NEW YORK – It's hard to know which is more insulting, the title of the show — "Desperate Housewives" (search) — or the premise of the show — a lot of desperate housewives.
What is this, 1961? Who portrays women as non-productive mooches, hellbent on doing nothing besides living off their hard-working husbands and sleeping with the help?
Oh, right. I know! ABC-TV, that's who!
The "comedic drama," which is neither funny nor very dramatic, begins when one perfect housewife, Mary Alice (Brenda Strong), blows her head off — and goes to the great beyond where she gets to deliver monotonous insights from the other side.
And forget any hope that people evolve in the after-life — this dame becomes nothing more than the now-dead neighborhood gossip.
Anyway, Mary Alice's funeral (a tired device) gives all her housewife friends a good chance to wear sexy black clothes and talk so much about themselves that we, the desperate viewer, can figure it all out. Really, they needn't have bothered.
The ensemble company consists of the perfect one, Bree (Marcia Cross), the slutty ones, Gabrielle and Edie (Eva Longoria and Nicollette Sheridan), the sad divorced one, Susan (Teri Hatcher (search)) and the harried one, Lynette (Felicity Huffman (search)), who gave up the fast-track career to have kids.
There's also an older one, but since she isn't sexy any more, ABC doesn't bother to list her among the credits I can find.
Most upsetting is the misogynistic, slave-mentality dialogue.
Lynette: "The man's gotten me pregnant three times in four years. I wish he was seeing someone else!" Talk about having no control over your own life!
And "Susan had met the enemy and she was a slut!"
Into this morass of suburban stereotypes moves the handsome one, Mike Delfino (James Denton), to drive the already desperate women wild.
The men in their lives include Bree's hubby, Rex (Steven Culp); Gabrielle's hubby, Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira); and Mary Alice's husband, Paul (Mark Moses), who should be getting lucky any minute now.
Then just when you think this belongs in the trash with all other horrifying, out-of-date stereotypes of women, the writers throw some decent suspense.
Why did Mary Alice blow her head off? Why does the handsome one have a gun (dear God, I hope they don't make him a gangster because they've given him an Italian name)? And why the heck is Mary Alice's husband digging up the pool in the middle of the night?
The acting is good, the bits of suspense unexpectedly good, too. It's just that the plot is so retro, and so very wrong to be sending to young women these days. I'm sure it will be a giant hit anyway.