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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
esperate Housewives” is a show that remains so hopelessly square that I’m befuddled by the fact the Parents Television Council continues to keep it high on their list of shows that rampantly promote evil and should never been seen by decent folk. In one episode, Lynette (Felicity Huffman), coping with cancer, is unknowingly dosed by her mother (Polly Bergen) with some pot brownies to help her deal with the pain. She takes the plate over to a charades party where basically the entire adult cast of the show is assembled, and proceeds to get progressively stoned. Just as the other various characters are about to unwittingly partake, dramatic developments interfere with what could have been an arguably hilarious scenario: the entire cast baked and playing charades. Why not take the risk and see what happens? Because “Housewives” just isn’t a daring enough program to do something that wouldn’t even be all that daring. Further, the brownies are treated as if they were laced with crack cocaine. This is a tame show. In another episode, a string of characters may or may not be passing an STD between them; the STD in question is – wait for it – crabs. When was the last time anyone in TV or film got crabs? Only this show, which so timelessly exists in its weird little bubble, would dare to play the crab card.
But perhaps it’s exactly these sorts of things that make “Desperate Housewives” the little treat that it is. It doesn’t ask much of viewers, and offers up pure entertainment in return. It’s possible that Season Four is its best yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. On the other hand, it can only be considered a positive that the show continues to gel and improve over the long haul, rather than the opposite, which is so often the case with this sort of soapy TV fare. Season Four has loads of clever, funny writing that’s balanced almost perfectly with moments of drama. In past seasons the dramedy formula frequently felt lopsided and unwieldly, but not so here. The show has finally found its groove, and gone are the days of numerous episodes passing by in which seemingly nothing happens.
Nearly every installment in this set leaves you wanting more (mostly in a good way). Special props must be given to the midseason episode, “Something’s Coming,” in which a tornado rips through Wisteria Lane; the production team must have had a field day destroying the set. It’s a great, tense episode let down only by some subpar green screen effects work. In all fairness, effects rarely play into this show, so the production team maybe didn’t have a handle on how to best accomplish this sort of thing. There are some excellent guest stars this season, including the aforementioned Polly Bergen who’s nothing short of a gem. Melora Walters plays a freakish nutjob. Richard Chamberlain shows up for an episode and does his thing. Justine Bateman is full of dirty laundry.
The only major complaint that can be lodged at this season is the execution and handling of its central mystery, which revolves around Dana Delany’s Katherine Mayfair and her husband (Nathan Fillion) and daughter (Lyndsy Fonseca). Katherine has returned to Wisteria Lane after having lived there many years ago. She abruptly departed at the time (almost overnight), leaving many questions in her wake. Why has she come back to Fairview? What happened to her first husband (Gary Cole)? And why does her daughter Dylan have no memory of her childhood on this street? As the season progresses, many hints are dropped and red herrings planted – as is typical for this show – but when everything comes together (or not, as the case may be) in the finale, it’s at best anticlimactic and at worst completely illogical. It doesn’t ruin the season by any means, but since it’s such a noticeable chunk of the overall storyline, it’s hard to forgive it. The good news, however, is that Delany’s an excellent addition to the cast, and she has plenty of other things to do in the season, such as challenge Bree (Marcia Cross) in the Suzie Homemaker department, which leads to many priceless moments. She’s returning for Season Five, and luckily this mystery nonsense will be far behind her (really far behind her – the final minutes of the season promise a much different Wisteria Lane in Season Five).
Special Features: There are seven commentary tracks, including five “Couple Commentaries,” which consist of the actors who play the various couples each getting their own yack track; the Dana Delany and Nathan Fillion track is particularly amusing, as is the one featuring Kyle MacLachlan and Marcia Cross, simply because Cross has absolutely no idea what a commentary track is. She fears their words will be played over the episodes and thinks that would be annoying for the viewers at home. MacLachlan has to explain that it’s an optional feature, much to her amazement. “I’ve never done anything like that on my DVD player at home!” You can’t make this kind of stuff up. “Getting Desperate: From Beginning to End” is a featurette on the making of the tornado episode, “Something’s Coming.” Another featurette, “Spare Time: Hanging with the Men of Wisteria Lane,” is slightly more ambitious than it sounds; the male half of the cast hangs out at a bowling alley and in between frames discusses the show. “Cherry Picked” is a selection of Marc Cherry’s favorite scenes from the season. There’s also a slightly different version of the now-infamous scene that closes the season as well as a collection of deleted scenes and bloopers.