -- especially the "catfight" (the Reporter) shaping up among its stars Cross, Hatcher and Felicity Huffman, who are all nominated for best lead actress in a comedy series. Also in that competition are Debra Messing of "Will & Grace" and Sarah Jessica Parker of "Sex and the City."

HBO logged 20 nominations, followed by ABC with nine, including a best drama series nomination for its other freshman hit, "Lost," but none for any of its multitude of portable, pull-apart cast members.

Oh, and "The Sopranos" earned four nominations this year, including one for best drama series but none for star James Gandolfini.

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