It used to be that, when a television series was a bit past its prime but still on the air, the show's leading character would get pregnant, or married. Now, apparently, they bring in the gays.
Tomorrow night on ABC, a gay couple will move onto Wisteria Lane and Desperate Housewives will try to regain the traction of its first season, when the nation was obsessed with the secrets and lies of four suburban women. New neighbors Bob and Lee (played by Tuc Watkins and Kevin Rahm) will arrive with some secrets of their own (pornography, maybe!) and, it seems, a very tacky art collection that pisses off Teri Hatcher. Their shiny fountain "tears Wisteria Lane apart," and a power struggle ensues.
Which is exactly why Marc Cherry's once brilliant commentary on middle America needs a Martha Stewart-scale renovation. And while it is nice to see Wisteria diversify, Housewives needs more than a Queer Eye makeover and a little adult entertainment to make it interesting or relevant again.
In its first season, Desperate Housewives helped ABC regain its throne as the edgy network willing to take chances (remember the brilliant and artsy Twin Peaks?). Soon after its maiden voyage, however, the show lost its way. Openly gay creator Cherry took some time off, and the show took a nosedive. By the time Cherry returned, the show had faltered almost past resuscitation.
I was addicted to Housewive's sassy dialogue, strong women and catty plotlines as much as the rest of the country. But then, I changed channels to watch HBO's The Sopranos (still, by far, the best thing ever broadcast on television) and now I'm hooked on the cable network's very smart, very sexy and very adult Sunday series Tell Me You Love Me.
Yes, somewhere along the way, the promise that Housewives made to save the big three networks dwindled into a mere possibility. Then, after a disastrous second season, the air went out completely. And now, as so often happens, the gays are being called in to save the day.
Here's the (good) thing Cherry doesn't get, though: It's not the late 80s anymore, and the mere presence of an openly gay couple on network television isn't enough to cause a tidalwave of publicity as it did for thirtysomething, another smart and edgy ABC drama. A transgender character has caused barely a ripple on another ABC show, Dirty Sexy Money, and it is because, by and large, the viewing public has become comfortable with, and accepting of, LGBT characters.
Today, there needs to be a puprose behind the orientation or gender identity of television characters. Or, something truly shocking has to happen. (Hell, even Madonna had to crucify herself to make a provocative point in her last tour.)
And that is what plagues Housewives: While Cherry desperately tries to make his characters avant-garde, he fails to have them make a point.
Here's hoping there will be more substance to Bob and Lee than their shiny new fountain, and here's hoping Marc Cherry can get back his first season groove, too.
But until then, I'll stick with Tell Me You Love Me on Sunday nights at 9 . . . because sometimes, even Desperate Houseboys aren't quite enough to keep me glued to the tube.