Weren't they something?
It's easy, once a hit show has lost much of its luster, to forget how brightly it shone when it was new and at its peak. With Desperate Housewives, it would also be desperately unfair.
This is, after all, a series that revived its network, revitalized the careers of its stars and creator, and made TV far more enjoyable than it had been for many a long season. When Desperate Housewives hit ABC eight years ago, sporting what has to be one of the greatest, catchiest, most wittily evocative titles ever to grace a TV show, it marked a return to the great days of the network prime-time soaps — one done with more style and flair than most of its predecessors ever dared imagine.
This was high-gloss, candy-colored, talk-about-it-the-next-morning TV at its finest; and as a bonus, it proved women could be at their finest long past their 20s. At its center stood three beautiful TV veterans other shows or movies might have pushed into the maternal background — Teri Hatcher (Susan), Felicity Huffman (Lynette) and Marcia Cross (Bree) — joined by an equally gorgeous newcomer, Eva Longoria as Gaby. Men and children came and went; fifth-wheel housewives circled around the quartet. But those four tied the show together.
They, and one seldom-seen but always-heard neighbor, Brenda Strong as Mary Alice, the show's narrator. As well she should have been; her suicide set off Housewives' first and best season-long mystery and provided an underlying theme that made the show seem richer and more real than the soap norm: How much do we really know about our friends?
By now, we probably know too much about the Housewives for Sunday's two-hour finale to register as much more than a fond last dance at a party that has gone on too long. Still, if it was neither the show's best episode nor the medium's best series-ender, at least it was free of some of the more annoying flourishes that had set into the series over recent years.
More important, perhaps, this was a finale that unambiguously left the major characters settled and happy. It may have struck some as sappy and pat (we probably could have done without the birth/wedding/death musical montage), but with this type of show, a happy ending is what most fans want to see.
The first hour was devoted to Bree's murder trial, a plot resolved by a false courtroom confession from a dying Mrs. McCluskey (Kathryn Joosten). The second hour was built around Renee's (Vanessa Williams) wedding, though the larger point seemed to be that no one and nothing on Wisteria Lane was ever really going to change, as witness the final scene of a new neighborhood arrival hiding a mysterious box.
There was one more silly caper (Gaby and Renee stealing a wedding dress); one more wife/work conflict for Lynette and Tom; one last bit of fine writing — a lovely, well-delivered wedding toast from Lynette — then it was on to the happily-ever-after epilogue.
For the record, here's where we left them: Lynette and Tom were happy and rich in New York; Gaby and Carlos were happy and rich in California; Bree and new husband Tripp were happy in Kentucky, where she became a state senator; and Susan was off to a new life with Julie and her new baby, watched by the ghosts of departed residents (and helped by a mover played, in a cameo, by creator Marc Cherry). And we were left with that hint that while the housewives are gone, secrets on Wisteria Lane go on.
In the end, Housewives is unlikely to be remembered as one of TV's great classics (a word we probably throw around too much anyway). But when you look back on all the pleasure those housewives gave us, and that reminder they provided to viewers and network executives alike that middle-aged is not the same as sexually dead, you can't help thinking that Sundays may be just a little less fun without them.
And that certainly counts for something.