2 February 2005 | Victor Field
The housewives' (and househusbands', and housesinglepeoples') choice.
One of the TV reviewers for "Time Out"'s London edition wondered why "Desperate Housewives" has so handily repeated its American success in Britain. Since not every show that's a hit in America exports well to the UK ("Friends" gathered plenty of them over here, and "CSI: Insert Subtitle Here" has consistently been a key player for what used to be called Channel 5; on the other hand, "Murphy Brown" landed on stony soil when it was shown on BBC2, and don't get UK fans started on how "The West Wing" fares here), that's a good question. Fortunately, there is an answer. In fact, several...
1. Germaine Greer, Janet Street-Porter, the editor of "Cosmopolitan" (UK edition) and the TV critics of "The Times" and "The Mirror" have all pooh-poohed it. Since I respect their opinions in the same way I admire Britney Spears purely for her music, this is pretty much a glowing recommendation.
2. Never discount prior experience; just as many critics noted David Chase's work on "The Rockford Files" when "The Sopranos" started here (and never once gave due credit for that beloved '70s show to Stephen J. Cannell and the late Roy Huggins, but that's another story), so creator Marc Cherry's years on "The Golden Girls" (another show that did well here) may have counted. And though I admit I've never liked her, the goodwill Teri Hatcher built up among viewers of both sexes from playing Lois Lane for four years cannot be overlooked.
3. It strikes a major blow on behalf of those of us who don't give a rodent's rump about reality TV.
4. It fills the "Melrose Place"/"Knots Landing"/primetime soap-sized hole that's been gaping for a while now, even down to having former cast members of same, and does it without wildly OTT acting (making it closer to "Knots Landing" in terms of temperament).
5. The series wisely makes at least one of its main characters (Felicity Huffman's Lynette) seem like someone you could actually imagine meeting (key rule of TV: never make everyone too implausible OR too plausible - if everyone really wanted reality no one would have a TV. Or fiction books...).
6. It's both emotional and funny; and it may take a while to wrap up its plot lines, but if the alternative is a whole load of wad-shooting, I'll be patient.
7. The acting. Hatcher may have top-billing and a Golden Globe (and don't bet against her adding an Emmy in September), but five minutes watching Marcia Cross or the aforementioned Miss Huffman will tell you who the real stars are, acting-wise (the ex-Kimberly should have won the GG, not the ex-Mrs. Superman).
8. The eye-candy; never mind "Which desperate housewife are you?" think "Which desperate housewife do you want to sleep with?" Teri still has plenty of devotees and Nicollette Sheridan remains as hot as she was on "Knots Landing" (even if it's not real, it's spectacular) but it's Eva Longoria who really regularly leads viewers into temptation. And please do not deliver us from Eva. (I'll move on before making a "rod and staff" joke.)
9. They had the good sense to get Danny Elfman to do the theme, and unlike "Point Pleasant," I can understand why he said yes.
Welcome to Wisteria Lane. A great place to visit, thus far.