May 13, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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No one expected DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES to end with the revelation that the housewives had been dead all along, and Wisteria Lane existed in a Sideways alternate dimension.  (Although that might’ve been interesting.)  The show, which exited tonight after 8 seasons, always knew its audience, and it left the scene with a satisfying 2-hour conclusion, its strange blend of melodrama, sentimentality and farce intact.  

Housewives, like something found in the center of a suburban refrigerator, was probably somewhat past its Sell-By date by the time it decided to leave.  This season, in particular, its plotting often felt like it was running in place, if not in circles.  But, again like that refrigerated product, it never quite reached the point of being inedible.

The first hour of tonight’s finale, written by Executive Producer Bob Daily and directed by Larry Shaw, was largely devoted to wrapping up this season’s major plotline, Bree’s (Marcia Cross) trial for last season’s murder of Gaby’s (Eva Longoria) abusive stepfather, who was actually killed by Baby’s husband Carlos (Richardo Chavira), with the women plus Susan (Teri Hatcher) and Lynette (Felicity Huffman) helping to cover it up.  This storyline wasn’t ever really strong enough to serve as the backbone of an entire season, and there were additional complications in its last laps, as Renee (Vanessa Williams) and fiancee Ben (Charles Mesure) had to testify against Bree, and Gaby and Carlos squabbled over who should confess to save her.  In the end, though, Karen McClusky’s (Kathryn Joosten) fatal illness was used to neatly make an end of it–since she was dying anyway, and was grateful to her neighbors for taking care of her in her final days, she–however illogically–confessed to the crime, and since she was dying anyway, no charges were pressed against her.  The other major event of the hour was the long (long) awaited reconciliation between Lynette and husband Tom (Doug Savant).

The show’s final hour, written by series creator Mark Cherry and directed by David Grossman, brought emotional weight to the evening.  Bookended by scenes of new arrivals to the Lane, with Brenda Strong making one of her infrequent on-camera flashback appearances as Mary Alice, and a return by Dana Delaney in a deus ex machina featured role, it had all the Big Events you’d expect in a finale:  wedding (Renee and Ben), birth (the child of Susan’s daughter and Lynette’s son) and death (Karen), all intercut to Johnny Mathis singing “Wonderful, Wonderful.”  An epilogue reminiscent of Six Feet Under‘s conclusion filled us in on the main housewives’ happy subsequent lives (although not, as in Six Feet, to the point of death).  A graceful coda had Susan, driving down the Lane for one last time, watched by the other ghosts–with at least one conspicuous exception–of those who’d lived there through the course of the series.  Finally, in what amounted to an easter egg, viewers were assured that even as our housewives left, new arrivals would always have their own mysteries to cover up.

All in all, a fine, well-rounded conclusion.  It’s easy to underestimate the acting that goes into an often trashy show like Housewives, and certainly all the leads had their over-the-top hours, but the show’s final episode was also a reminder of how well Hatcher, Huffman, Cross and Longoria have held the show together over the years, navigating scripts that often forced them to be seriously emotional and broadly comical almost at the same time.  However they may have felt about each other in real life (and there were 8 years’ worth of tabloid stories speculating on that), they were a well-matched ensemble on screen.

It’s hard to believe now that only 8 years ago, a hit 1-hour drama could have a season average rating in 18-49s of 10.7 (these days, anything over a 3 is cause for a parade).  Mark Cherry’s surprise smash didn’t change the face of television, but it pleased lots of people for a long time.  Even in this final, diminished year, it’s held its own, and ABC faces a challenge in replacing it–just how it’s planning to try, we’ll find out in a couple of days.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."