On ''Desperate Housewives,'' Gabrielle nearly gets caught, Bree tries to lie to her kids, and Susan and Edie catfight over widower Mike. Do mean girls ever grow up?

By Jeremy Helligar
October 23, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Desperate Housewives: Bob D'Amico
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”Desperate Housewives”: Grown-up mean girls

Thank God for mean girls. And no, we’re not talking about Lindsay Lohan and the flawlessly manicured Plastics. No, the desperate housewives of Wisteria Lane could outscheme those poor Barbie dolls in their sleep. And after the extreme sappiness that marks each new episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, there’s no better antidote for a sugar high than four bitches on heels with revenge (and often sex) on their minds.

And don’t get me started on Nicolette Sheridan’s goddess in heat. (Too late!) She’s like the campus queen bee 20 years later. In fact, the way Sheridan’s Edie and Teri Hatcher’s Susan compete for the attention of hunky widower Mike is not much different from how Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams tussled for the attention of the boy with dreamy eyes and floppy hair in Mean Girls the movie. One gets hit by a bus; the other’s house catches on fire.

Ah, kids! Every home — and hit TV series — should have some. And on Desperate Housewives they are in large supply. Poor Lynette (Felicity Huffman) has twin boys who have ADD and terrorize their schoolmates with blue paint. Susan’s daughter encourages her to make her move on Mike and later gives Mom more advice about life, love, and how to deal with a blackmailing neighbor lady. (Hey, what teen doesn’t? But when did Mom become the kid in this relationship?) Meanwhile, Bree (Marcia Cross) has yet to tell her kids about the dissolution of their parents’ marriage. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist: ”This marriage is so over,” the daughter declares, just before the son storms out in anger. Clearly, they’ve never seen the statistics on marriage. Half of them end of divorce. Like, didn’t they see it coming?

And of course, there’s John, the high-school-student gardener with abs and buns of steel. So what if the actor playing him looks like he’s closer to 30 than 20? We suspend our disbelief and buy that he’s an oversexed teen who’s banging oversexed Gabrielle. Hey, here’s an idea for an interesting plot twist: While fortyish Edie and Susan fight for the attention of Mike, the not-so-grieving widower notices that Gabrielle is actually the hottest woman on Wisteria Lane and starts fighting with the kid for space on her mattress.

But back to the mean girls. The kids are bratty indeed, but really, are these grown women any better? They plot; they scream; they play with fire; they get drunk on wine in the middle of the afternoon. ”I hate Susan Mayer,” Edie announces with all the conviction of a wronged prom queen. And Bree’s showdown with her son outside his bedroom door is cringe worthy because of the way he turns the tables on her, accusing her of driving Dad away before closing the door in her face. Suddenly, she’s the misbehaving brat. But doesn’t her son know who he’s dealing with? This is Kimberly from Melrose Place — one of the scariest women ever to hit prime time. Hey, dude, your mom tried to poison your dad! You’d better improve your attitude around here.

Lynette’s family, for all her kids’ rambunctiousness, is far more respectable. But she’s saddled with the dullest story line. This is tired sitcom stuff. Rowdy kids. Loving but boring husband. Career woman turned stay at home mom who feels undervalued and unfulfilled. She’s been to paradise, but she’s never been to Me. At least not since she gave up her corner office for a toilet plunger. Lynette is the only desperate housewife who’s acting her age — and Huffman suffers for it.

Far more interesting is Gabrielle, whose hubby, Carlos, interrogates her about a mystery sock under their bed. She’s the most deliciously cunning of the bunch, making the maid pretend she cleans with socks. That’s the kind of excuse that would never work with your parents. But it leads to one of the funniest scenes of the night: Carlos, a brawny bully and the show’s least likable character, punches out the man he thinks is having an affair with his wife before noticing the Gypsy posters on his wall. (What, no Mame?)

Too bad someone doesn’t wallop Susan, who plays the ultimate high school game for all the wrong reasons. She pretends not to like Mike because a nosy neighbor has discovered her secret (the one that involves fighting fire with fire). Clearly, Susan knows how to lose a guy in 10 days. Girlfriend, this isn’t high school any more. Act like you don’t like him, and he just might believe you. After all, life is short. The older you get, the less appealing chasing the unattainable becomes. Especially when you’ve got hot-blooded Edie chasing your tail. But alas, Mike seems to have eyes only for Susan.

Only on TV.

So is it just me or does the ”was it suicide or was it murder?” story line bog the show down? Note to the writers: Let’s focus on the mean girls, please.

What do you think? Does the show need more whodunit or more who’s doing who? And so far, who’s your favorite wife?

Eva Longoria Parker, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, and Felicity Huffman star in the soap set on the dangerous Wisteria Lane
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