Before I start this review, I should start with a couple of confessions. Confession #1, I have never seen an episode of this until I watched it for this review. Confession #2, I really dislike watching TV shows on TV because I don't want to wait a week for the next 45 minutes - I watch them at my pace from a DVD boxset. Confession #3 other than knowing that this was a huge TV show in the states with a large fan base; I had not one clue as to what the show was about either. So, with that in mind, I started to view this with a completely open and unknowing mind.
The show starts with the apparent suicide of Mary Alice Young, who acts as our narrator for the show, but it then revolves around 4 housewives in Susan (Hatcher), the divorced mother of one and the nearest to normal, Gabrielle (Longoria), the wife of Carlos, a rich business man, but she is committing adultery with their gardener, Bree (Cross) the kind of woman who is always prim and proper externally, whilst hiding the family internal problems and Lynette (Huffman) the suffering housewife and mother with the 3 hyperactive, disobedient brats. The series plots the lives of the aforementioned women, their lives, their families and everyone else that lives in Wisteria Lane as well as the main plot device for the show, the alleged suicide and the beginning of the mystery started with a note discovered by our 4 leads that was sent to Mary Alice which bore the message “I Know What You Did, It Makes Me Sick, I'm Going To Tell”, which makes them wonder what secret Mary Alice was hiding. Coupled with the fact that the deceased's husband is acting strange by digging up the pool and putting the house up for sale, means that things aren't quite as simple as they seem to be, indeed there's lots going on behind the glossy veneer.
As stated, I went into this show completely blind and after the first episode, I thought it had a Twin Peaks-esque feel to it, not because of any Lynch-ian overtones, but the focal point of the story was that of a corpse, but other than both shows being quirky, that's the only time I felt the comparison. This is indeed a quirky show, with it being part soap, part mystery and part dark comedy. Maybe it has a cult audience because there's nothing quite like it around at the moment, so we can safely say that it is different. It's certainly more adult that some of its rival shows, dealing with suicide, murder, adultery, domination and the like, which is also pretty refreshing that these things aren't skirted around, rather mentioned directly, frankly and with a certain degree of humour too. We also don't have the cliff-hanger ending for each episode, rather a hook of intrigue where we are given answers to some questions and more questions that need answering, which is deftly done. For example, by episode 8, we know WHO wrote the note, we know WHY the note was written, but we don't completely know the whole story and we are fed information like a trail of breadcrumbs, with other little plots and stories going on as well to give us a quite enjoyable whole.Depending on your tastes, of course, the humour prevalent throughout may go over your head or just plain distasteful. It's more adult oriented that your average British sit-com (thankfully) and while some of it made me smirk, there were the one or two occasions where I laughed out loud, which may sound harsh, but my funny bone isn't the easiest to find particularly in relation to American humour, for example 10 seasons of Friends (which I like) may have only made me laugh out once, maybe twice. Sometimes the series is surreal in its twist and turns, in fact there were moments where I thought of the show “Soap”, as this can be as offbeat but not totally “out there” as the aforementioned show was. For example, there's a wonderful moment where a character awakens from a coma and the opening of that show is wonderfully dark humoured and surreal, yet it just works for me. Some of the humour also comes from the conniving actions present by certain cast members, from Edie the man-eater to Gabby the diva, they just show you how desperate they truly are, hence the title (it's not just meaning sexually/romantically desperate either - more the drastic measures they take). Other times, the desperate measures certain characters take or choose, make you dislike, or even despise them, which is superb writing that you can have such an emotional response to their actions.
Character/Actor wise, Susan (Hatcher) is the most sane one, even if she can be a little scatty, but Hatcher excels in her comedic role here and doesn't seem to have any issues with the material, from being knocked out by a mechanical rodeo bull to being left completely naked in the middle of the street, she appears to take it all in her stride for the good of the show and it certainly harks back to her comedic turns as Lois Lane in “Lois and Clark”. Huffman, whom I don't recognise from any other show or movie, copes admirably well as the suffering mother (and boy, does she suffer) of 3. Her turn as tired, worn down mother to the one that's perky due to taking ADD medication certainly made me smile and she gives a good performance that I think any mother with children can appreciate. Cross, last seen by myself in “Melrose Place”, is so prim and proper it's almost like a certain Mrs. Bucket was cranked up to 11 and again, she copes admirably in the role - It does make me wonder how many times that she had to say her one-liner at the dinner party from hell, because that would be a tough line to say that straight (it relates to her husband and him crying at a certain point). Longoria, another actress I'd never heard of until this show, works exceptionally well as the diva-esque Gabrielle, but the moments where she shows more vulnerability work better for me, mostly as although she's not the most loathsome character, there's moments where she is so materialistic and gold-digging, you find it hard to sympathise, but in those certain moments, she can win you over. Still most men probably will enjoy her outfits, as figure hugging and revealing as they are. As for the other cast members, without wishing to single anyone out, this is clearly an ensemble show, with only the youngest child actors (Lynnette's children in particular) being the weak links in a very well balanced cast.
So, when all is said and done, did I like the show? Well, yes I did, as it was certainly entertaining, it had some nice dark humour and it is certainly an odd mix of show styles, as said it is part soap, part mystery and part surreal comedy. My only criticism, is ironically the season finale or to be precise, the so-called cliff-hanger. It's rather a damp squib to me with no real must-see-next-season type ending. The only other thing I'm wondering is that if the shows main thrust was the suicide and seeing how it's pretty much completely self contained in the whole season, how it can last any longer, but then, I'll be waiting for the second season boxset to find out.
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