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November 15, 2007 | Comments ()


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The Same Suburban Barbie Bullshit

"Desperate Housewives" / Dustin Rowles

Trade News | November 15, 2007 | Comments ()


I’d meant to review a film called Smiley Face for today, starring Ana Faris and John Krasinksi, but I couldn’t make my way through the goddamn thing. It was unspeakably pointless — a film about a slacker chick who wakes and bakes with her psychotic roommate’s marijuana cupcakes and then spends the rest of the day trying to bake replacements while stoned. And, with apologies to our tokers out there in Pajiba-land, there is absolutely nothing more insufferable than experiencing someone else’s pothead ramblings. At least, not sober and a decade out of college. Smiley Face was like a bad (really bad) Linklater flick crossed with a Jim Varney movie — think dumbed-down version of Dude! Where’s My Car without the blasé charm of Ashton Kutcher (*cough*) and you have a pretty decent idea. How Greg Araki went from Mysterious Skin to Smiley Face is beyond my levels of cognition, though both Faris and Krasinki should be thankful that the film only opens on one screen this weekend and will likely be seen by no one. Indeed, a few minutes after Krasinki’s sci-fi nerd character jerks off in the shower while fantasizing about Faris’ ditzy-stoner, I decided to find something else to fill this space today.

It’s a measure of just how bad Smiley Face was that I stooped to reviewing an episode of “Desperate Housewives” in its stead. Like a lot of folks, I gave up on “Housewives” about four episodes into season two and never had a single regret, in large part because season one wasn’t that great to begin with — like “American Idol,” I only suffered through it because 1) I write about pop-culture and it’s good to have some useless Marc Cherry knowledge, and mostly 2) so that I could keep apprised of plotlines and characters that I’d no doubt have to discuss with fictional people in coffee shops who’d look up from their Proust and inevitably spark up a conversation about Susan’s relationship with Mike Delfino. I’ve come to realize, however, that these fictional people will never exist, and, besides if they did, I’m not sure I’d want to have a lengthy conversation with someone who approaches a stranger in a coffee shop and wants to talk about motherfucking “Desperate Housewives.” Plus, Proust in a coffee shop? That’s so cliché.

That said, I keep hearing that season four has seen a return to form and, out of my own sense of morbid curiosity and to sate the curiosity of our likeminded readers who’d like to know but aren’t inclined enough to actually suffer through an episode first, I thought I’d peek in on the show and see if it’s actually rebounded from absolutely dreadful to its original completely uninteresting state. Besides, I understand that Nathon Fillion is on this season — he’s gotta add something to the show, right? So, I picked the most recently aired episode to check up on, keeping in mind that the only thing I know about “Housewives” since Alfred Woodard moved into their suburban development is what I learned from Letterman, namely that Edie (Nicolette Sheridan) hanged herself at the end of last season (though, I take it she miraculously survived, since she’s still on the show).

From the “previously on” segment, there are a few interesting developments, and we get a pretty good idea of where the show stands now. First, Dana Delaney is in the cast, as is John Slattery, who I’ve got a bit of a man-crush on. In fact, it appears that Slattery’s character, Victor, is some sort of tycoon married to Gabrielle (Eva Longoria), though it looks like Edie is trying to railroad that relationship by showing Victor pictures taken of Gabrielle and Carlos (Richard Chavira) swapping spit. Also, Danielle (Joy Lauren), who is Bree’s (Marcia Cross) daughter, had a goddamn baby, and I think that Nathan Fillion delivered it while dressed as Frankenstein(?) Meanwhile, Lynette (Felicity Huffman) appears to be recovering from cancer, and Mike Delfino is dabbling in pills. And the woman who committed suicide on the pilot episode is still narrating. Ugh.

Wow. And in only 30 seconds, I’m reminded once again why I didn’t give a shit about this show.

But, I’m committed to following this through, so here goes.It’s still the old Marc Cherry soap formula: Annoying tinkles of music that punctuate every scene like the slap across the face with a used condom; frequent ohmygod realizations; insufferable, themed narration; typical soap-opera secrets and closet skeletons; ridiculous misunderstandings; manufactured, tacked-on poignancy; and weepy histrionics. It’s like I never stopped watching. In other words, “Desperate Housewives” still blows.

And though I haven’t watched it in over three years, none of the characters have actually changed. Gabby is still cheating on her husband, though now it’s a different husband; only the paramour has changed — here’s it’s her ex, Carlos. Edie is still vindictive, though her target has changed from Susan to Gabby (I’m assuming that sometime during the last three seasons, Carlos and Edie were an item). Carlos is now poor, which seems to be the reason that Gabby isn’t interested in him except for sex. Also, she’s still as “zany” as ever; in fact, during this episode, she gets so zany with a boat oar, she knocks her husband overboard and leaves him for dead.

Elsewhere, Bree is now married to Orson Hodges (Kyle MacLachlin), and apparently they’re passing off Danielle’s newborn as their own, which means that Bree — after countless public embarrassments — still cares little about anything else but appearances, which I’m assuming is why she’s passing her daughter’s newborn off as her own. Moreover, in this episode, she’s so concerned with the appearance of her baby’s penis that, over her husband’s objections, she sneaks him off to a bris and has him snipped because, well, foreskin is apparently unsightly. Don’t tell Penn and Teller.

Meanwhile, Lynette — who is officially cured of cancer — is still contending with ridiculous family issues, only now instead of trying to raise hellions while dealing with her resentful stay-at-home mom status, she’s stuck at home again, with cancer, and her sisters (one of which is played by Sarah Paulson —oh, Sarah), have abandoned their mother in Lynette’s care.

Elsewhere, Susan has finally married Mike Delfino; in fact, she’s pregnant, but the show’s forces keep driving them apart. In this episode, it turns out that Mike is a prescription pill junkie who has acquired the addiction to combat suburban tedium, failing to recognize just how suburban tedious prescription drug-addictions are.

The show’s newest member, played by Dana Delaney, is one of those sinister, single moms (the show’s evil apparently resides in single parents — Alfre Woodward, Mark Moses, and now Delaney). She’s a controlling mom who has an abusive ex-husband and a secret she doesn’t want her daughter to know about, which prompts this bit of melodramatic wooshah:


Daughter: For years, you’ve told me that my father was too evil to talk about. And now I find out you discussed him at a neighborhood game night!

Mom: Regardless, I’m still your mother. While you’re under my roof, you’ll obey my rules.

So, yes: Essentially, nothing has changed. Partners and living arrangements have shifted, and additional offspring have been brought into the picture, but the characters haven’t matured a bit, the plotlines are still as absurd as ever, the writing is about as subtle as murder, and “Desperate Housewives” is about as entertaining as a peristomal hernia. So, if you’ve heard a lot of great buzz about the new season, dismiss it. It’s still the same terrible show that it always was — it has zero basis in reality and there isn’t a single identifiable character or plotline on the show. Even as a soccer-mom fantasy version of life, it’s no damn good, either. I don’t know a lot of suburban mothers, but I doubt there are many who are as awful as these women.

And, damnit, Nathan Fillion wasn’t even on this episode.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.



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