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Touchstone Home Video presents
Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season (2004)

"Oh, Mary Alice, what did you do?"
- Susan (Teri Hatcher)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: September 21, 2005

Stars: Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross
Other Stars: Nicollette Sheridan, Jesse Metcalf, Steven Culp, Brenda Strong, Ricardo Chavira, Mark Moses, Doug Savant, Cody Kasch, Andrea Bowen, Christine Estabrook, Shawn Pyfrom
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for mild language, sexual situations and dialogue, violence
Run Time: 21h:41m:00s
Release Date: September 20, 2005
UPC: 786936280326
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AAB+ B+

DVD Review

I never gave Desperate Housewives a glance during its first season run, you know, the one in which it became something of a massive hit for the ABC network. Assuming it was a Melrose Place in suburbia, I thought I was prepared for the women of Wisteria Lane—what followed, though, was something of a shock. As our narrator Mary Alice (Strong) tells us of her daily life, things seem normal in her suburban neighborhood—even one that is clearly a manicured studio backlot but still not unlike any in America. At the outset, the series looks to be a sly dissection of suburban life. Then, Mary Alice reaches into the closet, grabs a gun, and shoots herself in the head. Like the rest of the world, I was hooked from that moment on.

As the pilot episode spools forward, we are introduced to Mary Alice's friends, the women of Wisteria Lane. Bree (Cross) is a Martha Stewart on steriods as she strives for the perfect suburban home and family, doing all of the gardening, cooking, and cleaning in a never-ending cycle. Susan (Hatcher) is a recent divorcée; her ex has taken up with his young secretary, leaving Susan and their daughter Julie (Bowen) behind. Lynette (Huffman)is a careerwoman who has quit the workforce to maintain three wild sons as well as a newborn and her patience is wearing as thin as her energy. And finally there is Gabrielle (Longoria), a fiesty beauty whose primary occupation is having an affair with her gardener (Metcalf) while her husband Carlos (Chavira) keeps himself busy with work. The four women led average suburban lives until the day Mary Alice died; now they find themselves faced with the mystery of why their friend took her own life, and the ramifications.

Mary Alice's death is not the only lead story in the first season of Housewives, as several other major events occur on Wisteria Lane. A handsome plumber named Mike Delfino (Denton) moves in and immediately catches the eye of Susan, and slutty neighbor Edie Britt (Sheridan). While Mike seems like a nice guy, he hides a dark secret. Mary Alice's son Zach (Kasch) begins to have violent flashbacks while his father, Paul (Moses), begins acting suspiciously. Neighborhood busybody Martha Huber (Estabrook) seems especially intrigued by Mary Alice's suicide and proceeds to poke her nose in where it's not welcome. As the season moves on it becomes clear that life in the suburbs isn't as whitewashed as it seems.

The strength of Desperate Housewives lies in its writing, which is constantly sharp and acerbic while maintaining a steady storyline that twists and turns throughout the season. Like other successful prime time soap operas, Housewives sticks to the general conceit that a mystery is best fueled by offering up a twist just before the credits roll to keep viewers coming back week after week. Creator Marc Cherry also wisely finds a balance between bleak humor, mystery, and drama each week while also crafting four characters that feel fleshed out and real.

Also worthy of mention is that the series does a great job of taking time away from its central storylines to flesh out its characters in realistic and natural ways. From the main foursome to their families, each character has an arc that allows them room to expand as the season continues. The husbands and children have their own threads or participate in the women's story arcs, which expands all of the characters. Furthermore, the writers do a good job of presenting issues raised with true dimension; they offer right and wrong ways of dealing with things and each is weighed out in time, never feeling forced. It may not be much, but for a series about housewives to take painstaking time to make each cast member seem necessary is something of a rarity in television dramas these days.

As the season progresses, some plot lines are cast aside until a time such time when they are more convenient to a particular episode, but it is only a slight problem and is easy to look past. The show maintains its strengths consistently as Cherry and his writers never take things seriously for long, and there is almost always a cutaway to an often funny situation that tends to happen just in the nick of time. (Take for instance Susan getting locked outside of her house with no clothes on, or my favorite moment in which Susan needs to produce a clog in her sink in an effort to get Mike away from Edie.) There's a natural rhythm to events that just appears effortless.

Still, for all of the bad things these housewives do, the great writing and terrific performances keep them from seeming downright loathsome. Each of the actors brings a substance and energy to their characters that feels organic, never forced. For me, Felicity Huffman is the standout, brilliantly conveying the frustration of being not only a harried parent but a wife taken for granted by her husband as well. Hatcher and Cross do exceptional work, and Longoria manages to hold her own despite being the most superficial of the four.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Each episode of Desperate Housewives is offered in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks terrific from start to finish. The bright colors of the set pieces are conveyed well with terrific depth and no bleeding evident. Sharpness and detail are each very well done with no grain or edge enhancement noticeable at all.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes for the first season of Desperate Housewives are fine, but never anything more than average. Dialogue is always clear with great depth in the center channel while producing no distortions or dropouts. The surround speakers are largely used to reinforce the musical score and some slight ambient sounds while the left and right speakers do a nice job of filling out the soundfield.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
27 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by Creator Marc Cherry and director Larry Shaw
Packaging: Four-fold case
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Selected commentary on scenes by Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Eva Longoria
  2. Blooper Reel
  3. extended/unrated episodes
Extras Review: First in the area of bonus material are several extended episodes, many simply extensions of dialogue or a few cutaway shots here and there. Creator Marc Cherry and director Larry Shaw offer commentary on five episodes. It is clear that Cherry loves his creation as his tracks have a very lighthearted and endearing feel to them. He largely discusses what is happening in a given episode while also talking a lot about the plot structure and the casting of the series. On a related note, each of the housewives offers commentary on their favorite scenes, these are certainly worth a listen.

Next are deleted scenes and while some are simply extensions or changes, others are fresh and several are very very funny. Some offer enough insight into the characters that they would have been best served in the episode. Thankfully, each deleted scene is presented in a sub menu of the episode in which it would have belonged. A collection of bloopers are also available and is certainly worth viewing.

Several featurettes make up the remaining collection of bonus material. Desperate Housewives Around the World is an entertaining look at the global phenomenon the series has become. The different countries that broadcast the show are discussed at length and the piece ends with a scene set at Bree's dinner table. with each character speaking a language in which the series is broadcast.

Costumes and set design are covered in Dressing Wisteria Lane, which looks at the creation of the now famous address as well as the numerous sets and costumes. Interviews with each of the housewives are included. A 25-minute promotional piece is cut together with scenes from the series as well as interviews with the cast and crew. Finally, a cute piece that places the Oprah Winfrey on Wisteria Lane in scenes from the first season, produced specifically to air on Oprah's show.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Desperate Housewives became a runaway hit in its first season and it is easy to see why. Smart, sexy, and at times strongly emotional, the first season DVD has inspired me to be right there with the women of Wisteria Lane when they return next season, now just days away. There are questions still looming and I for one am hoping that the series will offer many more seasons to discover the answers.

 


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