Desperate Housewives

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Not a porn mag, but a US TV drama.

Bored wives in Suburbia experience unrealistic drama in their lives after the suicide of their friend.

Notable for its combination Narrator/Near-Death Clairvoyance trope, in which the entire series is narrated by the dulcet tones of an apparently omnipresent dead woman - the friend who committed suicide.

Basically a comedic soap, which means that unlike a regular soap, this program is funny and has interesting plotlines. However, the situations are often just as ridiculous and the relationships and plots just as hopelessly tangled-up and interwoven as any old-fashioned soap (though unlike daytime soaps, the fast pace tends to leave many confused if they miss a couple of episodes - probably why the Clip Show specials still proved relatively popular).

Owing to creator Marc Cherry's penchant for comedy, the series pokes fun at itself and its characters about as often as it takes them seriously, probably the number one thing that attracted most of its initial viewership, aside from the fact that it throws vicious, subversive holes in the ideas of suburban paradise and maternal bliss. In fact, ratings dropped after Executive Meddling caused the second season to be more "dramatic" (read: melodramatic) leading to the panicked execs basically saying "OK, OK we'll go back to doing more comedy again, Marc. You win." Ratings apparently improved again after that point.

Think Sex and the City meets daytime soap, meets parody of daytime soaps, set in the suburbs instead of the city with housewives instead of single women. Narrated by a dead woman.

You get all that?

A word of warning to those who aren't up-to-date on the latest episodes, the series is basically one string of continuous spoilers, so it is hard to detail just about anything that happens without revealing one twist or another. So be prepared for unmarked spoilers below.

Has a Character Sheet. Feel free to contribute.

Tropes used in Desperate Housewives include:

Character Tropes[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Affably Evil: Mary Alice, our cheerful sing-song narrator who kidnapped a baby, then later killed said baby's mother and dismembered the corpse.
    • Dave Williams/Dash is this. Despite what he's trying to do, he does come across as a genuinely nice guy.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming / Letter Motif: Lynette's kids; Porter, Parker, Preston,Penny, and Paige. Paige's twin, a baby Tom and Lynette lost, was to be named Patrick.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Gabrielle once tries to convince Carlos that she has "sexsomnia". Probably fewer than ten percent watching the show know it's a real condition.
  • Amicably Divorced: Susan and Karl during the third season. And after the first season their relationship went from toxic to a snarky competitiveness than anything.
  • Asshole Victim: Irina, Preston's Russian fiancee.
    • Martha Huber.
    • Nora Huntington.
  • Badass Bystander: No one seemed to expect that the psychopathic gun toting hostage holder in Season 3 to be taken down and shot by a nameless extra who commented earlier that the woman with the gun taught her daughter's Sunday school class.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Dave Williams from Season 5, Eddie from Season 6.
  • Big Bad: One for every season.
    • Season 1: Mary Alice Young, since she was the one who killed Deirdre.
    • Season 2: Matthew Applewhite.
    • Season 3: Gloria Hodge, the murderer of Monique.
    • Season 4: Wayne Davis, Katherine's bitter Corrupt Cop ex-husband.
    • Season 5: Dave Williams.
    • Season 6: Patrick Logan, Angie's ex-husband.
    • Season 7: Felicia Tillman, as an ironic reversal to the situation in the first season.
    • The Final Season notably averts this, using several different characters during different arcs of the last season.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The finale has Mary Alice funnily explain the peaceful destinies of the housewives,Lynette remarrying Tom and finally landing her dream job as a CEO in New York, Gabrielle moving to California and becoming the host of a home-shopping TV show; Bree marrying Trip and becoming a legislator in Kentucky while Susan's destiny is left a bit on the dark, but with her children and granddaughter by her side. Then we understand that they never meet again.
    • Get's worse when Jennifer, the new owner of Susan's house, is revealed to have a terrible secret of her own.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Dave Williams again.
  • Blood Spattered Innocents: In Season 3 when Nora is shot and killed, Lynette's face and hands are coated in blood.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Played straight with Danielle, averted with Julie.
  • Butt Monkey: Everyone gets this treatment at one point or another during the show, but Bree and Tom Scavo appear to be the go-to characters for when the writers need something horrible to happen to a character.
    • Susan gets her fair share of this also, to the point where the other housewives don't bat an eyelid when they find out she's in trouble yet again.
  • The Chew Toy: Lynette. Lynette has, among other things, had a plethora of uncontrollable children who constantly make her life even harder, was shot in a hostage situation after finding out her husband has a love-child, is diagnosed with cancer and once cured from cancer there is a tornado which buries her family in rubble, then framed for abuse by her stepdaughter, then a whole load of personal hell... then she gets into a divorce with her husband of 20 or so years..
    • Lee as well.
    • Susan, too, with everything's that happened to her.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Carlos over Gabrielle in Season 1. She was cheating on him, but he ended up physically assaulting the wrong man twice (both of them turning out to be gay) and getting a prison sentence for it.
  • Creepy Child: Kayla.
  • The Ditz: Susan.
  • Evil Matriarch: Orson's mother.
  • Fag Hag: When Bob and Lee move in, Susan is excited to become this. Though this only irritates them and cause them to seriously dislike her. By Season Five though, she and Lee become decent friends.
  • Floorboard Failure: Susan managed to suspend herself between two floors when it happened to her in her house.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: The original housewives, Bree, Susan, Lynette and Gabby.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Susan is sanguine, Bree is melancholic, Lynette is phlegmatic and Gabrielle is choleric.
    • The husbands qualifies as well: Orson is melancholic, Carlos is choleric, Tom is sanguine and Mike is phlegmatic.
  • Gold Digger: Preston Scavo's fiancée, Irina.
  • Housewife: It's in the title.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Carlos is a big hot blooded bruiser, and Gabrielle is so small that anyone can pick her up over their shoulder, and in one episode was able to quickly hide herself inside a small travel bag and carried around discretely.
    • Makes you wonder how she became a model at all, considering models are usually super-tall; runway models are 5'10" at a minimum. It can be assumed that Gabrielle was some other type of model, perhaps a petite model or catalogue model.
      • Indeed, being tall isn't a prerequisite for many men's magazines/glamor models (and Eva Longoria is no stranger to such spreads in real life).
  • Impoverished Patrician: Carlos and Gabrielle spend the majority of Seasons 2, 3, and 4 unemployed, yet they still live in a luxurious house, attending big parties, and collecting clothes with all the right labels.
    • In Season 4, Carlos sinks their savings in an embezzlement scam, and then loses the papers for the off-shore account and goes blind for 5 years, in that time having two kids. Then he gets his sight back and almost immediately gets a high-paying job.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Every one of the families seem to be able to sneak their kids into the same incredibly exclusive and expensive private school. Though Lynette every now and then mentions the financial troubles with it, and Susan manages to get MJ in by getting employed as a teacher's assistant.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Karl, on occasion.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Most episodes have a title taken from a line of, or the title of, a song from a Stephen Sondheim musical.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Julie in the earlier seasons.
  • Mama Bear: Susan goes ballistic whenever a member of her family is harmed.
    • Bree turns a gun on anyone who messes with her children.
  • Mysterious Past: Almost everyone.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance: Mary Alice.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Martha Huber. And to a lesser extent, virtually everyone else on the block. Don't worry, she gets her comeuppance.
  • Pair the Spares: Carlos and Edie, Mike and Katherine and since the Season Five finale Bree and Karl are taking this direction.
  • Put on a Bus: During Season Six, one of the twins mentions that he wants to go to Europe. Without any proper goodbyes or explanation he is simply gone for half the season and we can only assume he actually did end up going to Europe.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Eddie's sudden death in Season 5 was orchestrated to write the character out of the show due to Nicolette Sheridan being on increasingly bad terms with producer Mark Cherry.
  • Rich Bitch: Gabrielle, who also gets her comeuppance.
  • Scars Are Forever: Angie has a horrific looking burn scar on her back, which she got from her days as an eco-terroist. She doesn't seem to mind it though, probably because its always covered.
    • Season 8's subplot on Karen's illness, which would later turn on a major plot point in the finale, was heavily inspired by the Kathryn Joosten's previous two experiences with cancer and her third relapse, which coincided with the filming and would cause her death just weeks after the series finale aired in May 2012.
  • Sensual Slavs: Again, Irina.
  • Shock Value Relationship: Andrew and Justin.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The coverof Season Seven's DVD blatantly has Renee standing center stage while all of the main characters are off in the background. Despite the fact that she was only introduced that very season, and was in no way had an important role or was even involved in that season's story arc.
    • Susan was this for the first season, to the point where she could have been the main character.
  • Stepford Smiler: Bree, an apparently OCD woman who probably carries at least half of the "domestic bliss" satire.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Renee, who has an identical personality to Edie, wears similar clothes to her, and lives in the same house.
  • Token Minority: The Applewhite family, eliminated after the audience failed to take to them. To a lesser extent, Gabby and Carlos, though they were there from the start.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Carlos seems to go back and forth on this. For the most part he's an easy going nice guy, but sometimes he will suddenly become a intimidating vindictive ass doing needlessly villainous things, such as firing Lynette when she's the sole supporter of a family of six and pregnant with twins solely because he didn't want to give her maternity leave.

Episode-Specific Tropes[edit | hide]

  • Aesop Amnesia: In Season Five, Tom and Lynette kept going through the same loop--Tom wants to do something wild, Lynette disapproves, Tom whines about how he never gets a chance to do anything, Lynette tries to put a stop to what he is doing, the two reach a compromise, and resolve to be more understanding of each others' wishes...only to go through the exact same situation yet again a few episodes later.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian
  • Alone with the Psycho: Just about every season, such as Lynette with Eddie.
  • Amoral Attorney: What Karl is revealed to be.
    • Subverted with Bob who legitimately cares about his clients.
  • And I Must Scream: Orson's mother, who suffered a stroke and no longer is able to move or speak, but still has a fully functioning mind.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: The series finale spliced scenes of Julie's baby being born with Mrs. McKlusky succumbing to cancer.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Gabrielle's hilarious imitation of Angie in the hospital to get past the nurse.
    • Also in Season Seven, after Gabby calls the immigration cops then changes her mind and pretends to be Carmen and Carmen pretends to be Gabby.
  • Cat Fight: Gabrielle vs. a nun, Susan vs. Edie, Gabrielle vs. Edie etc.
  • Comically Small Bribe: Gabrielle tries to bribe a nurse into letting her into a patient's room... with twelve dollars. But then remembers she needs to pay for parking and brings the bribe down to two dollars.
  • Courtroom Antic: Carlos' trial.
  • Dead Man's Chest
  • Death of the Hypotenuse / Murder the Hypotenuse: Often.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Karl.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Bree sent her pregnant daughter to a convent and pretended to be pregnant herself. She actually managed to get away with it... for a while. Eventually everyone who mattered found out by the end of the season and Danielle took the baby back between seasons. Note that the use of this trope was a deliberate anachronism; the show is a comedy, after all.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: Subverted. Edie is accidentally electrocuted, falls down, then we get a close up of the Twitching Hand right before the credits. The following episode starts with the character already cremated.
    • Of course, "already cremated" means that there was no body. But it never went anywhere.
  • The Fun in Funeral: Rex's funeral, indescribably wrong and weirdly funny.
  • Gosh Hornet: In Season 2, when Edie winds up disturbing a yellow jackets' nest and is stung pretty badly. Its left up to the audience whether this is dramatic or hilarious.
  • Here We Go Again: The ending of the very last episode features a woman moving into Susan's house after she leaves, taking out a box that she looks at with worry before hiding it, clearly implying it containing a secret. And that's where it ends.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Victor Lang, Gabby's evil mayor husband, ended up impaled by a white picket fence.
  • Incest Is Relative: In Season 5, Lynette pretends to be a teenage girl online to get her son to open up and find out what's going on in his life... then she sort of accidentally became his online girlfriend. Much to her shock.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Mrs. Huber's sister spent season two trying to turn the neighbors against Paul and have him arrested for murder, and repeatedly attempted to kill him. We seem to be intended to feel sorry for him, but it's sort of hard considering he actually is a murderer who had been getting away with everything he did in the past.
  • Naked in Mink Bree to Orson.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit and Sexual Roleplay in general.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Nora, when trying to seduce Tom by supporting his idea of enterprise, from Lynette, who was critical about it.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The episode "If..." features Gabby having a nightmare where she becomes My Beloved Smother to Celia, causing Carlos to leave her, slowly loose her grip on reality and living off food-stamps in her house with the walls covered in newspaper clippings.
  • Season Finale / Wham! Episode: Usually involving a death and/or disaster.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Danielle in Season 3/4.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Lynette's kids briefly have a tree house in their yard for them to hang out in, though its destroyed in a tornado a few episodes later.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: The way we find out Andrew is gay is that he's doing this with his friend Justin.
  • Verbal Tic: Mary Alice has a fondness of constantly beginning a narration with "Yes..."
  • Victim Falls For Rapist/Black Comedy Rape: If you want to have a baby with your ex-husband (and thereby force him back into marriage with you), just drug him and rape him! And make sure you do the reveal with the wife realizing what was done to her husband by his ex by having her use the "R" word in an over the top fashion.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: The very last episode ends like this.
  • Whole Costume Reference: One episode opens with Gabrielle wearing Bella Goth's dress.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?
  • Worthless Foreign Degree: A house cleaner teaches Juanita while she's being home schooled. She had a doctorate in engineering from the University of Bucharest.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Kayla attempted this in the last few episodes of Season Four... and ultimately backfired on her.
  • Yandere: Orson's ex-wife, who was believed to be dead in Season Three. And of course, George Williams from the first two seasons.
    • Katherine seems to be treading a fine line between this and being a Stalker with a Crush. As of the ninth episode of the sixth season, she has officially gone over into this.

Show-Wide Tropes[edit | hide]

  • Acceptable Feminine Roles: Underlying the whole show is this.
  • The Adventure Continues: The last scene and ending narration indicate that although the main characters will all eventually leave Wisteria Lane and never really meet again, life there will go on its merry way without them.
  • Anyone Can Die: Reserved for plot twist moments. While most of the time they only kill off villains and B-characters no one really cares about, every once in a while they'll surprise you by killing off someone important.
  • Arc Words: As of Season 8, the note saying I know what you did, it makes me sick, I'm going to tell.
  • Artifact Title: All four leads have been non-housewives at some point on the show (Lynette by virtue of having a paying job, the other three by virtue of not being married). Currently, Bree is unmarried and Lynette is separated.
  • Between My Legs: Seen in the Season 7 promo.
  • Book Ends: Mary Alice always voices a remark after the title and before the episode ends, though with the events that occur during the episode, the meaning changes drastically, inadvertently becoming Darker and Edgier.
  • Brother Chuck: Mike's dog Bongo was an important character in the early episodes but has not been seen or mentioned since mid-Season 2.
  • Closet Shuffle: Several times every season. But special points go to Gabby from escaping her lover's room by hiding in a very small suitcase.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 2, which gradually became more melodramatic.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Orson in Season 5, though he got back on the rails in Season 6.
  • Double Standard: The very different treatment of Paul Young and Mary Alice who are eventually revealed to have committed the exact same crimes. Murderer and kidnapper Mary Alice is remembered with nothing but fondness by the four main female cast while Paul was shunned from very early on.
    • Paul had difficulty with acting as if he didn't have something to hide - he tore out his pool to remove the body of the woman his wife killed in the middle of the night and was dubbed CreePaul by Television Without Pity. Compare that to Mary Alice, who was extremely adept at playing like nothing was wrong.
    • While perfectly true this would suggest that the Housewives should be even more creeped by Mary Alice than by Paul in retrospect, if she could so easily have created a facade. Whenever she is mentioned it is as Mary Alice 'our dear friend who took her life' rather than Mary Alice 'the murderer and kidnapper who had us all fooled'.
      • The suicide may have played a role in this : Mary Alice regretted her acts, while Paul never did, as far as we know. Also, Season Seven has made him cross the Moral Event Horizon much deeper than Mary Alice ever had.
  • Ephebophile: Gabrielle had an on-again-off-again tryst with her gardener since he was about 17 years old. Thanks to being played by a visibly grown man, it's easy to forget he's supposed to be a teenager.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin
  • Family Business: The Scavo pizzeria which may finally be dead.
  • Fan Service: There is a very large amount of male-oriented fan service for a show aimed at women. Eva Longoria Parker, anyone?
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The series is downright infamous for the amount of innuendo it has managed to slip right past the ABC censors, to the point where it could very well have its own page.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: To list all examples of both the good and bad adultery on this show would be madness, but Bree enters grey territory.
  • Hot Mom: The titular housewives.
  • Housewife
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the episode titles are taken from Stephen Sondheim lyrics.
  • Lighter and Softer: Season 5 was much lighter in tone than the other seasons.
  • Literary Allusion Title / Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes are named after titles of or lyrics from Stephen Sondheim songs.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Oh, where do we start? Bree had an affair with Karl, who's divorced from Susan, who's married to Mike, who once dated Edie, who almost got pregnant by Carlos, who's been twice married to Gaby, who had a blind date with Zach, who had a crush on Julie, who got pregnant by Porter...
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Edie attempting suicide over a man.
  • Modern Stasis: Post Time Skip the show is set roughly five years in the future (confirmed in Season 7 dialogue with Bree referencing the events of a 2006 episode as taking place "9 years ago").
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • With almost every episode ending on a dramatic note, the ending music never fails to be perky. Also see Book Ends.
    • The show often juxtaposes scenes of differing moods (serious, comical, dramatic, emotional, contemplative, surreal, etc). Many storylines in a single episode start off as one mood and end up in another. It is not uncommon to see one of the housewives get into some sort of extremely humorous antic (sometimes while playing detective), only to reveal deep trauma or a disturbing fact with another character. It is also not uncommon for a sequence of dramatic scenes serving as a set-up for a disastrous...
  • Mr. Fanservice: Most of the guys, but Karl, Carlos, Mike and Danny (for the younger girls) stand out the most.
  • Narrator: Mary Alice.
    • Edie narrates the episode following her own death.
    • Rex Van de Kamp did it first after his own death.
  • Necro Non Sequitur: Many characters' deaths or injuries are like this, where previous scenes set-up the death of the characters. These tend to occur in the middle and the end of a season, and oftentimes storylines intersect with each other to provide the proper circumstances.
  • No Bisexuals: According to the characters on the show, if Katherine admits she's attracted to women, it means she must forsake her attraction to men entirely. It's impossible to like both, apparently.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Every single mother-in-law on the show, without exception.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The disaster episodes are often quite of a different tone from the rest of the show.
    • In the episode "Bang!" in Season 3, Carolyn Bigsby snaps and takes the people in a local supermarket hostage. The episode is also peppered with Lynette having Recurring Dreams of Mary Alice.
    • Season 4 has the episode "Something's Coming" has a storm coming to Wisteria Lane. This episode provides an example of Necro Non Sequitur.
    • Season 5 has "City of Fire", where a tragic fire occurs in a club.
    • Season 6 has "Boom Crunch", which details how a series of events lead up to a plane crash in Wisteria Lane.
    • Season 7 has "Down the Block There's a Riot", where a protest in Wisteria Lane erupts into a riot.
  • Out of Focus: Bree spends virtually half of Season 3 on a freakishly long honeymoon.
  • Pretty in Mink: A few furs show up, notably the sable coat Bree wore to try to get Rex back. Hilarity Ensues
  • Prison: Three of the four main husbands have done time there.
  • Stepford Suburbia
  • Story Arc: Investigation of Mary Alice's past... among other things. The number of subplot arcs in this show can make your head spin.
  • Time Skip: The fourth season finale.
  • True Love Is Boring: Mike and Susan run afoul of this trope multiple times. Tom and Lynette as well.
  • Twist Ending: The show tries, but over time the twists have became easier and easier to spot, the worst being Season 5, when everyone had the whole mystery figured after the first episode. Season 6 finally was able to pull off a surprise when it came to Patrick's demise thanks to red herrings and misleading spoilers.
    • In Season 5, it is explicitly stated from the start that Dave is planning to kill Mike, so the tension of this season comes from Dramatic Irony, we watch as he gets close to the main characters, always knowing his motive.
  • The Unfair Sex: The females get away with crap that would get them put to death if they were males. Like throwing your spouse out a upstairs window because they caught you trying to con them out of all their money. And no, it never gets mentioned again.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What the heck happened to Karl's son?
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Trust us, it does not always take very long for the Fridge Logic to set in when you realize how much time has supposedly passed in between episodes, especially with the children's birthdays and ages. For example, Juanita is a year older than MJ, even though the episode where he was born happened before Gabby knew she was pregnant. Then there's Eddie, who seems to be the same age as the Scavo twins yet went to high school with Danielle, who was a teenager when the twins were little kids.
    • The Scavo twins were explicitly stated as being 8 in the Season 3 finale. This would mean that they would be 9 at the end of Season 4, then 14 at the beginning of Season 5, due to the five-year jump. However, Lynette says in the Season 5 premiere that they're 16.
  • Zany Scheme: All the housewives like to cook up one quite often - with varying degrees of success...