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YMMV / Desperate Housewives

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Character Tropes

  • Adorkable: Susan is desperately clumsy and short-sighted, but it makes her adorable at the same time.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Susan's relationship with Julie is meant to be a Wacky Parent, Serious Child dynamic, but Susan's constant overreacting every time Julie starts dating a boy raises a question of whether Susan is trying to make up for her lacklustre parenting when divorcing from Karl and protecting her daughter...or does Susan feel like Julie is the only thing that's ever turned out right for her (calling Julie the "perfect teenager" a number of times) and she can't stand to let Julie make any kind of mistake because it would make Susan look bad? Julie herself seems to lean towards the latter, given that when Susan calls her out on having an affair with a married man, dropping out of med school and working as a waitress, all without telling her, Julie retorts that the perfect girl Susan remembers doesn't exist and Julie didn't want any of the things that Susan wanted for her.
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  • Anti-Climax Boss: After taking a season's turn as the Big Bad, Felicia Tilman is killed in a fatal car crash while fleeing the wreckage of her final crime. It might be a fitting end for her, as Paul had her at his mercy and chose not to send her Martha's way, but her comeuppance taking such an arbitrary form is Laser-Guided Karma at its finest.
  • Badass Decay:
    • Katherine decayed a lot between Season 4 and Season 5, and somehow decayed even further in Season 6. She was the most ruthless, mysterious, possibly even villainous housewife...who suddenly fell madly in love with Mike although clearly only functioning as a Temporary Love Interest for him while he was separated from Susan. Then, come Season 6, she became an insane stalker.
    • Edie decayed a lot in Season 4. While she had previously been totally unapologetic and fierce (which caused her to be a bit of a Base-Breaking Character), she became obsessed with Carlos while he and Gaby were separated, even though it was clear to just about everybody that she was also only a Temporary Love Interest. Edie engaged in manipulative and borderline abusive behavior, such as faking her suicide and tampering with her birth control in order to trap Carlos. She also possibly decayed even more in Season 5, when she was married to Dave and filled a much more submissive and cowed role than previously, especially as the audience knew that Dave was only using Edie to get close to Mike and Susan.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Susan is the biggest example. Is she a clumsy, adorable, hilarious character, or is she a grating womanchild who is constantly described as so "great" and beautiful, and placed at the center of every plot? Less major examples include:
    • Juanita. Is she an unbelievably rude Spoiled Brat and a bully who plays Gaby and Carlos against each other, or is she a sassy, fun character who is the only person who is a match for Gaby?
  • Complete Monster ("Children and Art" through "The Little Things You Do Together"): Gloria Hodge is a sociopathic Control Freak hiding behind the appearance of a frail, religious woman. When her husband Edwin was discovered to have had an affair, Gloria murdered him in a staged suicide and pinned the blame on their son Orson. Through emotional blackmail, Gloria forced Orson to marry Alma following a pregnancy scare. When Orson found a lover in Monique Polier, Gloria staged Alma's disappearance to make everyone suspect Orson of having murdered her, she then killed Monique and forced Orson to help her dispose of the body, as well as run Mike over to cover their tracks. After Orson marries Bree, Gloria tricks her and Alma's way into Wisteria Lane, organizing her son's rape at the hands of Alma by drugging him so that the latter can conceive a child. When Orson tells Bree the truth about Monique's death, Gloria resolves to kill her as well, a decision that even Alma refuses to endorse. Gloria then locks Alma in the attic, not caring that she could be pregnant, and tries to kill a drugged Bree in another staged Bath Suicide before finally being stopped.
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  • Creator's Pet: Susan. Marc Cherry has made it clear that she's his favourite character. A lot of fans retaliated by speculating that her clumsiness finally killed her soon after the end of the series, given her strangely being left out of the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. Ironically, Teri Hatcher proved to be hugely unpopular among her co-stars. According to Daily Mail, the other leading actresses made a farewell card to thank the crew, and they left Teri's name out.
  • Designated Monkey: Although Edie Britt is something of a Jerkass (although all of the housewives have their moments), she is frequently blamed for situations in which it takes two to tango, such as when she's chased out of town for putting the moves on a husband (who was a consenting partner in the shenanigans). Then she gets further humiliated by being married to a man who has no interest in her and is only using her to get close to Mike and Susan, a couple she actually tried to break up many times.
  • Designated Hero: Most of the main housewives have many moments.
    • Susan was greatly disliked for letting Mike take the fall for Lila Dash's car accident in Season 5, although it was genuinely an accident, it was felt that her behavior followed a long pattern by Susan of being a jerk and being forgiven for it (e.g. burning down Edie's house while breaking in in Season 1, putting Julie's life at risk during the supermarket shooting in Season 3, demanding Gaby go on a date with her mentally unstable Stalker with a Crush to persuade him into paying bail for Mike, etc).
    • Bree telling Orson that she couldn't forgive him for knocking down Mike (who recovered and forgave Orson) was very divisive, with many fans pointing towards Bree's Holier Than Thou attitude and the fact that she covered up Andrew's hit-and-run of Mrs Solis, especially as she died. Orson at least calls her out on this hypocrisy.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Some see Edie as the unsung heroine of Wisteria Lane; a triumphant, independent bachelorette who takes what she wants and is unfairly victimised by Slut-Shaming. She's eventually shown to be a socially isolated woman whose man-hungry lifestyle has left her unfulfilled, and it's hard to blame the housewives for judging Edie's sexual appetite when half her paramours are married and the other half are her friends' exes.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Orson Hodge, who went from being a one-off character, to a short-term villain, to one of the main characters on the show. Karl Mayer also tends to top "favourite husband" polls, despite (or perhaps because of) his flaws.
    • The roles of Edie Britt and Karen McCluskey were increased when they proved popular with the fans.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In season 3, Nora's Death Equals Redemption by telling Lynette that her daughter was the "only good thing" she did in her life, only for Lynette to take care of Kayla on her request and discover that she's an Enfant Terrible.
    • A season 5 episode deals with Juanita wearing make up to school in order to look more like her mother Gabby. On being asked why she did it, Juanita claims that a couple of girls at school told her she couldn't possibly be Gabby's daughter as she wasn't pretty enough. Two seasons later, and it's revealed that Juanita isn't Gabby or Carlos' daughter; she was accidentally switched at birth.
    • Mrs. McCluskey dying of cancer in the finale is even sadder now that Kathryn Joosten herself died of cancer shortly after the show ended.
      • Of course, given the actress most likely knew she was terminally ill when the episode was written/filmed, it is highly possible that her character's fate was a case of Real Life Writes the Plot.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In the fifth episode of the show Lynette (as played by Felicity Huffman) bribes an elite preschool with $15k to get her twins in. This episode aired in 2004. Fifteen years later, Felicity Huffman would be indicted on federal charges for a scheme in which she paid $15k to a college “admissions counselor” to bump her daughter’s SAT score from 1020 to 1420 (out of 1600) so she could get into an elite university. She’s alleged to have had her daughter take the test under a proctor on the take (after being given extra time for having a fake learning disability) who’d then let someone else fix some of the answers for her. Ironically enough, Teri Hatcher, who didn’t get along with the rest of the ladies, does have a daughter who attends an elite University (Ivy League Brown) and got in on her own merits.
    • Katherine and Susan suffer a bad on-and-off one-sided rivalry for two seasons over Mike. In the 1996 film Fly Away Home, Katherine's actor, Dana Delany, played a character named Susan.
    • Not to mention that both actresses have played Lois Lane, and the actor playing Mike later voiced Superman in All-Star Superman. At the same time, Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Orson, voiced Superman in Justice League: The New Frontier.
    • And Lesley Ann Warren (Sophie, Susan's mother) played Lois Lane as well, in a 1975 TV special based on a 1966 musical called It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman. So Lois Lane is the mother of Lois Lane.
    • Speaking of Superman, Jessie (Susan's superior at the school in which she teaches in season 5, played by Swoosie Kurtz) gives a lesbian kiss to Susan. Kurtz voiced Martha Kent in Superman: Doomsday, which means Martha Kent and Lois Lane shared a lesbian kiss.
    • The Season Four subplot with Lynette, Tom and Kayla (specifically the episode "Mother Said") is eerily similar to the movie Orphan, especially Kayla tricking the shrink into thinking Lynette is abusive and using a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to drive a wedge between Tom and Lynette.
    • Season 3 deals with the subplot that Mike has lost his memories and Susan is struggling to make him remember her. In Lois & Clark where Teri Hatcher starred, an extremely similar plotline occurs where Teri's character Lois had lost her memories and her partner Clark tried to get them back for her.
  • Hollywood Homely:
    • Gabrielle supposedly loses her beauty after becoming a mom, but c'mon—this is Eva Longoria we're talking about. Not even sweats can make her look bad. It gets even more ridiculous when other characters comment that she's out of shape. Incidentally, she is not.
    • One episode of season five had Tom wanting to get plastic surgery to remove the large amount of wrinkles on his face. Coincidentally, that was the only episode that season where Tom's actor wore fake wrinkle makeup. Even though he chose against the surgery, he still looks ten years younger again the next episode.
    • Eddie really isn't a bad looking guy, but you'd think he was the town leper from how the girls recoil. Irina aside, the case could be made that his chronic romantic ineptitude is more down to his broken upbringing and lack of "game" than his physical appearance.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Christine Estabrook, who played Mrs. Huber, was referred to as the "fat lady" on the show. She is indeed, more rounded than the main characters but not overweight. She looks as though she keeps in good shape despite middle-aged softness. The actress however, does later play the mother of the very curvaceous (and above a US size 8) and sexy Joan Holloway Harris whom she shares in common regarding waist-to-hip ratio.
  • Iron Woobie: Bree. More like adamant woobie. She lost 3 husbands and 2 boyfriends, her son hated her with a passion for several seasons, her daughter doesn't like her much either, and she succumbed to alcoholism. She managed to get back on her feet each time, despite the odds, the people, and the universe working against her. That is, until season 8, when she finally snaps, and is on the verge of suicide a la Mary Alice by the end of the 9th episode.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Danielle Van De Kamp, if you think about it long enough - she's a Bratty Teenage Daughter, but when you look at the family's dynamic, her mother and brother are often pointlessly cruel to her, mocking her for being shallow and not very bright to her face and generally dismissing her. (Bree even admits she screwed up massively with the kids, but Andrew tends to get all the focus.) The only one who seems to have actually been nice to Danielle was Rex, then Bree and Rex have a very messy divorce and Rex then is murdered by George. Is it any wonder Danielle's so emotionally stunted and immature as a result?
  • Love to Hate: Karl is a sleazeball, but a relentlessly entertaining one.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Marc Cherry was disturbed, to say the least, that so many LGBT viewers took to Andrew Van de Kamp, whom he considered a sociopath. The disconnect was most evident in the second season, where Andrew's most despicable behavior coincided with an onslaught of praising fan-mail. Shawn Pyfrom, however, saw it as a good thing, commenting that, for all Andrew's flaws, he was always totally at ease with his sexual orientation and completely broke the stereotype of weak, ineffectual gay men.
  • Never Live It Down: Susan's detractors have a lot of arrows in their quiver, but her nearly crushing Danny beneath his car in early S6 is a sharp one.
    • In-Universe, the show has some fun with this. On a street full of Gossipy Hens with very long memories, old shames are inevitably dredged up from time to time. Gaby's affair with John is still thrown in her faces years after the scandal, as are Andrew's tyrannical teenage years, among other examples.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Renee (introduced in Season 6) for Edie, who had been a main character from seasons 1-5. She was placed at the front of all publicity materials but it was felt that her character was neither as well fleshed out nor as entertaining as Edie, being a much more one-dimensional Rich Bitch.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Renee Perry is considered this by some. The fact that the promotional posters all featured Vanessa Williams in the front and center did not go done well amongst those who felt her character stole much of the spotlight.
    • Susan for much of the fandom due to her frequent clumsiness, childishness and stupidity, particularly during the final season. She also gets Easily Forgiven for a ridiculous amount of things, including at one point being romantically involved with three men (Karl, Mike and the Doctor who was into her during Season Two) and essentially pimping Gaby out to Zach Young to try and persuade him to pay Mike's bail. She's also a very hypocritical and inappropriate parent with Julie, constantly discussing her sex life around her daughter, but then blows up and overreacts every time Julie shows romantic interest in boys and then gets upset when Julie goes to Edie for sexual health questions instead of her. She also reacts like a spoiled child whenever anybody criticises her, like storming off in the mountains alone after the trail guide calls her out on her Drama Queen tendencies (only to get rescued by Mike) or demanding Mike get rid of his "overbearing" mother when said mother points out Susan should learn how to cook and clean properly as a grown woman and/or get a better paying job so Mike isn't forced to work himself to the bone to support her, himself, Julie and the baby. (And when Mike hurt his back doing so, he got addicted to painkillers, which Susan utterly freaked out about and chose to blame Mike and Orson instead of thinking to put less pressure on her husband.)
    • Lee for being a drama stirring, generally unpleasant person who took any opportunity to put someone (his husband included) down.
    • Tom Scavo. He's an insufferable manchild who is constantly concocting harebrained schemes that either fail or cause his family to lose money, and he's so insecure that often he treats Lynette insensitively. The fact that he does this over and over again gets very annoying - initially wanting to be a stay-at-home dad, then open a pizza restaurant, then wanting to go to college, then wanting plastic surgery...
    • Ana, for being a spoiled brat who never really goes through any meaningful Character Development, constantly mouths off to Gaby, acts superior to Julie because she thinks she's prettier and generally is a stuck up Pretty Freeloader. Fans didn't mourn her when she was Put on a Bus to become a model.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Patrick Logan in Season 6; a great actor and a charismatic villain is wasted on an uninspired echo of the Wayne Davis plotline. He doesn't even show up until the season is nearly over.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: The characters can act so unsympatheticaly that it's hard to pick one side in their conflicts at times. Bree cannot accept her son Andrew's homosexuality and tries to cure him but Andrew is also a big jerkass who would do anything to piss off his mother and that's only one early example. Overall, the neighbourhood goes through so much crap that there's no hope of getting a happy life.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Paul Young. Granted he killed the woman who drove his wife to suicide but it is difficult not to feel at least a little sorry for him given the estrangement of his son, his long stay in prison and the constant hostility and distrust of the people who were supposedly his friends and neighbours. In fact, read that back. His most unsympathetic trait is that he killed the woman who blackmailed his wife into shooting herself.
    • She was made to be kind of an abrasive Jerkass about it, but Nina, Lynette's boss, isn't wrong to get annoyed that Lynette constantly keeps trying to leave work to go attend to her children's various demands when Lynette swore up and down she wouldn't let her family life interfere with her professional life. Once or twice is understandable, but Lynette has a husband who works at home and there's no real reason she has to be the one to go to her son's first day of school, for example. When Lynette eventually manages to get Nina fired, she gets Laser-Guided Karma in the form of her new boss, whom Nina gleefully tells Lynette is going to be her most "demanding child yet".
    • Adele, Mike's mother, is supposed to come off like an overbearing busybody, but she actually raises perfectly good points that Susan should really learn to cook and clean her own house as a full-grown adult, and that if Susan got a decent-paying job instead of part time work as an illustrator (which we rarely see her doing), Mike wouldn't be working himself to the bone trying to support not only himself and Susan, but Julie and the unborn baby as well. Mike even ended up hooked on painkillers because he hurt his back working so much, but Susan gives him No Sympathy about it and instead blames it all on Mike and Orson instead of taking into account how her demanding behaviour impacted her husband. (Adele didn't know about this, granted, but her point is swept under the rug because Susan forces Mike to get rid of her.)
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Katherine Mayfair in Season 6, who, after being rejected by Mike, goes insane. She generally acts like a bitch to Bree, who then fires her, but she's treated as a nutcase. Later, however, she is shown framing Mike for attempted murder, complete with her pointing to him as the ambulance drives off. He is arrested. Later, after Susan exposes her as a nutcase, all of the major women show up to forgive her for going crazy. Susan is reluctant, but does so. The show goes to great lengths to show that Katherine was desperately lonely and in need of affection, and, in fact, Mike is criticized when he doesn't want anything to do with her, when she framed him for assault and didn't even apologize.
    • Orson Hodge in Season 6 is furious that Bree cheated on him with Karl and calls her a whore. Pretty rich coming from the guy who blackmailed Bree into staying married to him because he still loved her, acting like he could just force her to love him again. It's also highly hypocritical of him considering that Orson had an ongoing affair with Monique when he was unhappily married to Alma, yet he does exactly the same thing to Bree and acts all shocked that she does what he did in the same situation.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Eva Longoria playing a former catwalk model. She is an extremely beautiful woman, yes, but she is also 5' 2". Although, Rule of Funny prevails when the catwalk model is the shortest woman in the main cast.

Episode-Specific Tropes

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Invoked at the end of the season 3 episode "The Miracle Song", was Arthur telling Lynette the truth about being a pedophile, or was he lying as a means of getting back at her by scaring her?
  • Ass Pull: Mike's death, heartbreaking as it may be, was still dealt with in a rather ridiculous way. First, he needlessly puts himself in danger by walking into a house that's being robbed instead of just calling the police, and proceeds to piss off the intruder he knows is from the mafia. The crowner however is when members of that mafia decides to kill him by driving through the street in broad daylight and shoot him for anyone to see on the off chance that he's out on his porch at that moment. What kind of mafia were we talking about here?
  • Fridge Brilliance: Season 6 finale: Why did Angie spill one of her precious seconds by throwing the car door shut? To keep Patrick in the car.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The shooter in 'Bang' played Debbie Salt aka Mrs. Loomis, one of the main killers in Scream 2.
    • This line from "Is This What You Call Love?" is funny in hindsight of the 2016 election:
    Gabrielle: Sexual harassment? Are you kidding me? She's a 9-year-old with a crush, not a presidential hopeful.
  • Narm: Angie saying "Rimanga bene" while she's at the phone with her mother. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Italian can tell you that this greeting makes no sense. Angie should have said something like "Stammi bene", which is the equivalent of "Take care".
  • Nightmare Fuel: The riot against the ex-convicts home which Paul Young set up. Including having Susan trampled, Lee and Bob trapped in a car which is being beat up, Juanita, a child screaming in terror whilst in the car, and the good old fashioned claustrophobia of being pushed along by masses of people. For parents, there is also Juanita being lost in the mob. This was surprisingly scary stuff for a normally comedy and drama driven show.
    • The reveal that Karen has been keeping her dead husband in the freezer for years in order to keep recieving his pension checks.
  • Wangst: The first half of Season 8. Oh so much. Especially considering how they handled everything else they've been through for the past seven seasons.

Show-Wide Tropes

  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • Season 5: Edie died, her husband turned out to be psychotic and hellbent on revenge against Mike and Susan for killing his wife and young daughter, and tried to kill MJ (although he changed his mind). None of this is ever mentioned again.
    • Season 6: So the sweet Woobie everyone's known for years turns out to be the town serial killer, who holds Lynette hostage, delivers her baby, and turns himself in. Meanwhile, the new neighbor blows up a guy in a car right in front of your house and takes off. Yet the next day, all anyone cares to talk about is that Susan is moving ten blocks away. Just another week on Wisteria Lane...
  • First Instalment Wins: The show is often praised for its fantastic pilot, and the first season in general comes highly rated. Weaker mysteries, repetitive storylines, and the exaggeration of character quirks to the point of unlikeable protagonists — Susan in particular — let the following seasons down.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The numerous episodes of Lynette's college worries for her kids. Felicity Huffman was one of the people implicated in Operation Varsity Blues in 2019, paying thousands of dollars to cheat her daughter's way to college admission.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: Just about every season other than the first were criticized for following the same plot line: a stranger moves to the Lane, they have a dark past linked to their hometown but the main "new" housewife isn't a villain and, after a season of misdirection, the bad guys get their comeuppance and the mystery never gets mentioned again. It's worth noting this wasn't largely panned until Season 6, however (which also followed this plotline) was perhaps the most widely derided that followed this pattern, with plenty of people loving Seasons 2-4 despite the similarities.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Patrick Fabian (Howard Hamlin from Better Call Saul) played Frank, Renee's hairdresser whom Lynette has a brief relationship with.
    • A very young Armie Hammer appears in Season Four as Mike's drug dealer.
    • Dylan Mayfair is Katie from Kick-Ass.
    • Lynette's sister Lydia is the title character of Series/Ratched.
    • Karl's new girlfriend in season 1 is Amber from House, M.D..
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: Mike and Susan in the fifth season. The inevitability that they were going to get back together seemed to have spoiled the season for a lot of people.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • Some fans have noted a decline in quality in season five, pointing to the Lighter and Softer tone, repetitive episodic plotlines, and the much more generic feel.
    • Season 8 was criticized by many because of characters behaving absurdly (especially Susan), various Ass Pull shockers ( Orson becoming a murderous stalker, Mike's death and so on) and a highly divisive finale with the four housewives leaving Wisteria Lane for good.
  • Strangled by the Red String:
    • Carlos and Edie in Season 3, which felt like a pretty desperate attempt to Pair the Spares following Gaby and Carlos's breakup, which only confirmed that Gaby and Carlos getting back together was inevitable.
    • Mike and Katherine in Season 5. It felt inevitable that Mike and Susan were going to get back together so watching Katherine behave so clingily - and, even worse in Season 6, when she apparently went insane over Mike breaking up with her - it felt so sudden and the lack of chemistry between them didn't help.
      • Katherine and Robin, since it was clear from the start that it was just included because the writers needed a way to wrap up Katherine's storyline and she showed no prior attraction to any woman before Robin. Robin also becomes very protective and caring of Katherine after knowing her for a few weeks at most and being aware Katherine was briefly in a mental institution, yet rushes into a romance with her about an episode later.
  • Testosterone Brigade: Just read the first sentence on the main page. At the height of its popularity, ABC even ran an ad with a guy admitting he watched it... and (unconvincingly) claiming that it was for the story. Riiiiiight.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Season 5. While many people were intrigued by the possibilities of revealing the Big Bad in the beginning of the season (Dave Williams) and his motive, it was entwined with a series of very unpopular plot lines that coincided with blowing up popular ships or characters or manufacturing drama - for instance, making Orson a villain, and "dowdying" Gaby - were very unpopular.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Celia Solis, who has next to no characterization after her introduction despite numerous storylines that could have affected her (the switch at birth incident with her sister, the Ana storyline etc.)
    • Kayla Huntington, once she's revealed to be an Enfant Terrible, is promptly packed off to live with Nora's parents and never heard from again. Tom having a child who hates Lynette could have been used for a lot of interesting ideas but Tom seems to totally forget he has another daughter. Apparently there were originally plans for Kayla to return but they got scrapped.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Mary Alice and Edie were never seen interacting with each other in any of the flashbacks.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The Turn of the Millennium variant:
    • The series started in the early 2000s so cellphones look accordingly dated in the early seasons. Averted with the tablets used in season 8 (2011-2012), which look like something one would still use nowadays.
    • Tom is proud to have met "The Donald" in season 7, back when he wasn't yet campaigning to become POTUS and was not the subject of a continuous flow of controversy.
    • A lesser example, but some of the outfits the characters wear (especially in the early seasons) are very of that era, such as Edie's chunky jewellery, Gaby's velour tracksuits, etc.


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