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Series / Desperate Housewives

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"What the hell kind of street do we live on?"
Edie Britt

Desperate Housewives is not a porn mag, but a US TV drama, about bored wives living in Wisteria Lane, a suburbia in the fictional city of Fairview, Eagle State. They all experience unrealistic and endless drama in their lives after the suicide of their friend.

Notable for its combination of Narrator and Near-Death Clairvoyance trope, in which the entire series is narrated by the dulcet tones of an apparently omnipresent dead woman — the friend who committed suicide.

Basically a comedic soap, which means that unlike a regular soap, this program is funny and has interesting plotlines. However, the situations are often just as ridiculous and the relationships and plots just as hopelessly tangled-up and interwoven as any old-fashioned soap (though unlike daytime soaps, the fast pace tends to leave many confused if they miss a couple of episodes — probably why the clip show specials still proved relatively popular).


Owing to creator Marc Cherry's penchant for comedy, the series pokes fun at itself and its characters about as often as it takes them seriously, probably the number one thing that attracted most of its initial viewership, aside from the fact that it throws vicious, subversive holes in the ideas of suburban paradise and maternal bliss. In fact, ratings dropped after Executive Meddling caused the second season to be more "dramatic" (read: melodramatic) leading to the panicked execs basically saying "OK, OK we'll go back to doing more comedy again, Marc. You win." Ratings apparently improved again after that point.

Think Sex and the City meets Twin Peaks, meets daytime soap, meets parody of daytime soaps, set in the suburbs instead of the city, with housewives instead of single women, and narrated by a dead woman. You get all that?


Airing for eight seasons from 2004 to 2012, Desperate Housewives surpassed Charmed as the longest-running hour-long TV series with all-female leads. Alongside Lost, the show helped pull ABC out of a Dork Age of low ratings and critical reviews. It also gained a PC game adaptation, bizarrely enough.

WARNING: This show is basically one string of continuous spoilers, so it is hard to detail just about anything that happens without revealing one twist or another. So be prepared for unmarked spoilers below.

Has a Character Sheet. Feel free to contribute.

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     Character tropes 
  • Absent Animal Companion:
    • Mike's dog Bongo is never seen again after season 2.
    • Lynette also gets the family a dog in a Season 2 episode which only has a few appearances before it completely disappears as well with no explanation.
  • Accidental Suicide: After being exposed as a murderer in Season 2, George Williams swallows a deadly dose of sleeping pills. However, he didn't actually intend to die; he was expecting his ex-fiancee Bree Van de Kamp to save him by calling for an ambulance. Unfortunately for him, she chooses not to and lets him die, letting everyone believe that he committed suicide.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Paul Young sees Wisteria Lane as this for his framing.
  • The Alcoholic: Bree, for the majority of the series (though usually in recovery), and then later Andrew and Carlos
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming / Letter Motif: Lynette's kids; Porter, Parker, Preston,Penny, and Paige. Paige's twin, a baby Tom and Lynette lost, was to be named Patrick. Not to mention Lynette and her sisters — Lydia and Lucy.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Gabrielle once tries to convince Carlos that she has "sexsomnia". Probably fewer than ten percent watching the show know it's a real condition.
  • Amicably Divorced: Susan and Karl during the third season. And after the first season their relationship went from toxic to a snarky competitiveness than anything.
  • Artifact Title: At no point were all the main "housewives" literal housewives at the same time, and none of them remained a housewife for the entire run. Each was either employed, single, or both at various times throughout the series.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Irina, Preston's Russian fiancee.
    • Martha Huber.
    • Nora Huntington.
  • Badass Bystander: No one seemed to expect that the psychopathic gun toting hostage holder in season 3 to be taken down and shot by a nameless extra who commented earlier that the woman with the gun taught her daughter's Sunday school class.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Art from Season 3, Dave Williams from season 5, Eddie from season 6.
  • Big Bad: One for every season.
    • Season 1: Mary Alice Young, since she was the one who killed Deirdre.
    • Season 2: Matthew Applewhite
    • Season 3: Gloria Hodge, the murderer of Monique.
    • Season 4: Wayne Davis, Katherine's bitter Corrupt Cop ex-husband.
    • Season 5: Dave Williams
    • Season 6: Patrick Logan, Angie's ex-husband.
    • Season 7: Felicia Tillman, as an ironic reversal to the situation in the first season.
    • The Final Season notably averts this, using several different characters during different arcs of the last season.
      • Arguably, Ramon Sanchez/Alejandro Perez, Gaby's step father is the big bad. Sure, he was killed at the end of the previous season, but it's because of him that a lot of the plot points occur.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: As stated above, the show had this during the final season. First, there's Alejandro, as mentioned above. Although he's dead, his death triggered a lot of events, and almost got Bree arrested towards the end. Then there's Donny, a loan shark that Ben borrowed money from. Notably, he's the only "Big Bad" that killed a main character directly. Notable in that, while he did get arrested for the murder, he's still pretty much a Karma Houdini, because we never see him in prison or anything. Next, Chuck Vance, Bree's former boyfriend who investigating her for Alejandro's murder. Orson killed him, and just a few episodes later, Orson ended up being one of the big bads, since he sent evidence that Bree participated in covering up Alejandro's murder after she rejected him. Finally, There's Detective Murphy, a friend of Chuck's. He tries to find evidence against Bree after Chuck is killed, and even tries to frame her. Also, Jane is something of a minor bad, since she's trying to hurry Lynette and Tom's divorce.
    • The show also had this during some moments before Season 8, such as with George in Seasons 1-2, Nora in Season 3, etc.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The finale has Mary Alice funnily explain the peaceful destinies of the housewives, Lynette remarrying Tom and finally landing her dream job as a CEO in New York, Gabrielle moving to California and becoming the host of a home-shopping TV show; Bree marrying Trip and becoming a legislator in Kentucky while Susan's destiny is left a bit on the dark, but with her children and granddaughter by her side. Then we understand that they will never meet again. Plus, Karen succumbs to cancer, but at least she's revealed to be with her son in the afterlife. It gets worse when Jennifer, the new owner of Susan's house, is revealed to have a terrible secret of her own.
  • Black Comedy Rape: If you want to have a baby with your ex-husband (and thereby force him back into marriage with you), just drug him and rape him! And make sure you do the reveal with the wife realizing what was done to her husband by his ex by having her use the "R" word in an over the top fashion.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three main white housewives: Lynette (blonde), Susan (brunette), Bree (redhead). (Gaby is also brunette but she is Hispanic as well, meaning that she falls under a Token Minority.)
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: In season 3 when Nora is shot and killed, Lynette's face and hands are coated in blood.
  • Brainless Beauty: Susan's mother Sophie was seemingly one in her youth (and arguably still is), being a much married serial romantic whom even Mary Alice calls "hoplessly naive" in her narration.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Played straight with Danielle, averted with Julie. Thirteen-year-old Kayla is one that qualifies as an Enfant Terrible, and Juanita is another very young example.
  • Butt-Monkey: Everyone gets this treatment at one point or another during the show, but Bree and Tom Scavo appear to be the go-to characters for when the writers need something horrible to happen to a character.
    • Susan gets her fair share of this also, to the point where the other housewives don't bat an eyelid when they find out she's in trouble yet again.
  • The Chew Toy:
    • Lynette. Lynette has, among other things, had a plethora of uncontrollable children who constantly make her life even harder, was shot in a hostage situation after finding out her husband has a love-child, is diagnosed with cancer and once cured from cancer there is a tornado which buries her family in rubble, then framed for abuse by her stepdaughter, then a whole load of personal hell...then she gets into a divorce with her husband of 20 or so years..
    • Susan, too, with everything's that happened to her.
  • Covering Up Your Gray: In season 6, Susan dyes her hair to hide her graying. Gaby makes a jab to her about it during an episode, which leads to a fight between the two.
  • Creepy Gym Coach: Art Sheperd in Season 3 is a swim teacher and, after happening to go into his house, Lynette learns that he has pictures of half-naked boys. However, Art claims they're just his students who he's proud of, but a Pædo Hunt kicks off which kills Art's sister Rebecca and drives him out of town. Before he leaves, though, he confirms that he's a pedophile who has never acted on his urges before because he needed to take care of Rebecca, but now that she's dead, nothing needs to hold him back. However, there is a possibility that he's just trying to scare Lynette to punish her.
  • Cry for the Devil: Deliberately invoked in "Epiphany", where we see how years of emotional abuse and neglect caused Eddie Orlofsky to go from a sweet kid into become the notorious Fairview Strangler.
  • Deadly Sparring: In "Would I Think of Suicide", Susan and Bree attend a women's self-defense class where they get paired up during exercises. Susan, who has now become aware of Bree's relationship with Susan's ex-husband Karl, uses the opportunity to choke Bree. Bree is only saved when the instructor orders them to swap positions.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse / Murder the Hypotenuse: Often. Specifically:
    • In Season 2, George tampers with Rex's medication so that he dies and he can have Bree all to himself.
    • In Season 4, Victor tried to shoot Carlos during the tornado, but failed. In the same episode, Sylvia, with whom Adam had a brief affair, died in the tornado. (Although Katherine and Adam didn't last either.)
    • Karl dies partway through Season 6, during his affair with Bree, leaving her with Orson.
    • Nora in Season 3 and Jane both died in Season 3 before interfering more with Susan and Ian (though they didn't last) and Tom and Lynette.
    • Carlos also often threatened to do this with John, but never did.
  • Derailing Love Interests:
    • Orson got derailed hard in Season 5. Having been a very loving husband to Bree, even in spite of his Mysterious Past (where he was revealed to be largely sympathetic), he became a cruel, spiteful bully towards her until he actually got paralyzed and then Put on a Bus in Season 6.
    • Katherine in Season 6, too. While Katherine had been liked for being a scheming, mysterious housewife in Season 4, Season 5 mostly saw her take on the role of Mike's passive, adoring love interest but still an excellent cook and schemer. When he inevitably broke up with her in Season 6 to go back to Susan, she went insane, framed him for attacking her, and became a hysterical stalker.
  • Descent into Addiction: Bree's alcoholism develops throughout season two.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Mama Solis gets hit by a car just as she's about to reveal that Gaby is cheating on Carlos, then survives being in a coma — only to die immediately after she wakes up and falls down the stairs.
    • Nora in Season 3 gets shot by Carolyn Bigsby, bringing her brief conflict with Lynette and Tom to an abrupt end.
    • Sylvia in Season 4 gets picked up by a tornado and killed by it just as she's threatening Katherine and Adam.
    • While fleeing from Dave, Edie crashes her car and dies through electrocution in Season 5.
    • Karl in Season 6 dies by being hit by a plane that's flying through Wisteria Lane, ending his affair with Bree.
    • In Season 8, Chuck gets hit by a car driven by Orson when he blackmails Bree.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Susan is sanguine, Bree is melancholic, Lynette is phlegmatic and Gabrielle is choleric.
    • The husbands qualifies as well: Orson is melancholic, Carlos is choleric, Tom is sanguine and Mike is phlegmatic.
    • Mary Alice would qualify as leukine, as in flashbacks she is shown to be the force that bonds the four leads together, but has no real defining character quality that sets her apart.
  • Graduate from the Story:
    • Having been a major character throughout Seasons 1 to 4, Season 4 had Susan's daughter Julie go off to Princeton and only appear in one episode of Season 5, which was set five years later. She drops out of med school before Season 6 and comes back on a more permanent basis for that season, before graduating from the story again at the end of Season 6 by going back to med school. She's then absent for all of Season 7 except one episode, and comes back late in Season 8 having finished school to help Susan after Mike's death.
    • Danielle graduates more permanently; she leaves the story to go to Columbia at the end of Season 4 and then only appears in two episodes of Season 5, to show her taking Benjamin back from Bree, and then not at all until one episode of Season 8.
  • High-Powered Career Woman: Lynette is contrasted with Nina, her Mean Boss in Season 2, who is portrayed as ruthless, childless, and prepared to destroy Lynette's career over her not prioritizing her job over her family commitments more.
  • Househusband: Some of the husbands become this at some points in the series, most prominently Tom Scavo whenever Lynette feels an urge to reinvigorate her High-Powered Career Woman vibe, and Carlos Solis when he becomes blind (though he also takes up a masseur job).
  • Housewife: It's in the title.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Carlos is a big hot blooded bruiser, and Gabrielle is so small that anyone can pick her up over their shoulder, and in one episode was able to quickly hide herself inside a small travel bag and carried around discreetly.
    • Makes you wonder how she became a model at all, considering models are usually super-tall; runway models are 5'10" at a minimum. It can be assumed that Gabrielle was some other type of model, perhaps a petite model or catalogue model.
      • Indeed, being tall isn't a prerequisite for many men's magazines/glamour models (and Eva Longoria is no stranger to such spreads in real life).
      • Lampshaded by Marc Cherry in the commentary of the first episode: When you see Gabrielle walking down a runway he admits the irony of his casting decisions.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy:
    • Subverted when a pregnant Bree gets stabbed in the belly. However, no blood appears because it's a fake belly. But it does threaten to uncover the truth.
    • Lynette is imperiled by the plane after she pushes Celia out of the way, which leads her to miscarrying, and then later in Season 6 when she is held hostage by Eddie.
  • Impoverished Patrician:
    • Carlos and Gabrielle spend the majority of seasons 2, 3, and 4 unemployed, yet they still live in a luxurious house, attending big parties, and collecting clothes with all the right labels.
    • In season 4, Carlos sinks their savings in an embezzlement scam, and then loses the papers for the off-shore account and goes blind for 5 years, in that time having two kids. Then he gets his sight back and almost immediately gets a high-paying job.
  • Ivy League for Everyone:
    • Every one of the families seem to be able to sneak their kids into the same incredibly exclusive and expensive private school. Though Lynette every now and then mentions the financial troubles with it, and Susan manages to get MJ in by getting employed as a teacher's assistant.
    • Julie gets into Princeton, although in fairness, she gets off the waitlist and is presented as being highly intelligent.
    • Danielle, presented as stupid for most of the series, ends up attending Columbia University.
  • Love Makes You Crazy:
    • In Season 1, Carlos was most likely to fall victim to this, due to being extremely possessive over Gaby. He got better, though.
    • In Season 4, the once-independent Edie attempted suicide over a man.
    • In Season 6, Katherine and Mike's relationship is finally over, but Katherine has transformed into an insane stalker who torments Mike and Susan in an If I Can't Have You… mode.
  • Madness Mantra: Eddie Orlofsky, before he strangles women who mock him.
    Eddie: Please stop laughing at me...
  • Mysterious Past: Almost everyone.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Some of the Stephen Sondheim-inspired idiosyncratic episode titles have only a very weak connection to the episode's plot; others have none at all. Season 4's "Welcome to Kanagawa" was all about the aftermath of a tornado that struck Wisteria Lane, and nothing about characters arriving in Japanese prefectures.
  • Nosy Neighbor:
    • Martha Huber. Don't worry, she gets her comeuppance.
    • And to a lesser extent, virtually everyone else on the block.
  • Pair the Spares:
    • In Seasons 3 and 4, after his temporary breakup with Gaby, Carlos and Edie get together.
    • Mike and Katherine after the five-year jump and in Season 5.
    • Between the end of season 5 and the middle of season 6, Bree and Karl count until Karl's death.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Almost Once a Season, the season-specific housewife or their family will be put on a bus: Betty and Caleb in Season 2, Devon and Adam in Season 4, Angie and her whole family in Season 6. Averted by Katherine (Season 4) and Orson (Season 3), although both are Put on a Bus later.
    • In Season 4, Jackson is put on a bus to Canada because he's a Canadian citizen and his attempt to have a citizenship marriage to Susan failed.
    • In season six, Katherine is put on a bus with Robin to Paris.
    • During season six, one of the twins mentions that he wants to go to Europe. Without any proper goodbyes or explanation he is simply gone for half the season and we can only assume he actually did end up going to Europe.
  • Put on a Bus to Hell:
    • In Season 3, Gloria Hodge is completely locked in following a stroke and is abandoned in a living hell by Orson, whom forces her to walk away.
    • In Season 4, Kayla is taken away to her grandparents' house. While we have no reason to suspect it would be particularly horrible, it's treated like this because she is separated from every member of her living family, including Tom.
    • At the end of Season 5, Dave is shown to be Driven to Madness and to be institutionalized, and that's the last we see or hear of him.
    • The last time Eddie is ever mentioned, he's arrested for his crimes as the Fairview Strangler in the finale of Season 6 and that's the last we hear of him.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Edie's sudden death in Season 5 was orchestrated to write the character out of the show due to Nicolette Sheridan being on increasingly bad terms with producer Mark Cherry.
    • Season 8's subplot on Karen's illness, which would later turn on a major plot point in the finale, was heavily inspired by the Kathryn Joosten's previous two experiences with cancer and her third relapse, which coincided with the filming and would cause her death just weeks after the series finale aired in May 2012.
  • Rich Bitch:
    • Gabrielle, who also gets her comeuppance.
    • Also Renee from Season 7 on.
  • Scars are Forever:
    • Angie has a horrific looking burn scar on her back, which she got from her days as an eco-terroist. She doesn't seem to mind it though, probably because its always covered.
    • Dylan Davis recieved a scar on her arm from a childhood bike injury. The absence of this same scar on an adult Dylan clues in Wayne about the truth that she isn't the real Dylan.
  • Shock Value Relationship: Andrew and Justin.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad:
    • The cover of Season Seven's DVD blatantly has Renee standing center stage while all of the main characters are off in the background. Despite the fact that she was only introduced that very season, and was in no way had an important role or was even involved in that season's story arc.
    • Susan was this for the first season, to the point where she could have been the main character.
  • Stepford Smiler: Bree, an apparently OCD woman who probably carries at least half of the "domestic bliss" satire. Lampshaded heavily. Andrew once even referred to her as "running for the Mayor of Stepford". However, everyone also qualifies to an extent; Mary-Alice was a murderer, Betty is another example, Angie was an eco terrorist; Orson was raised by an extremely abusive control freak mother and then framed for the murder of his wife, to the point of being Bree's Spear Counterpart...
  • Token Minority:
    • The Applewhite family in Season 2, eliminated after the audience failed to take to them.
    • Gaby and Carlos, though they were there from the start, are also the only main cast members of color until Renee's arrival in season 7.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Carlos seems to go back and forth on this. For the most part he's an easy going nice guy, but sometimes he will suddenly become a intimidating vindictive ass doing needlessly villainous things, such as firing Lynette when she's the sole supporter of a family of six and pregnant with twins solely because he didn't want to give her maternity leave.
      • Actually, the reason that Carlos put Lynette through hell was because Gabrielle had asked him too(which is shown in a quick scene where Gabrielle admits a bit of guilt for it). The reason why he fires her, is because Lynnette sends her Lawyer to his house. His justification is that firing a pregnant woman would be bad PR, so he does increasingly cruel things to force her to leave, finally firing her because she could not complete the impossible task of auditing an entire years finances in less than a day. Overall, this doesn't make that much sense, since this would be pretty solid grounds for suing him for unfair dismissal and harassment, potentially giving the company even worse PR! It's even worse than no-one even points this out!
    • Orson. Although he was suspected to be a murderer, he was revealed to be a good husband to Bree and at the mercy of his evil mother and psychotic spouse when he ran down Mike Delfino. He was also happy to go along with Bree's schemes, such as raising Danielle's son as their own, but come Season 5, most of those positive traits have gone. He's a needling, borderline abusive, bitter washout who is a kleptomaniac and loathed by Bree. Gets even worse upon his return in Season 8, too, where he is revealed to Bree's blackmailer and therefore the cause of most of her suffering.
  • Woman Scorned: Many, many examples, but the prize goes to Carolyn Bigsby, who reacted to her husband's infidelity by taking his supermarket hostage in order to kill him.

     Episode-Specific Tropes 
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: At Mike's funeral.
  • And I Must Scream: Orson's mother, who suffered a stroke and no longer is able to move or speak, but still has a fully functioning mind.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series finale where the main characters all eventually move off the Lane. However, a new neighbor is seen putting a box in a hiding place, showing that as long as Wisteria Lane exists, there will always be people with dirty secrets.
  • Back for the Finale: The final sequence of the series finale features Susan, who is moving away, taking one last drive down Wisteria Lane, as the spirits of many people who have lived and died during the run of the series watching her drive away.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: The series finale spliced scenes of Julie's baby being born with Mrs. McKlusky succumbing to cancer.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the Pilot, Edie welcomes Mike to the neighborhood with a bowl of sausage puttanesca. "Puttanesca" is Italian for "whore's sauce".
  • Blame the Paramour: Gloria (Orson's mother) murders Monique after learning that she is sleeping with Orson and assumes that Orson will go back to Alma (his wife). However, this is portrayed as Insane Troll Logic at best.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: In episode eleven of the fifth season, Carlos is pressured by Gaby into accepting a lucrative job working under one of his morally bankrupt former associates. Having developed deeper empathy for the disabled and unprivileged during his five-year blindness, Carlos is unenthusiastic about jumping back into the apathetic corporate world and running himself ragged on behalf of an immoral boss. Gaby raises the fair point that such a sacrifice is worth it, as for five years she'd been made to look after a helpless Carlos and keep their family afloat while their finances tanked. In the end, Carlos is swayed to accept the job.
    • Also in the conflict splitting the core four during their intervention attempt in season eight. See Staging an Intervention below.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Oh, we had a very busy day. We dropped off the dry cleaning, we deposited money into our Christmas account and then we got circumcised."
  • But Liquoris Quicker: Lynette mentions this in the season six episode Don't Walk On The Grass when looking for Tom in a frat party.
    • Also in Season Seven after Gabby calls the immigration cops then changes her mind and pretends to be Carmen and Carman pretends to be Gabby
  • Comically Small Bribe: Gabrielle tries to bribe a nurse into letting her into a patient's room... with twelve dollars. But then remembers she needs to pay for parking and brings the bribe down to two dollars.
  • Courtroom Antic: Carlos' trial.
  • Deadly Sparring: In "Would I Think of Suicide", Susan and Bree attend a women's self-defense class where they get paired up during exercises. Susan, who has now become aware of Bree's relationship with Susan's ex-husband Karl, uses the opportunity to choke Bree. Bree is only saved when the instructor orders them to swap positions.
  • Dead Man's Chest
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Karl is killed in a plane crash by the very plane he hired to fly a banner over Wisteria Lane.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: There's a shot on a ragdoll in a tree after the tornado that devastated Wisteria Lane in season 4 has passed.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: Subverted. Edie is accidentally electrocuted, falls down, then we get a close up of the Twitching Hand right before the credits. The following episode starts with the character already cremated, and her ashes about to be delivered to the family.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Rex's funeral, indescribably wrong and weirdly funny.
    Bree: Give. Me. The. Tie!
    Lynette: Give it to her! Give it to her!
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-universe, Eddie claims his (awful) stand up comedy routine is "going to kill".
  • Funny Background Event: In episode 6 of season 1, Bree explains why she loves sex so much. A guy behind her obviously has a great time listening in.
  • Here We Go Again!: The ending of the very last episode features a woman moving into Susan's house after she leaves, taking out a box that she looks at with worry before hiding it, clearly implying it containing a secret. And that's where it ends.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Paul Young lampshades this during the Riot, that his entire goal was to prove this point;
    Paul Young: Look at those people over there, those are your friends! What makes you think you're better than a bunch of ex-cons?!
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: See Staging an Intervention below. The girls had some gall trying to stage a loving intervention for Bree after shunning her for months during an extremely difficult time, but they were right about her drinking and self-destructive behavior.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence:
    • In "Guilty", Mike and Susan having sex for the first time is contrasted with Paul Young killing Martha Huber.
    • Played for Laughs in "Liaison". After very awkwardly having sex for the first time, Carlos and Edie accuse the other of being bad in bed. They try to have sex a second time, but end up grievously injuring each other.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: From "Now I Know, Don't Be Scared" (Season 4, Episode 6): Edie goes to the local IRS office to rat out Carlos for having millions in an offshore account in the Caribbean...until the agent tells her that the account numbers she gave him don't exist.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Mrs. Huber's sister spent season two trying to turn the neighbors against Paul and have him arrested for murder, and repeatedly attempted to kill him. We seem to be intended to feel sorry for him, but it's sort of hard considering he actually is a murderer who had been getting away with everything he did in the past.
    • Technically, Paul was an accomplice to Mary Young's murder of Deirdre. The only person he actually killed was Martha Huber in a fit of passion, after discovering she blackmailed his wife and drove her to commit suicide. While Paul is a murderer, he is far more sympathetic than his victim and spends several years in prison after Felicia Tilman fakes her own murder. When she finally reappears in Series 6, it's clear that she's become far more of a monster than he is!
  • Medication Tampering: George Williams replaces Rex van de Kamp's medications with potassium pills, and Rex suffers a fatal heart attack.
  • Moving Away Ending: All four of the main characters move away from Wisteria Lane in the series finale.
  • Murder by Inaction: What Bree commits when she does not call an ambulance for George after he attempts Suicide by Pills.
  • Sexiness Score: In "The Art of Making Art", Renee tries to help Lynette get back into the dating pool by taking her to a singles bar, under the excuse her Love Interest Ben isn't that great. But after a while at the bar Renee admits she lied and that "Ben is a 10 and if you add up every guy in this place and you get a 6".
  • Staging an Intervention: A spectacularly unsuccessful version and simultaneous case of Hypocrite Has a Point / Jerkass Has a Point / Both Sides Have a Point in season eight. After turning their backs on Bree in the aftermath of the Alejandro situation, Bree falls Off the Wagon and spirals out of control, nearly committing suicide in the process. The girls staunchly ignore her until they find out she's started drinking again, at which point they decide to try surprising her with an intervention. They do so, but when they try telling her how much they care about her Bree takes the opportunity to read them to filth. She shuts them down, rejects their help, and heads back to the bar.
  • Stripping Snag: In "Pretty Little Picture" Susan follows Karl to his car where her towel gets stuck in his car door. He drives off and leaves Susan stripped naked. She panics and runs back to her house but the door is locked.
  • Suicide by Pills: Subverted. George Williams didn't mean to really kill himself when he swallows a deadly dose of sleeping pills; he was expecting his ex-fiancee Bree Van de Kamp to save him by calling for an ambulance upon finding his body. Unfortunately for him, she chooses not to and lets him die, making this overlap with Murder by Inaction.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Danielle in Season 3/4.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Dave, Katherine and Mike go camping in "The Story of Lucy and Jesse".
  • Treehouse of Fun: Lynette's kids briefly have a tree house in their yard for them to hang out in, though its destroyed in a tornado a few episodes later.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: the way we find out Andrew is gay is that he's doing this with his friend Justin.
  • Verbal Tic: Mary Alice has a fondness of constantly beginning a narration with "Yes...".

     Show Wide Tropes 
  • Aborted Arc:
    • Holy hell, a domestic terrorist was killed in a carbomb in Wisteria Lane, the Solises have suddenly gone on the run and... oh wait, forget all of that, that was yesterday! Let's focus on Susan's problems, which are far more important!
    • In the first season, Tom tells his father there is a thing Lynette is never supposed to know... and no follow up on that. Until the seventh season where we learn that Tom and Renee slept together when he and Lynette were broken up.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The last scene and ending narration indicate that although the main characters will all eventually leave Wisteria Lane and never really meet again, life there will go on its merry way without them.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • In seasons five and six, Tom and Lynette kept going through the same loop—Tom wants to do something wild, Lynette disapproves, Tom whines about how he never gets a chance to do anything, Lynette tries to put a stop to what he is doing, the two reach a compromise, and resolve to be more understanding of each other's wishes...only to go through the exact same situation yet again a few episodes later.
    • Between Seasons 5 and 8, Gaby and Carlos learn multiple times to be less materialistic and less focused on image. It never sticks.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of soap operas. There are fake pregnancies (several), a yearly disaster, many, many affairs, a Switched at Birth storyline...
  • All Psychology Is Freudian
  • Alone with the Psycho: Just about every season, such as Lynette with Eddie, Susan with Zach, Susan and M.J. with Dave.
  • Anyone Can Die: Reserved for plot twist moments. While most of the time they only kill off villains and B-characters no one really cares about, every once in a while they'll surprise you by killing off someone important.
  • Arc Words: As of season 8, the note saying I know what you did, it makes me sick, I'm going to tell.
  • Artifact Title: All four leads have been non-housewives at some point on the show (Lynette by virtue of having a paying job, the other three by virtue of not being married).
  • Artistic Title: Literally. The opening credits (as used from seasons 1-3) depict various situations in which women find themselves 'desperate' throughout time. Eve being the very first 'Desperate Housewife', through various pieces of art until we eventually see the four protagonists holding an apple (alluding to Eve's downfall) of their own, symbolising the very contemporary and yet timeless idea of female desperation.
  • Babies Ever After: Julie has a baby with Porter in the last episode.
  • Between My Legs: Seen in the season 7 promo.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: As the series progresses, the housewives and their families commit acts that are more and more questionable, both morally and legally. Such acts include sleeping with an underage boy, denying aid to a man who has poisoned himself, hiding the corpse of a murder victim and so on. Mary Alice went so far as murdering a young woman. On the other hand, a good part of these deeds have a motivation behind them, and the villains are more dangerous than the protagonists, being mentally unstable (Dave), domestic abusers (Wayne) or straight-up sociopaths (Gloria).
  • Bookends: Mary Alice always voices a remark after the title and before the episode ends, though with the events that occur during the episode, the meaning changes drastically, inadvertently becoming Darker and Edgier.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the first episode of season 1, after finding out Mary Alice was blackmailed, Susan asks "Mary Alice, what did you do?" In the last episode of season 1, in the flashback of Mary Alice killing Deirdre Paul asks "Mary Alice, what did you do?"
    • Mixed with a Brick Joke : The first episode of the final season ends with a note that is word-for-word identical to the one that drove Mary Alice to suicide.
  • Brother Chuck: Mike's dog Bongo was an important character in the early episodes but has not been seen or mentioned since mid-season 2.
  • Closet Shuffle: Several times every season. But special points go to Gabby from escaping her lover's room by hiding in a very small suitcase.
  • Contraception Deception: A common plot thread.
    • In Season 1, Crazy Jealous Guy Carlos replaces Gaby's birth control pills with sugar pills, and she gets pregnant. She has a Convenient Miscarriage, just as she's starting to warm up to the idea of having children.
    • In Season 3, Edie and Carlos agree that they'll try for a baby, but Edie continues taking birth control pills. When Carlos finds out, he breaks up with Edie.
    • In Season 6, Carlos reveals he lied to Gaby about having a vasectomy, because he hoped they'd have a son. (They already have two daughters. However, they ultimately don't have another child, but Gaby forgives him easily.)
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 2, which gradually became more melodramatic.
  • Dawson Casting: Inverted, thanks to the Time Skip. Danielle and Julie are now several years older than their still-teenage actresses.
  • Derailing Love Interests:
    • Orson in season 5 was derailed by being emotionally abusive to Bree, then appeared to get back on the rails in season 6...only to be derailed even harder when it was revealed in Season 8 that he was Bree's blackmailer who had nearly driven her to suicide.
    • Katherine got derailed late in Season 5 and fully in Season 6; while she and Mike weren't the most popular couple in general, she became increasingly manipulative of him via MJ, and then went insane when he broke up with her.
  • Double Standard:
    • The very different treatment of Paul Young and Mary Alice who are eventually revealed to have committed the exact same crimes. Murderer and kidnapper Mary Alice is remembered with nothing but fondness by the four main female cast while Paul was shunned from very early on.note 
    • Averted in regards to sexual conduct with a minor at least. Being one of the main heroines does not protect Gaby from being labelled a statutory rapist when her affair with her sixteen/seventeen-year-old gardener John goes public; and Danielle's thirty-five-year-old history teacher, who sleeps with her at seventeen, is treated to the same shame.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Orson's rape by Alma is never really taken seriously by anyone. The scene even ends on a comedic note when his wife, having found her unconscious just-been-raped husband lying on the bed, tells someone to go get a wheelbarrow (but doesn't bother to phone the police).
  • Mr. Fanservice: Most of the guys, but Karl, Carlos, John, Mike and Danny (for the younger girls) stand out the most.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin
  • Family Business: The Scavo pizzeria which may finally be dead.
  • Fanservice: There is a very large amount of male-oriented fanservice for a show aimed at women. Eva Longoria Parker, anyone?
  • Follow the Leader: The idea for the series is said to have been inspired by American Beauty. (What's funny is in that movie, the story is told from the husband's POV.)
  • Forced from Their Home: Bree abandoned Andrew by the side of the road at the end of Season 2 due to his increasingly out of control behavior. He did return in Season 3, though, after six months living on the street, much more humbled.
  • Hereditary Twinhood: Lynette and Tom have twins Porter and Preston at the beginning of the series. So when Lynette has a Surprise Pregnancy in Season 5, she gets pregnant with twins again, although one of them dies in utero.
  • Housewife
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the episode titles are taken from Stephen Sondheim lyrics.
  • Idiot Ball: Susan in "Suspicion Song". After they are finally in the clear for Alejandro's murder, she decides to paint a series of portraits of the event in her art class, which her teacher ends up putting into an art gallery, in plain view of the public. Not your finest moment there...
    • In "Who Can Say What's True", Susan then proceeds to continue this long streak of bad decisions by investigating Alejandro's life by travelling to his home, where she meets his family. Because after covering up a man's murder, it's only natural to want to become acquainted with their kin, right? There is absolutely nothing suspicious or potentially implicating about that?!
  • Karma Houdini: Art Shepard. Lynette suspects he's a pedophile after finding some risque photos of young boys in his basement. This quickly spreads throughout the neighborhood, and they show up to protest at Art's house. The stress induced by the rumors and protests causes Art's sister Rebecca to go into cardiac arrest and ultimately pass away. Lynette feels guilty for jumping to conclusions, and when she apologizes to Art, he pretty much admits to being a pedophile. After that, we never hear from him again, having apparently moved off of Wisteria Lane.
  • Latino Is Brown: Subverted for the sake of a joke. Gabrielle is stopped speeding by a cop and tries to play the race card with the (fair complexioned) officer... but realizes that the name on his uniform reads 'Martinez'. Otherwise the show played this trope totally straight.
  • Lighter and Softer: Season 5 was much lighter in tone than the other seasons.
  • Literary Allusion Title / Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes are named after titles of or lyrics from Stephen Sondheim songs.
    • "Epiphany", takes the Sondheim allusions even further, as much like in Sweeney Todd, we learn the precise Rage Breaking Point that drove kindhearted Eddie Orlofsky to become a deranged serial killer.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Oh, where do we start? Bree had an affair with Karl, who's divorced from Susan, who's married to Mike, who once dated Edie, who almost got pregnant by Carlos, who's been twice married to Gaby, who had a blind date with Zach, who had a crush on Julie, who got pregnant by Porter...
  • Mistaken Nationality: When interviewing for a fancy prep school, Juanita is revealed to be completely unaware that her family are of Mexican descent.
  • Modern Stasis: Post Time Skip the show is set roughly five years in the future (confirmed in Season 7 dialogue with Bree referencing the events of a 2006 episode as taking place "9 years ago.")
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • With almost every episode ending on a dramatic note, the ending music never fails to be perky. Also see Bookends.
    • The show often juxtaposes scenes of differing moods (serious, comical, dramatic, emotional, contemplative, surreal, etc.). Many storylines in a single episode start off as one mood and end up in another. It is not uncommon to see one of the housewives get into some sort of extremely humorous antic (sometimes while playing detective), only to reveal deep trauma or a disturbing fact with another character. It is also not uncommon for a sequence of dramatic scenes serving as a set-up for a disastrous...
  • Narrator: Mary Alice.
    • Edie narrates the episode following her own death.
    • Rex Van de Kamp did it first after his own death.
  • Necro Non Sequitur: Many characters' deaths or injuries are like this, where previous scenes set-up the death of the characters. These tend to occur in the middle and the end of a season, and oftentimes storylines intersect with each other to provide the proper circumstances.
  • Never Wake Up a Sleepwalker: Averted. Susan finds Orson standing on her front lawn naked and muttering to himself. Once she figures out he's sleepwalking, she slaps him awake.
  • No Bisexuals: According to the characters on the show, if Katherine admits she's attracted to women, it means she must forsake her attraction to men entirely. It's impossible to like both, apparently.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Every single mother-in-law on the show, without exception.
  • Once a Season:
    • An adult having an affair or sex with a teenager, except in season 7.
      • In season 1 Gabby with John Rowland.
      • In season 2 Danielle with her history teacher.
      • In season 3 Gabby again with John Rowland.
      • In season 4 Katherine with Susan's cousin in a flashback.
      • In season 5 Porter with Mrs. Schilling.
      • In season 6 Ana has affairs with older man who buy her presents.
      • In season 8 Julie with Porter, a tragic example with Gabbys stepfather raping his other stepdaughter.
    • Somebody is taken hostage, except in season 8.
      • In season 1 Mike holds Paul hostage.
      • In season 2 Zach holds Susan hostage.
      • In season 3 Carolyn Bigsby holds several characters hostage in a supermarket, amongst them Lynette and Julie, Lynette is held hostage in the freezer of her restaurant.
      • In season 4 Wayne holds Katherine and Bree hostage.
      • In season 5 David holds MJ and Susan hostage.
      • In season 6 Patrick holds Danny hostage.
      • In season 7 Eddie holds Lynette hostage.
    • One person is losing a child in some way, sometimes temporary, with the exception of season 8.
      • In season 1 Deirdre loses Dana to Paul and Mary Alice.
      • In season 2 Gabby has a miscarriage, Gabby and Carlos lose custody of their adopted baby to the biological parents, Andrew is abandoned by Bree and Danielle runs away.
      • In season 3 Trevors dad is again gaining full custody after a short stay with Edie.
      • In season 4 Katherine's first daughter Dylan dies and Toms daughter Kayla is send to live with her grandparents.
      • In season 5 Danielle gets her son Benji back from his adoptive mother Bree.
      • In season 6 Lynette loses her unborn child Patrick during surgery, Angie's son Danny and Carlos' niece Ana run away to New York.
      • In season 7 Gabby loses her biological daughter, Grace, after her adoptive parents have to leave due to their immigration status.
    • A car accident happens.
      • In season 1 Andrew runs over Juanita senior.
      • In season 2 Mike is run over by Orson.
      • In season 3 Susan and Ian drive into a sea.
      • In season 4 Victor drives into Gabbys car.
      • In season 5 Susan and Mike collide with Lila Dash, Lynette backs up into Bree's car, Edie crashes into a utility pole, Mike drives into David's car.
      • In season 6 Patrick runs over Nick, Patrick's car explodes.
      • In season 7 Bree runs over Juanita junior, Felicia Tillman dies in a car crash.
      • In season 8 Gabby runs over another parent in the drop-off zone, Orson runs over Chuck Vance, M Js soapbox-car is run over by a garbage truck.
    • Somebody is getting shot.
      • In season 1 Mary Alice shoots herself.
      • In season 2 Matthew is shot by a sniper.
      • In season 3 Caroline Bigsby shoots Nora.
      • In season 4 Wayne shoots Ellie.
      • In season 5 David tries to shoot Katherine.
      • In season 6 Susan shoots Katherine.
      • In season 7 Beth shoots herself, Zach shoots Paul.
      • In season 8 Mike is shot by a loan shark.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. There are two Juanitas (though one is named after the other), a Ben and Benji, and a Beth and Mary Beth, as well as forementioned Mary Beth and Mary Alice, and Karl and Carlos.
  • Out of Focus: Bree spends virtually half of season 3 on a freakishly long honeymoon.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The disaster episodes are often quite of a different tone from the rest of the show.
    • In the episode Bang! in Season 3, Carolyn Bigsby snaps and takes a local supermarket hostage. The episode is also peppered with Lynette having recurring dreams of Mary Alice.
    • Season 4 has the episode Something's Coming has a storm coming to Wisteria Lane. This episode provides an example of Necro Non Sequitur
    • Season 5 has City of Fire, where a tragic fire occurs in a club.
    • Season 6 has Boom Crunch, which details how a series of events lead up to a plane crash in Wisteria Lane.
    • Season 7 has Down the Block There's a Riot, where a protest in Wisteria Lane erupts into a riot.
  • Plot Archaeology:
    • In the first season, Bree's son Andrew accidentally runs over Carlos's mother Juanita, an event that results in her death. The plot is seemingly resolved when Andrew is sent to a rehabilitation camp as punishment by his parents for his crime and various other transgressions. However, the plot is revived when Bree and Andrew confess to Gabby in the season 6 finale. Carlos eventually learns about Andrew's involvement in his mother's death in season 7, which leads to some hostility between him and Bree.
    • In the season 1 episode "Your Fault", Lynette and Tom's plot deals with the latter's father having an affair. At some point, Tom mentions to his father something that his wife Lynette is never supposed to know. The audience is led to believe that this has to do with Tom working with his ex-girlfriend, but we learn in the seventh season that this refers to a one-night stand Tom had with Renee Perry when he and Lynette were briefly broken up.
  • Poor Communication Kills: It would be impossible to list all the examples, but there are many.
  • Pretty in Mink: A few furs show up, notably the sable coat Bree wore to try to get Rex back. Hilarity Ensues
  • Retcon:
    • In Season 6, the existence of Rex's secret son, Sam, who was never mentioned before, and never by Rex, Rex's overbearing mother, or Rex's will after his death.
    • Katherine's extremely callous and abusive behavior got retconned, generally suggested because they decided to keep her on past Season 4, so it's forgotten that she tormented her aunt while she was dying in order to keep her secret...even though the secret is fully understandable and makes Katherine a hundred times more sympathetic.
  • Prison: Three of the four main husbands have done time there.
  • Self-Defense Ruse: In Season 4, Wayne, Katherine's abusive husband, brutally beats and nearly kills Adam and plans to take Dylan away after tracking them down. However, Katherine manages to get the gun from him and handcuffs him. When he brags that he'll escape the charges and poison Dylan against Katherine, Katherine shoots him. Her fellow housewives back her up about his abuse (which they, until now, hadn't been aware of) and she escapes any charges.
  • Serial Homewrecker: Edie is mentioned to have slept with lots of married men. However, late in Season 1 when Mike chooses Susan over her, she seems to actively prefer married men and men that specifically had been married to the housewives: in Season 2, she had an affair with Susan's ex Karl (now married to someone else), and she "steals" Gaby's husband Carlos, although the two are separated, in Season 3 which continues in Season 4; she even kisses Orson in Season 4. Lynette describes this as Edie's problem at the end of Season 4.
  • Stepford Suburbia
  • Story Arc: Investigation of Mary Alice's past... among other things. The number of subplot arcs in this show can make your head spin.
  • Suburban Gothic: In the apparently perfect suburb of Wisteria Lane, neighbors committed suicide, kept the dismembered body parts of a former drug addict under their pool for years so that they could raise her kidnapped son as their own, raised an Enfant Terrible, kept a falsely accused murderous son chained up in the basement, and murdered Gaby's abusive stepfather and cover up the crime.
  • Time Skip: The fourth season finale.
  • True Love Is Boring: Mike and Susan run afoul of this trope multiple times. The Scavos as well, which is also why it seems like Tom and Lynette actually aren't "true love" (despite being supposed to be).
  • Twist Ending: The show tries, but over time the twists have became easier and easier to spot, the worst being season 5, when everyone had the whole mystery figured after the first episode. Season 6 finally was able to pull off a surprise when it came to Patrick's demise thanks to red herrings and misleading spoilers.
    • In Season 5, it is explicitly stated from the start that Dave is planning to kill Mike, so the tension of this Season comes from Dramatic Irony, we watch as he gets close to the main characters, always knowing his motive.
  • The Unfair Sex: The females get away with crap that would get them put to death if they were males. Like throwing your spouse out a upstairs window because they caught you trying to con them out of all their money. And no, it never gets mentioned again.
    • When Tom finally stands up to Lynette, he calls her out on her controlling attitude and having the nerve to shoot him down everytime he actually makes a genuine decision for himself, despite her claims that she wants him to become more independent.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • What the heck happened to Karl's son?
    • In the finale, when Susan drives out of the neighbourhood while being watched by the ghosts of all the people who died throughout the serie, Edie is missing. This was due to Nicollette Sheridan still refusing to appear on the show because of her previous fall out with the director.
  • Where the Hell Is Fairview? Why, in the "Eagle State", of course. (Common consent seems to be that it is located somewhere around Indiana, and the show was filmed in Southern California).
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Trust us, it does not always take very long for the Fridge Logic to set in when you realize how much time has supposedly passed in between episodes, especially with the children's birthdays and ages. For example, Juanita is a year older than MJ, even though the episode where he was born happened before Gabby knew she was pregnant. Then there's Eddie, who seems to be the same age as the Scavo twins yet went to high school with Danielle, who was a teenager when the twins were little kids.
    • The Scavo twins were explicitly stated as being 8 in the season 3 finale. This would mean that they would be 9 at the end of season 4, then 14 at the beginning of season 5, due to the five-year jump. However, Lynette says in the season 5 premiere that they're 16.
    • Gabrielle says she is playing poker with the others for 8 years, including Mary Alice, who is dead 10 years at this point.
  • Zany Scheme: All the housewives like to cook up one quite often — with varying degrees of success... Susan is the most prone to Epic Fails in this department.


Video Example(s):


Towel Snagged by Car

Susan's towel gets stuck in a car door and is ripped off her as the car drives away.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / StrippingSnag

Media sources: