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Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season (2008-2009)

ABC Studios
DVD Released: 9/1/2009

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

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/5/2009

In my recent review for Harper's Island, I wrote about how television shows shy away from truly big "must see" events these days. Another way of looking at this is that everyone wants to play it safe. TV has rarely been the most original outlet for entertainment, but today is seems as if producers rarely take any chances and only follow trends. That's why we are constantly being bombarded by police, hospital, and lawyer shows. Well...that was the case. Now the bulk of what we get is reality programming. Therefore, when an established hit show does something different and risky, one must sit up and pay attention. That's the case with Season Five of Desperate Housewives, which has just come to DVD.

As is typical for a prime-time soap opera such as Desperate Housewives, the season finale of Season Four contained many surprising twists and turns. However, the most surprising took place in the last few minutes of the show. The series suddenly jumped ahead five years into the future. And that's where Season Five begins. Thus, we are forced to catch up with the lives of the characters. The once happy Susan (Teri Hatcher) and Mike (James Denton) have gotten divorced and they share custody of their son. This isn't difficult, as Mike lives on Wisteria Lane. Susan, alone and lonely, begins a relationship with her younger house painter, Jackson (Gale Harold). Bree (Marcia Cross) is still married to Orson (Kyle MacLachlan), despite the fact that he served time in prison for running over Mike. Bree owns and manages a successful catering company with the assistance of Katherine (Dana Delany). Bree's good-fortune continues to blossom when her cookbook is published. Lynette (Felicity Huffman) and Tom (Doug Savant) continue to run their pizza parlor, but they spend more time attempting to keep their twin teenaged sons out of trouble. As Carlos (Ricardo Chavira) was struck blind, he and Gabrielle (Eva Longoria Parker) haven't had the income to which they'd grown accustomed. In addition, they now have two daughters, both of whom are plump and spoiled. Gabby must deal with the fact that she isn't the socialite which she once was. However, things begin to change when Carlos is told that he could get his eyesight back. It appears that Edie (Nicollette Sheridan) left Wisteria Lane at some point, but she now returns with a new husband, Dave (Neal McDonough) in tow. Dave seems like the perfect guy. He's outgoing and very friendly, and he quickly engages the other men on the street. However, Dave hides a dark secret, one which will effect the lives of everyone in the neighborhood.

When the finale of Season Four aired, I was surprised (but not really shocked...there is a difference) by the jump to the future. As Season Five started, I wondered if that glimpse into the future was merely a one-time gimmick, or if the new Season would stick with it. And if so, how would they pull it off?

For the most part, the gamble by Marc Cherry and company paid off. I can only assume that the main reason for the time-leap was to take the show out of some of the older, circular storylines and offer a fresh-start. This approach did leave some loose ends. For one thing, no one acts as if it's five years in the future in the sense that the world hasn't changed any. I wasn't expecting The Jetsons, but as far as we are concerned, it's still 2008 on Wisteria Lane, not 2013. The dropping of older stories also meant that some details were left out. What happened to Katherine's daughter? We don't learn much about what Edie was doing during that time. And my favorite question, how were Gabrielle and Carlos able to keep their house and raise two kids on his small income?

My nitpicking aside, Season Five of Desperate Housewives does have its high points. The most interesting subplot concerns Dave and his sinister plan for someone in the neighborhood. The show pulls a real slow burn here (literally!) and it's a while before we begin to piece together what Dave is up to. We are also left to dangle concerning why Mike and Susan are no longer together. Once this is revealed it doesn't make a lot of sense, but the show's approach to this is still interesting. We see that the relationship between Bree and Orson is still evolving after all these years, and their power-plays are fun to watch. As with every season in the past, the weak links lie with Lynette and Gabrielle. Lynette has a knack for thinking that she's smarter than everyone else, only to have things blow up in her face, and Season Five is no exception. Now that she's a bad mother, along with being a bad wife and a bad friend, Gabrielle's character is more annoying than ever. And this season does see the death of a major character, which is always worth watching.

While the show certainly settles into a familiar groove by mid-season, the fact that Desperate Housewives tried something different with Season Five is commendable. The show may be quite familiar by now, but it still proves to be enticing and funny at the same time.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season gets electrocuted on DVD courtesy of ABC Studios. This 7-disc boxed set contains all 24 episodes from the show's fifth 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 for the most part, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, especially bold primary colors, such as reds and blues. However, the image is somewhat soft and a tad dark at times. The level of detail is OK. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, most notably in crowd scenes. We get moderate surround sound effects, mostly from musical cues. I didn't note any remarkable subwoofer effects. Overall, a competent sound mix for a TV dramedy.

The Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season DVD set contains several extras. On Disc 1, we have an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the episode "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" from Larry Shaw, Doug Savant, Kyle MacLachlan & James Denton. Disc 4 offers a second COMMENTARY, this for the episode "The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened" with Creator Marc Cherry and actress Brend Strong. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 7. "'What More Do I Need?' A Very Good Read" (11 minutes) explains the table read process and allows us to observe one in action. "I Know Things Now: Desperate Housewives Celebrates 100" (21 minutes) is a retrospective of sorts, where the cast and crew discuss the show reaching the 100 episodes milestone. We see the on-set celebration and get comments about how the show has effected those involved. "So Very Teri" (8 minutes) profiles actress Teri Hatcher and her character, Susan. "Cherry Picked: Creator Marc Cherry's Favorite Scenes" features eight moments from the show which can be viewed with commentary by Cherry. We get a 6-minute BLOOPERS reel. Finally, the DVD contains eight DELETED SCENES.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long