Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Desperate Housewives: (Flash) forward progress?

I don't blog on "Desperate Housewives" that often (haven't since this season's premiere, I believe), but as I did devote a good chunk of time to watching the finale, might as well offer up some thoughts, just as soon as I remember to always bet on Nathan Fillion in a fair fight...

So I watched the finale for two reasons: 1)To get a wrap-up to the Dana Delany storyline, which was one of the few things that had interested me whenever I checked out the show this year; and 2)To see how the writers would deal with the much-rumored time jump.

The first ended well enough, I suppose (with some pugilistic assistance from my man Fillion, and from Gary Cole playing one of those bad guys too stupid to keep his mouth shut when he's being held at gunpoint) but wasn't enough to compensate for how much I've grown to dislike the other parts of the show. Susan again winds up in a story (the baby-naming thing) where, rather than have an actual conversation with someone, she resorts to goofy, Ain't-I-Cute subterfuge. Gaby's as spoiled as ever (I recognize that's in the character's design; I just don't find her amusing enough to tolerate it). And even though I knew Lynette and her husband would find a way to stop his manipulative adultery-spawn, it's not something I wanted to sit through waiting for the denouement. (Again, I recognize that it's a soap and I'm not a standard soap fan; anytime one of these evil pathological liars shows up -- see also Michelle Trachtenberg on "Gossip Girl" -- I start to zone out.)

But Delany was very good, and Bree remains the strongest original character, the only one where the writers (thanks to Marcia Cross) usually get to have their cake and eat it, too, with making her likable and human in spite of her more extreme behavior.

As for the time jump, this is now the third series to do it in recent years, starting with the New Caprica arc on "Battlestar Galctica" and the institution of the flash-forwards this year on "Lost." Admittedly, much of the "Lost" action still takes place in what we consider the present-day, but at what point does advancing your characters past all the dead spaces in their lives (say, Gaby dealing with pregnancy and caring for infants) cease to be an interesting storytelling device and start seeming like the crutch of a TV show with too many narrative dead ends that need to be quickly abandoned?

If you're still watching the show, how happy were you with this Delany-augmented season? And does the time jump make you more or less likely to want to stick around come fall?

17 comments:

Bill said...

Fourth series to do so.

... and I've just outed myself as a One Tree Hill watcher. But really, is there a more natural time to use the fast-forward than the high school series that has just reached the college years?

I watched Desperate Housewives this year for the same reason you mentioned, and was nonplussed by the resolution of the Delany plotline. Gary Cole seemed underused, but maybe I'm just inclined to think that when I see him as a cop and he isn't playing Lucas Buck?

I'll take Susan's shenanigans, annoying as they are, over the bleak soulsuck of Lynette's plotlines. Remember when Felicity Huffman got to play someone who loved life instead of enduring it?

Anonymous said...

A couple of other shows have done time jumps recently. Alias did one after season two and One Tree Hill did one just this past year.

With One Tree Hill it worked because it got the characters past a dead space (college) and allowed the actors to play closer to their own age. With Desperate Housewives, though, it really does seem like lazy writing. Yes, it frees them from some of the storyline dead space they may have created (Will Orson turn himself in? Will Carlos get his sight back?) but it also seems like a cheat and an easy out. For example, imagine if Lost revealed everything was a dream. Sure it would explain all of the weird sci-fi stuff that's gone on, but it would be a total cop-out. With a soapy show like DH a time jump is just a cheat around its serialized format. I'll give the show a chance in the fall, but it seems awfully shark jumpy.

dave said...

I would put money on Lost making a three year jump after the season finale. That would catch them up to the flash forwards and let them use Walt again.

dez said...

I liked this season just fine and was happy with the Dana Delaney resolution (especially since I called it elsewhere, hee). Not so sure about the time jump, though. Where the hell is Mike? I like Mike!

Lynette is my favorite character (I know, I'm in the minority on that one), and I'm glad the demon spawn is gone, though I would have preferred that Tom set it up so she saw a psychiatrist on a regular basis. Foisting her off on the grandparents doesn't seem very productive. OTOH, she can return as an evil teenager, so there ya go.

papergirl said...

Bill, my thoughts exactly re: Gary Cole. btw, if you haven't caught on to hulu.com yet, every ep of American Gothic is there. I miss that show!

Aside from Sheriff Buck & Dana Delany, really not much worth watching on Housewives. I don't particularly like ANY of them.

Gotta go now. Someone's at the door ...

mac said...

Well, come on, Lost didn't use the flash forward as an out. The move ironically put more focus on the present story lines, and that focus has been building up to a crescendo all season long with the FF's working their way back. And by mirroring the Flashbacks, the technique is now starting to weave into the actual story - with time travel and prophesy/destiny being examined at a micro-level. To some extent, BSG didn't abandon the present/past either - it utilized the flash forward because a long time needed to pass that wouldn't have been enjoyable to watch.

Here, on Desperate Housewives, is the first time in recent memory that it's been used purely as a gimmicky device to reboot the series.

Stef said...

Thanks for posting on this, Alan.

I loved Dana Delany this year, as she was able to play the new housewife with the standard drama/mystery as a real person rather than a cartoon. Sure, her character had all the extreme soapy stuff, but she played her as a real human being. And her rivalry-turned-friendship with Bree was great.

I like Lynette, but they've really put her through the ringer this year. Enough! Gaby and Carlos are fun and have great chemistry, so I just look to them for comic relief and never any real serious heft. Bree is great, but all of her storylines were getting tired. And I can't stand Susan. Her scenes are my bathroom breaks.

I thought the 5-year jump was a bit jarring, and a lazy reboot from the writers. But I'll watch again in the fall, especially cuz it looks like DD will be back, hopefully along with Nathan Fillion as eye candy for me! :-)

Brian said...

I only watch the show intermittently now, but only because I work a lot on Sunday nights or because I forget to tape it. I still like it, even if it is in the "Sex and the City" sort of way.

I think we need to see how the jump forward works, or at least hear how it is supposed to work, before we judge. I've heard that the show might take place mostly in the future but have a lot of flash backs to the present period, sort of like "Lost" does. (Or so I hear. I've seen that show and like it, but won't watch it until I catch up from the beginning.) That sounds like it could work. But if the show simply jumps forward, it could be the sign that the writers don't have a clear focus of where they want to take the show. Of course, even if that's the case, perhaps the jump forward is the only way to keep the show fresh.

I think one of the best ways the show could find material is to simply mine the newspapers, sort of like "Law & Order" does, although perhaps in a less obvious way. A few years ago, I heard people at work talking about a young mother from their neighborhood who would pretend to jog each day and then steal from the different homes to support a drug addiction. That idea alone probably couldn't work as a whole season's mystery, but if the writers add their own elements to it, it could work.

Anya said...

dez-I figured out that Dylan wasn't the same kid long ago too.

Alan-I used to post stalk you on rec.arts.tv years and years ago. I loved you for supporting my all-time favorite show EZ Streets

nfieldr said...

Ahh, yes... EZ Streets... And how 'bout Brooklyn South, another pretty good one and done series.

As for DH, I think Gaby and Carlos must have adopted. That older kid looked WAY older than the 4 or 5 that she'd be with a five year "jump". As for Gary Cole... no matter how good his work is in other roles, he'll always be Lumbergh to me.

Anonymous said...

A FIVE year jump is a very, very ambitious thing to do, and a big mistake here.

Cherry should've just done a ONE or TWO year jump, which is a lot easier to deal with in a story-telling fashion (for the viewer and the writers).

The actresses didn't even look aged at all and for FIVE years, thats just unacceptable.

I have no interest whatsoever in next season.

Chris

Alan Sepinwall said...

The actresses didn't even look aged at all and for FIVE years, thats just unacceptable.

Keep in mind, of course, that most of them were playing around five years younger than their actual ages, so it's only natural that they wouldn't look any older now. :)

Jennifer said...

I was so glad they finally gave Nathan Fillion something good to do in the finale since they wasted him most of the year. It was almost like watching Mal again. This show has always been uneven, and that was especially so this year. The Bree the Dana Delany storylines being by far the best.

I'm actually happy for the 5 year FF. Things could use a change. And Chris, women around that age don't change much in 5 years. Gaby changed the most which is most realistic as your looks go downhill the most when taking care of young kids. The other women are at the age when you take the most care of yourself and cover up any aging.

cpennylane said...

This has never been one of my favorite shows, but I put it on season pass every year so I can watch it when I have time. I actually watched all of the post strike episodes in the past week or so due to some extra time. I was so excited that Nathan Fillion had a show again that I managed to overlook the fact that I called Dylan's storyline sometime in the first half of the season. I like that I can just sort of ff through most of Lynette's screeching and gaby's "i'm so fabulous" monologues.

The five years later thing seemed more like a series finale thing, until the "Susan kisses some random guy" bit.

It was much rumored that a child would die this season, I wonder if that is still in the works. Don't think I really care.

Anonymous said...

Have they said that the 5-year jump is a permanent thing for next season? My take on it was that they were giving us a glimpse of the future, and they'd spend quite a bit of time fleshing out the path each character takes to get there.

KaveDweller said...

Technically, a child did die, right? The original Dylan?

I thought the jump seemed cheap.

Amasea said...

I agree that Lynette's been put through the ringer, and I hope they build her back up again, so we can see the wonderful moments between her and her husband instead of the crap. I mean, it was nice to see them go through some crap because you saw the relationship's weaknesses, but I want happiness again.
Re: the fast-forward. I really hope the writers don't take us there immediately, but instead continue on the "now" timeline. I want to see how they get there, rather than have everything reset. Knowing they have these storylines they're now tied to will make watching how the writers get the characters there all the more interesting. And hurray Gale Harold! I've always liked him as an actor, and so pretty...I want to see more :)