Monday, January 26, 2009

'Desperate' Mondays: The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

(*Note: I was on vacation last week. The most recent episode was re-aired last night, so it's still a "Desperate" Monday.*)

Put aside the gimmicky camera angle used five times during the most recent Desperate Housewives episode -- where the camera would focus on a wistful looking actress' face then slowly maneuver rotate around the back of her head -- the overall message and anecdotes in the episode demonstrate one thing: The newer episodes (with the exception of Gabby Solis' storyline) have strayed from the original charm of season one.

The new Housewives installment used a new character's death as the launching pad for the Wisteria Lane ladies to reflect upon how this scruffy character -- a handyman named Eli Scruggs (Beau Bridges) who died of a heart attack while working on Susan Mayer's roof -- positively affected their lives.
Gabby recalled how Eli helped get her into the Housewives' exclusive weekly poker game. After she behaved atrociously, Eli told her to snap out of it and apologize. The scene where Gabby, who was new to the neighborhood, apologized for her behavior and admitted she was "lonely all the time" with Carlos' late nights and needed friends, cut to the quick.

Ditto for the Lynette Scavo scene where, after giving birth to her fourth child, she accidentally left the baby in the car because she was too focused on her cell phone call where she was negotiating her return to work. Handyman Eli heard the baby crying -- where the car windows were rolled up -- and took the baby out, returning her to Lynette who was still on the phone. Upon seeing that she'd forgotten her baby because she was distracted by the work call, Lynette seemed shaken. She wore a look with which many harried parents could relate. This was a character with whom parents could identify, unlike the current wretched, Lynette storylines involving crazy murder charges and coercing a twin to impersonate another in court.

Bree too was assisted by Eli when he salvaged the beginnings of Bree's cookbook from the garbage. She'd dumped her notebooks into the trash after her husband Rex dismissed the project as "foolishness," that was after he'd berated her for not having a paying job. Once Rex died, Eli returned Bree's notes to her and the cookbook later became a huge success.

When Desperate Housewives started, it focused on the quietly desperate lives of suburban women who were largely unhappy despite the fact that it appeared to the world as though they had it all in their nice, orderly neighborhood behind the picket fences on Wisteria Lane. It sharply satired perfection, in particular with Bree's character. But these days, the show is all over the place. It does far better when it focuses on smaller stories, like it did in this episode, which I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly for how it closed the loop and showed how Eli got his do-gooder start (a reaction to his failure to help Mary Alice Young on the day she committed suicide when he knew she was unhappy). If the rest of the season follows suit, I'll be a rejuvenated Housewives fan.

Image credit: ABC.

1 comment:

Desperate Housewives said...

Eva Longoria slaps on a circa-2003 wig to play Spoiled Former Model Gaby, who is very lonely and hates living in Fairview. Eli, who is there fixing the sink, suggests that she invite her neighbors over for poker. When they arrive, Gaby's maid tells them she likes to make an entrance, and boy, does she — wearing a wildly inappropriate gold lamé cocktail dress and more jewelry than Mr. T. As they shuffle the deck, she regales the ladies with boastful tales of her formerly fabulous life (she called Jon Bon Jovi "Pumpkin" and did vodka shots with Kate Moss!) while dissing their suburban lives. When Eli clues her in that Operation Full House was a bust, she crashes the ladies' next game, heart (and muffins) in hand, apologizes for her earlier behavior and confesses to them that she could really use some friends. "Now that's how you make an entrance," says Bree. And it's all thanks to Eli!