10 Things You Probably Never Knew About Desperate Housewives on the Gay-Loved Show’s 10th Anniversary
Do you know what day it is? Yes, it’s October 3rd, Lindsey, but most importantly, it’s the 10th anniversary of the night we were introduced to the white-picketed world of Wisteria Lane—and the ladies who live there—on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. From that infamous “Pilot” episode (which garnered 21.6 million viewers, the best showing for ABC in a decade at that time), all of us were instantly hooked on the bizarrely brilliant characters and drawn into their world of lies, scandal, death, desperation and, ahem, the seduction of one smokin’-hot gardener.
While Desperate Housewives was certainly a group effort, it was the show’s leading ladies that would change the “Housewives” landscape forever. (And isn’t this the show that gave birth to the term “cougar”?) There was klutzy romantic Susan (Teri Hatcher), frazzled mom of four Lynette (Felicity Huffman), tightly wound homemaker Bree (Marcia Cross), spicy sexpot Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) and car-washing, man-eating tramp Edie Britt, played so convincingly by Nicolette Sheridan. Even the actresses who joined the show in later seasons, coming in as revolving “fifth” housewives after Sheridan’s highly publicized departure, kept the “DH” brand going strong during its tremendous run. Who can forget basic-Bree, Katherine (Dana Delaney), suburban mob wife Angie (Drea De Matteo), and straight-out-of-Manhattan diva Renee, played effortlessly by Vanessa Williams. All of these tremendous women brought their “A” game to Wisteria Lane, keeping the drama going strong for eight fabulously twisted seasons.
While we could go on and on all day about the crazy plotlines, voyeurism, sultry scandals and all the the deaths (52 in all, people) that took place on Wisteria Lane, we decided to do some, um, digging of our own to find some little known facts about the show. Thought you knew everything there was to know about Wisteria Lane and its residents? Don’t be so sure. If there is one thing we’ve learned from Desperate Housewives, is that there is always something hiding in the shrubs:
“Keep On Walking”
Originally pitched as a comedy, creator Marc Cherry (who had success a decade prior writing for another gay favorite, The Golden Girls), saw his pilot rejected by major networks like HBO and Lifetime. After he reworked the pilot to have a more satire-like feel, ABC soon came calling. In fact, Sheryl Lee (who played Laura Palmer in ’80s primetime murder-soap Twin Peaks) was cast as dead narrator Mary Alice first, but after Cherry changed the tone of the show, he brought in chipper voiced Brenda Strong to set the newer, “lighter” tone. Can you imagine Mary Alice any other way? I certainly can’t.
“Mother Knows Best”
Want to know where Marc Cherry got his inspiration from for Desperate Housewives? In an interview with EW.com, he stated, “One night we were watching the trial coverage of Andrea Yates, the depressed Texas mother who drowned her five children in the bathtub. I turned and said to my mom, ‘Gosh. can you imagine a woman being so desperate she would resort to an action?’ My mother took her cigarette out of her mouth and said, ‘I’ve been there.’ That was an astonishing comment to me. She started telling me stories about how desperate she had felt while alone on a farm in Oklahoma with three small children. It suddenly occured to me: If my mother has had feelings like that, then every woman has had those feelings. I thought, ‘I need to write about this.'”
“First Things First, Eva’s the Realest”
Believe it or not, Eva Longoria was the first lead actress cast in her role. This came after auditioning, when Cherry asked her what she thought of the rest of the script and she replied, “I only read my part.” It was from that moment, that Cherry knew he’d found his Gaby. However, she wasn’t alone for too long. Soon after, Teri Hatcher got the part of Susan after nailing her audition and bringing in baked goods for everyone. Huffman got the part of Lynette after—go figure—she stormed in swearing off her children. (Her kids were 3 and 22 months at the time.) However, it was Cross who was cast last, after producers had a long debate on whether or not she could truly pull off the part of ice-cold homemaker Bree. Hey, if Marcia “it’s not what it looks like, it’s worse” Cross couldn’t pull off Bree, then who could? Certainly not Nicolette Sheridan, who also tried out for the part of Bree, but luckily for us, got the part of supporting slut Edie.
“So Many Men, So Little Time”
Remember the chemistry between Bree and her deceased first husband Rex (Stephen Kulp)? Well, that fire almost didn’t happen. Actor Michael Reilly Burke originally nabbed the part of Rex, but after a test shoot for the pilot the producers noticed a lack of chemistry between him and Cross, and Kulp was cast in his stead. The same can be said for Gaby’s boy toy gardener John Rowland. Originally, actor Kyle Searles had the role of the sexy cougar-banger, but ultimately it was Jesse Metcalfe who won over producers—and gay men everywhere.
“Paging Meryl Streep”
Besides the “Pilot,” each of the 180 episodes of Desperate Housewives get their title from a lyric or song title by legendary Broadway playwright Stephen Sondheim. Where else on TV would you find episodes named, “A Little Night Music,” “Every Day A Little Death,” and you guessed it, “Into The Woods.” If only Meryl would have made a cameo in that episode …
“Philly Fashion Connection”
Melissa Saunders, a senior at the time attending Philadelphia’s Saint Hubert Catholic High School, loved the rose lace gown that Gaby Solis wore (you know the one) to mow the lawn in the pilot episode so much that she wrote to the producers requesting photos of the dress so she could find a similar gown to wear to prom. They went a step further: Instead of merely sending photos, the producers actually sent her the dress! Ms. Saunder’s was certainly the talk of Saint Hubert’s prom that year.
When Desperate Housewives came roaring back for its second season it had the “WTF?” storyline featuring the show’s first (and last) black housewife, Betty Applewhite (played by the talented Alfre Woodard), who was keeping her mentally handicapped son chained up in the basement. The storyline had critics crying foul, and creator Cherry himself later stated he “just didn’t have a good idea.” Even producers told Woodard on set one day, “We’re shoved into a corner here, our mysterly storyline is not our strongest suit, so we’re working on that.” I guess it’s true what they say: The sophomore struggle is real.
“She’s A Bitch”
For years, rumors plagued the set that star Teri Hatcher was the Ariana of primetime TV. I’m sure we can all remember the now infamous Vanity Fair cover shoot that had the Desperate gals throwing shade Teri’s way after she appeared front and center in an eye-popping cherry-red bathing suit. Apparently the hoops holding didn’t stop there. A TV Guide article discussing the show’s finale reveals that, “Needless to say, something went down in a later season with Teri and her co-stars that caused a deep rift” and that she would also, “physically separate herself from the others during breaks in filming.” To make matters even worse, when the show wrapped its run two years ago, all the actresses (including Vanessa Williams) pitched in to give the crew luggage with a thank-you card with of their names on it—except for Teri’s.
“Rest In Peace”
There were several A-list TV actors (Scott Bakula, Bob Newhart, Leslie Ann-Warren, just to name a few) who appeared throughout the course of DH, and sadly many of them are no longer with us. The dearly departed Dixie Carter was candidly crazy as Bree’s second husband Orson’s (Kyle Machlaclan) mother. Also, late, great Polly Bergen not only got to play the mother to Huffman’s Lynette, she was also married on the show to crotchety old man Frank—played oh-so-wonderfully by the dearly departed Larry Hagman. However, true DH fans know that Kathyrn Joosten, who played rickety old neighbor Karen McCluskyy, stole every piece of scenery she was given. Much like her character on the show, Ms. Joosten was a fighting spirit until the very end.
“I’ve Seen That Street Before”
Besides being home to the residents of Wisteria Lane, the set has also been the backdrop for several car commercials, it became the crisis setting for Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma” video and more recently, served as a playground to Spice Girl Mel B in the video for her single, “For Once In My Life.” Watch the clip above to see which Desperate Housewives resident’s house she partied in.