Underlying misogyny wrecks 'Housewives'

Let's get right to the point: "Desperate Housewives" (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC) is the kind of dark, ironic, campy comedy-drama/soap opera that critics love and viewers tend to avoid. Heck, I'm a critic and even I don't like it that much.

Narrated by the disembodied voice of Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), a "perfect" housewife who commits suicide in the opening moments, "Desperate" takes an over-the-top look at the lives of not-so-quiet desperation in an affluent suburb.

Felicity Huffman stars as Lynette, a former corporate hotshot who has settled miserably into motherhood. Divorced Susan (Teri Hatcher) goes to preposterous lengths to earn the attention of Mike (James Denton), the new single man on the block. Unfortunately, Edie (Nicollette Sheridan), the neighborhood tramp, just may snag him first. Eva Longoria stars as Gabrielle, an oversexed Latin stereotype with a rich husband. Bree (Marcia Cross) is the Martha Stewart-imitating overachiever who can't understand why her son prefers casual dinners to her culinary masterpieces. Soon Bree's husband asks for a divorce because he can't stand "living in a detergent commercial anymore."

While cleverly scripted, too many jokes are at the expense of the characters. For all of its ironic distance, "Desperate" is shot through with a misogyny that's less than amusing. It's not for nothing that the action takes place on Wisteria (rhymes with hysteria) Drive.

Saturday's highlights

• Plane-crash survivors discover peculiar creatures on a desert island in the two-hour debut of "Lost" (7 p.m., ABC).

• Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (9 p.m., CBS): a 50-year manhunt concludes with a shock.

• Ben Affleck is host of the 30th season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Nelly.

Sunday's other highlights

• Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): winning secrets of NFL coaches; the children of baby boomers.

• Scheduled on "Dateline" (6 p.m., NBC): an interview with religious entrepreneur Rick Warren; auto side-impact collisions; Carolyn Kepcher of "The Apprentice."

• "Mystery!" (8 p.m., PBS) presents "Death in Holy Orders," adapted from a novel by P.D. James.


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