Time really flies on Wisteria Lane
A lot can happen in five years. Just look at “Desperate Housewives.”
Creator Marc Cherry says the series had become a little too soapy, and it was time to clean the scum off the tub. So at the end of last season, he hit the fast-forward button into the future after getting inspiration from ABC’s time-jumping series “Lost.”
“I was originally going to do an eight-year jump,” Cherry says. “But then when someone explained to me how the actresses would react to the idea that they were eight years older, I thought maybe five. Maybe I could get away with five.”
The move forward brought drastic changes for the women of Wisteria Lane and the men in their lives.
“Susan is not the same Susan,” says Teri Hatcher, who plays that character on the show. “She’s suffered and changed her thinking about a lot of things.”
And the days of klutzy humor for which she was known might be behind dear Susan as “Desperate Housewives” embarks on its fifth season Sunday.
Some things won’t change. Deceased housewife Mary Alice still is the show’s narrator. And as with previous seasons, there will be a mystery: Edie (Nicollette Sheridan) has married a man (Neal McDonough) with revenge on his mind.
When we first met these suburbanites, they all had their own desires: Bree wanted to be the perfect homemaker, Lynette believed she could be a successful businesswoman and mother, Gaby yearned for a world that revolved solely around her, and Susan pursued a happily-ever-after romantic fantasy.
Susan’s new story line is “a shocker,” says Bob Daily, an executive producer, referring to the dissolution of her relationship with Mike (James Denton). “We’ll learn in the first episode what happened between her and Mike, and it’s a tragic incident. She’s more cynical now and has gone from someone who wanted fairy tale romance to someone who just wants to keep her new relationship casual.”
Susan’s new boyfriend, played by Gale Harold, wants a more committed relationship than she does. As for Mike, he’s still around.
“We had hoped to keep that more of a secret, but it got out quickly that James Denton would be returning to the show,” Daily says.
Producers have discussed a career shift for Susan, who illustrates children’s books, “but right now, we’re just dealing with her sorting out her romantic life,” Daily says.
Susan’s not the only one going through dramatic changes. Gaby (Eva Longoria Parker) has transformed from a selfish, rich fashionista to a cash-strapped mom caring for her blind husband.
“All the things she held dear, she’s lost. And on top of it all, she’s got a 5-year-old daughter with a weight problem,” Daily says. “There’s a lot of fertile ground here. She’s lost her social standing, and she’s ready to do what she has to do to claw her way back up.”
And that’s fine with Longoria Parker, who says she’s excited about playing a non-glammed Gaby.
“She does have her past when she was a runway model,” Longoria Parker says. “So in her frumpiness, there are efforts to be glamorous and it’s just tragic. But, yeah, I have butt pads and stomach pads and boob pads.”
With Gaby and Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) having two young children now, there’s a fresh crop of kids on Wisteria Lane, including Susan’s 5-year-old son with Mike.
Other changes include recasting the young actors playing the Scavo children. Lynette (Felicity Huffman) must deal with her twins, who have grown from vaguely destructive youngsters into criminally destructive teens. She and her husband, Tom (Doug Savant), struggle to regain the upper hand with their rambunctious boys.
“The stakes have been raised, and she realizes this could be the last chance she and Tom have to leave a positive imprint on them,” Daily says. “And she’s overcompensating for what happened with the boys with a different approach in raising her daughter.”
Bree (Marcia Cross) built a business empire aimed at stay-at-home moms after she and her husband, Orson (Kyle MacLachlan), suffered financial setbacks.
“She’s basically leaving her own home to tell other women to stay at home,” Daily says. In the process, she has son Andrew (Shawn Pyfrom) take on the role of the hatchet man so she can keep herself above the dirty side of business.
Cross says she couldn’t be happier with the change.
“I was really looking for her to get out of the house,” Cross says. “I mean, she’s going to get out of the house with her muffins, but at least she’s getting out of the house.”
And Bree is taking former rival Katherine (Dana Delany) with her. Because the actor playing Katherine’s former husband (Nathan Fillion) will be in the new midseason ABC series “Castle,” it’s unlikely he will be seen on Wisteria Lane.
“Katherine’s now working with Bree in the catering business and watching jealously as Bree’s career takes off with the publication of her new cookbook,” Daily says. “Also, Katherine’s going to have a very interesting new love interest around the time of November sweeps.”
And, as with “Lost,” a final act has been announced for “Desperate Housewives”: The series will end after its seventh season.
“I think we’re going to get out while people still like us,” Cherry says. “Of course, this could be some clever ruse on my part to get tremendous amounts of money for Season 8.”
Season premiere: 9 p.m. Sunday, ABC