If when you arrive at the office this morning, you hear the word “lame” being bandied about, fear not, gentle reader. It’s likely that the water cooler talk is not about you, but about last night’s finale of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.
Now, I’ll admit: I went into the last-ever outing with low expectations. After all, since airing one of the most brilliant pilots in recent television history, this show has rarely — if ever — managed to recreate the very elements that originally drew me in. Over the years, the series devolved into uninspired, overly-long “mysteries” (Betty Applewhite, anyone?) and the type of humor that one would expect to find in a Saturday morning cartoon as opposed to a Sunday night sudser. The childish bickering that ensued after Julie’s water broke on the way to Renee’s wedding was everything wrong with HOUSEWIVES. Time and again, we sat through scenes in which supposedly-grown women acted like children.
For me, one of the biggest problems with the series was that neither it nor the characters ever evolved. Who couldn’t have predicted (basically, from the moment they split) that Tom and Lynette would wind up together? In fact, the finale basically proved that over the years, absolutely nothing had changed for the women of Wisteria Lane. (Bree became a conservative legislator? How nice for her gay son.)
There were wonderfully sappy moments throughout the two hours, including Karen’s emotional testimony in which she took the blame for the death of Gaby’s stepfather… thereby basically showing that yet again, we wasted an entire season on a storyline that ultimately went nowhere. (I couldn’t help feeling that Karen’s speech about neighborhoods, community and family should have been far closer to the end as opposed to coming before the long slog’s halfway point.)
If it sounds as if I’m bitter about HOUSEWIVES, I suppose it’s because I am. Everything about this show had so much promise, from the premise to the cast, and yet all of it wound up feeling, year-in and year-out, like much ado about nothing. (Something tells me Vanessa Williams, whose Renee was without doubt the worst case of a fantastic actress in a thankless part on a show that had no shortages in that category, might agree.)
Ironically, what was long-missing from the show was desperation. Even the few times the series dared venture toward the dark side (Bree’s near suicide or Gaby’s abuse), it failed to play the consequences. For a few fantastic weeks, we actually saw grown in Gaby’s character and watched portrayer Eva Longoria sink her teeth into some deeply emotional material. And yet, somewhere along the line, that growth vanished and Gabi went right back to blithely plowing through life like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
I’d like to say that I’ll miss DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. After all, it’s been a part of my weekly viewing routine for eight seasons. But I can’t help suspecting that by the time the new season rolls out, I, like the ladies, will have moved on from Wisteria Lane.
Richard M. Simms is the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility.