Goodbye, ‘Desperate Housewives’

January 5th, 2005 – it was ‘only’ 7 years ago yet seems like it belongs to another lifetime (reminding me of that ‘you are quite literally a different person every 7 years’ idea I recently wrote about). I was still living in Glasgow – Bridgeton, to be exact, with my brother – and I spent my weeks shuttling between there and Mark’s flat. Mark and I had been dating for a while and had settled into a routine where we would spend most weeknights together and then spend the weekends with our respective friends. It worked well for a while but the strict separation of our social groups would end up playing a part in our decision to break up.

Over the festive period Channel 4 had been hammering promos for their new American import, ‘Desperate Housewives’. I knew little about it except that it starred Teri Hatcher, former star of ‘The New Adventures of Superman’ which I had watched every Saturday evening. Yet advance word for the show compared it to such odd bedfellows as ‘Twin Peaks’, ‘The Golden Girls’, ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Knots Landing’. I was, of course, intrigued. Throw in the fact that it was premiering in the post-New Year lull when you feel loathe to leave the house and I was sold.

Mark was at my flat that evening and we lay on my bed to watch the first episode. We both loved it. It was playfully dark and biting, both celebrating and making fun of the clichés of American tv. The story was gripping and, best of all, the writing was hilarious. I found myself in frequent fits of laugher, not least due to the barnstorming chemistry between the main actors who would rightfully become huge stars over the next year.

It became a ‘thing’ – Mark would come round on Wednesdays and we would watch ‘Desperate Housewives’. The first season, then, always makes me think of those evenings. We would have broken up by the time the inferior second season began in January 2006.

I moved to London on April 1st 2006. It was a very strange period, so heady that I can only think of it as some vivid dream. I lived with my friend Nik in a horrible flat in Bow, overlooking an old-school East End market and opposite a gigantic, soulless Weatherspoons. On the evening we arrived, a huge gang of kids in hoods stood outside brandishing baseball bats and I wanted nothing more than to go straight back home.

I would, of course, eventually settle in but the first year was tough. I barely knew anyone in London and I often found myself alone in the flat, feeling pretty wretched. For the first few months I clung to anything familiar for dear life and – having no internet access, a limited number of books and no money – a big part of that was the routine of watching shows like ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’. It’s funny – I associate watching ‘Doctor Who’ that year with excitement, as it was shown on Saturdays and I would usually be heading out to unfamiliar places afterwards. ‘Desperate Housewives’, broadcast on Wednesdays again, reminds me of sitting in the flat alone, wondering what on earth I was doing but giving myself to the fantastical world of Fairview for an hour.

By the time season 3 came along in 2007, I was on more certain ground. I had made some friends and I was dating someone. I would usually watch it every Wednesday with Jody and Rachel at their flat, as the house I had moved into wasn’t a particularly nice place to spend time (it looked like a squat – and not in a hip East London way). Jody and I split up but we remained (and remain) good friends, and he was one of the people whom I would always chat to about the latest episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’ until he gave up on it a couple of years later.

Between season 4 and season 5, I met Rob. He lived in Camden at the time and although he lived with a bunch of folk, I rarely saw them. The first time I spent an evening with them was 22nd October 2008, when we all watched the season 5 premiere of ‘Desperate Housewives’. Rob hadn’t watched it in a while and, as is his way, was unable to catch it every week so every time we watched it together that year I would have to explain what had been happening.

Rob moved in with me in September 2010 and turned the squat into a home. For the first time, I enjoyed spending time there. Just sitting on the sofa reading a book felt novel and exhilarating, so the tv faded into the background for a while. During the year I had ‘discovered’ streaming American shows online rather than waiting months for the UK broadcast, so I had been watching season 6 of ‘Desperate Housewives’ on my laptop. Rather than force Rob to catch up with it halfway through, I watched the entire series that way, sometimes sitting with my laptop and headphones while Rob watched something like ‘Grand Designs’ on tv.

Then, last year, we treated ourselves to a BIG TV. Oh happy days. It being 2011, you could connect a laptop and stream shows directly to the tv, and so this is how I’ve been watching the final season of ‘Desperate Housewives’. Again, Rob has only caught it sporadically while I have watched every episode, even when it’s felt like a chore. The show has definitely declined massively in quality, settling into the traditional, cliched ‘soapy’ vein that it earlier poked fun at. From around season 4 onwards there has been a strong sense of the writers making things up from week to week, with plotlines randomly disappearing and reappearing and increasingly convoluted plots. The laughter became less and less frequent.

It’s ending on Sunday in America and I’ll watch the finale on Monday. It’s definitely time for it to end – in fact, it’s probably overdue. Nevertheless, I’ll be sad. For 6 months of each of the past 7 years, I have given an hour to Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gabrielle – I love those characters and that’s what has kept me watching through some of the more wretched episodes. Being able to escape into their world has been entertaining; at times it’s been stupidly appreciated.

By the point the only other person I know who still watches is my friend Louie. We’ll discuss plot points and predict what’s coming up just as I did with Mark back in 2005 (the big difference being that we’re now usually complaining about some aspect of the show). I know that as soon as the finale ends I’ll be on my phone to him to share my thoughts. Possibly with teary eyes – not only for the surely emotional ending on screen, but with happiness for the last 7 years of my life the show will always remind me of.

Goodbye ‘Desperate Housewives’ – you’ve been swell.

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