Welcome to Wisteria Lane, a pleasant street with friendly neighbors, and many, many secrets. Mary Alice Young was a happy mother and housewife, so her neighbors were shocked when they heard she killed herself. What would cause their friend to take her life? What secrets did she keep from her friends down the street?
Desperate Housewives is the wildly successful ABC series created by Marc Cherry. This show, along with Lost, has helped to bring the network out of their ratings slump. Just look at the awards the show has walked away with in the last year; Television Critic's Association Program of the Year, 2 Screen Actors Guild awards, 2 Golden Globe awards, and 6 Emmy awards (plus 9 nominations).
This was a show I heard a lot about, but I hadn't watched a single episode before the set arrived at my door. I sat down to watch the first episode, but I found it a bit dull, and slightly boring... until the end. Another episode, then another, and then another, and I was done the first disc; I was hooked!
Disney has created a neat package for the set. There's a plastic slipcase that features the women, with an interesting satin-looking background that's part of the inner package. The discs are in a 3 tray digipack, with 2 discs on each tray, and a pouch for the booklet and other promo papers.
The 23 episode first season comes to us on 6 discs. The breakdown is below:
Disc 1 (2:53:17)
Ah, But Underneath (43:18)
Pretty Little Picture (43:19)
Who's That Woman (43:20)
Disc 2 (2:53:20)
Come in, Stranger (43:18)
Running to Stand Still (43:19)
Anything You Can Do (43:22)
Disc 3 (2:53:17)
Suspicious Minds (43:21)
Come Back to Me (43:19)
Move On (43:18)
Every Day a Little Death (43:19)
Disc 4 (2:53:01)
Your Fault (43:20)
Love is in the Air (43:14)
The Ladies Who Lunch (43:12)
Disc 5 (2:52:35)
There Won't Be Trumpets (43:11)
Children Will Listen (43:12)
Live Alone and Like It (43:14)
Fear No More (42:58)
Disc 6 (2:09:25)
Sunday in the Park With George (42:59)
Goodbye For Now (43:14)
One Wonderful Day (43:12)
I jumped on the phone to Disney when this set was first announced with a full frame (1.33:1) transfer. Unless the creator specifically wants it in full frame, studios should release material in widescreen. The response from fans was negative, and I was determined to get answers. While I didn't find out why the set would be full frame, a week later I was told the specs had been changed, and the set would be released in an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) format. I'd like to think all my phone calls (to about 5 or 6 different people) helped prod them in that direction.
The phone calls were worth it; this is a very nice anamorphic widescreen transfer. I saw some of the full frame scenes in featurettes, and they looked too cramped; I prefer the breathing room with more picture on the sides of the frame. The show has a very snappy color scheme, which looks great on DVD. The reds are nice and bright, but they don't bleed in to other areas of the picture. I noticed a little bit of grain in a few scenes, but I was straining to notice it. Disney has placed chapters in the best spots on the DVD; after the "previously on" bits, before the opening of the show (probably not needed), after the opening of the show, at the commercial breaks, and before the closing credits. Wow, that's a lot, but it allows the viewer to skip around the unneeded material.
We're also treated to a very nice English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Dramas don't usually use the capabilities of 5.1 as well as a Sci-Fi show, but I thought Desperate Housewives did a really good job. The rear speakers are used for various ambient sounds, which lends to the realism of the presentation. You'll hear a number of barking dogs and chirping birds, but after awhile you'll notice that they're the same audio effects used over and over; it made me laugh. There are English subtitles if you want to turn them on.
These extended episodes are in a different area from the regular episodes. Read my thoughts on this below. There are a few minutes added to each episode, and Marc Cherry provides an introduction (which can actually spoil the episode if you haven't seen it already).
Who's That Woman (45:29)
A Little Death (45:13)
Sunday in the Park With George (45:49)
Goodbye For Now (45:18)
Marc Cherry (creator/executive producer) provides commentary on 5 episodes, and is joined by director Larry Shaw on two of them. The women provide commentary on their favorite scenes, not on a specific episode.
Pilot - Marc Cherry
Anything You Can Do - Marc Cherry and Larry Shaw
Guilty - Marc Cherry
Impossible - Marc Cherry and Larry Shaw (director)
One Wonderful Day - Marc Cherry
"The Ladies Favorite Scenes" (31:43) - Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Nicollette Sheridan and Teri Hatcher
Deleted Scenes (9:08)
These deleted scenes can be watched with the regular audio, or commentary by Marc Cherry.
Ah, But Underneath (1:14)
Running to Stand Still (1:29)
Suspicious Minds (1:14)
Your Fault (1:31)
The Ladies Who Lunch (0:58)
There Won't Be Trumpets (1:32)
One Wonderful Day (0:54)
A Stroll Down Wisteria Lane (11:37)
I thought this would be a tour of the set, but it's not. Marc Cherry and Meridith Vieira talk about the series, and some of the ideas behind it.
Desperate Housewives Around the World (8:04)
A short featurette looking at the worldwide appeal of the series.
Multi Language Sequence: Bree's Dinner Party (1:25)
Some international versions of the show.
Dressing Wisteria Lane (12:33)
A look at the production design, and the costume design, of the series.
Oprah Winfrey is the New Neighbor (8:25)
A funny piece featuring Oprah as the new neighbor. Don't watch this before you watch the season.
Bloopers from the Set (4:54)
Some funny goofs.
Secrets of Wisteria Lane (10:44)
A featurette on how they did various things on the show. There are interviews with some cast and crew. There's some talk of what may come in season 2; be aware.
Behind the Scenes of Desperate Housewives (25:24)
Meridith Vieira hosts this behind-the-scenes look at the series, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Sneak Peeks (9:54)
A look at some other Buena Vista releases; Flightplan (2:29), Desperate Housewives Season 2 (0:30), TV on DVD (1:54), Alias Season 4 (1:16), Scrubs Season 2 (1:30), Lost (1:44) and ABC Daytime (0:31).
I had a blast with this DVD set. I was completely sucked into the story after the first few episodes. My girlfriend and I spent an entire day watching episode after episode; that's normal for me, but she's never done a marathon like that (she loved it). The show was a great mixture of drama and comedy.
Disney has put a lot of time and effort into their recent DVD sets. Lost was amazing, and Desperate Housewives, while not being as good as Lost, is an excellent set. There are lots of commentary tracks and featurettes which should help answer some of the questions you may have. I thought the extended episodes were interesting, but flawed in their execution. I watch discs by using the "play all" feature, which bypasses the extended episodes. I'm not going to watch the entire episode again just for a few minutes, and the extra scene(s) aren't available anywhere else. My solution would be a screen that pops up when you select "play all" and asks you whether you want the regular episodes, or the extended ones, as well as the ability to watch Marc Cherry's intros (which can spoil the events in the episode), and the extended scenes separately in the "Special Features" area. There should also be the option to view the extended episode in the episode selection screen; right now you would have to look in the "Extended Episode" section, remember the episode title, then play the episodes in the episode selection area, and remember to switch back to the extended episode when it's time. What a hassle!
If you haven't seen Desperate Housewives then this is a great introduction to the series. It's a very addictive show, so be aware of this when you plan viewing sessions.