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Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season (2007-2008)

ABC Studios
DVD Released: 9/2/2008

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/2/2008

In my review for Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season, I wrote about my on-again/off-again relationship with the show. The show's first season was addictive, the second a disappointment, and the third a mixed-bag. And yet, I find that I keep coming back to the program. Why is that? Perhaps by exploring Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season, we can learn why.

(SPOILER WARNING: It's impossible to discuss the events of Season 4 of Desperate Housewives without mentioning what transpired in Season 3. So, if you haven't seen Season 3 and want to be surprised, please read with caution.) As Season 4 opens, Carlos (Ricardo Chavira) must deal with Edie's (Nicolette Sheridan) suicide attempt. This caused him to back out of his plan to run off with Gabrielle (Eva Longoria Parker), and thus she went through with her marriage to Victor Lang (John Slattery). The newly married Bree (Marcia Cross) and Orson (Kyle MacLachlan) continue their charade that Bree is pregnant (she is faking the pregnancy to protect the reputation of her pregnant daughter, Danielle (Joy Lauren)). Ironically, the newly married Susan (Teri Hatcher) learns that she is indeed pregnant, and is hesitant to share the news with Mike (James Denton). Lynette (Felicity Huffman) has begun chemotherapy (and lost her hair), but she's determined to hide her cancer from everyone. An old resident of Wisteria Lane, Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delany), returns to the street, with her husband, Adam (Nathan Fillion), and her daughter, Dylan (Lyndsy Fonseca). There are mixed feelings about having Katherine return after being away for years, and Susan's daughter, Julie (Andrea Bowen), feels that there's something odd about Dylan.

And with those storylines, the season is off and running. We also get other plotlines; Danielle's baby is born, and thus Bree has a new baby; Susan suspects Mike of drug use; Despite the fact that she is married to Victor and he is looking after Edie, Gabrielle and Carlos continue to see one another; As if having cancer isn't bad enough, Lynette must deal with the fact that her adoptive daughter, Kayla (Rachel Fox) is out to get her.

Those plots pop up during the season, but this year, Desperate Housewives is dominated by two storylines. The first is the tornado which strikes Wisteria Lane in Episode 9. (I'm sorry if this comes as a surprise, the ads were everywhere.) This event changes the course of the season, and also changes everyone in the show (and yes, characters die). This sort of huge event is reminiscent of the kinds of rating stunts which landmark prime-time soaps such as Dallas and Dynasty used to pull. However, I must give credit where it's due, the episode is effective and the aftermath is quite emotional.

In an interesting turn, the other main story from Season 4 follows newcomer Katherine. (The show made a wise decision by having her be new to us, but not new to the cast.) As the season progresses, Katherine's multi-layered dark past begins to emerge. First, with a storyline involving her husband, Adam, and then another involving her daughter, Dylan. Gary Cole emerges as a dark figure from Katherine's life and the mystery as to what transpired between them contains many twists and turns. This storyline is very reminiscent of the murder-mystery from Season 1, and while it doesn't feel fresh, it is effective.

The lesson learned form Season 4 of Desperate Housewives is that, as Carolina Panthers coach John Fox would say, the show "Is what it is." During its first season, the show created a stir as it was able to deftly mix the prime-time soap stalwarts of sex and scandal with mystery and intrigue. Since that time, the show has fallen further and further into being simply a soap. Yet, it continues to prove itself to be one which isn't afraid to push boundaries and keep its characters in constant turmoil. The plotlines aren't always fresh, but the writing is sharp and each episode contains at least one laugh out loud moment. Desperate Housewives may no longer be breaking boundaries, but it's become good at what it does.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season storms onto DVD courtesy of ABC Studios (which is distributed by Disney). This five-disc DVD set contains all 17 episodes from the show's fourth season. The shows have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfers are enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, but somewhat dark at times, even in the exterior shots. Also, there is some very slight grain visible on the image. In addition, the image is a tad soft. On the plus side, the colors look very good and there is no artifacting to be had. The DVDs carry a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, especially when presenting the show's trademark music. The tornado episode offers notably good sound, with impressive surround and subwoofer effects.

The Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season DVD set contains a neighborhood of extras. March Cherry, Bob Daily, & Jeff Greenstein provide AUDIO COMMENTARY for the episode "Now You Know" on Disc 1 and we also get commentary on "Mother Said" from Cherry, Nicolette Sheridan, & David Warren on Disc 4. Some episodes offer "Couples Commentary" -- "Now I Know, Don't Be Scared" with Marcia Cross & Kyle MacLachlan, "Distant Past" with Dana Delany & Nathan Fillion (Both Disc 2), "Something's Coming" with Eva Longoria Parker & Ricardo Antonio Chavira, "Welcome to Kanagawa" with Felicity Huffman & Doug Savant (Both Disc 3), "Mother Said" with Teri Hatcher & James Denton (Disc 4). The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 5. "Getting Desperate: From Beginning to End" (27 minutes) explores the making of the tornado episode. Executive producer Marc Cherry discusses the ideas and challenges for the show. The featurette looks at the pre-production and planning, the physical destruction of Wisteria Lane, the stunts, the visual effects, the wind machines, and the music. This episode is treated like a feature film. "Spare Time: Haning with the Men of Wisteria Lane" (9 minutes) features interviews with Nathan Fillion, Kyle MacLachlan, James Denton, Doug Savant and the other actors while they bowl. "Cherry Picked: Creator Marc Cherry's Favorite Scenes" features six scenes from the season with commentary by Cherry. "Alternate Ending" (2 minutes) is essentially the same as the aired ending, but with less details. The DVD has twelve DELETED SCENES from various episodes which can viewed with commentary from Cherry. Most of these scenes are quite brief and don't add anything new to the stories. Finally, we have five minute reel of "Bloopers".

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long