Desperate Housewives

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Imagine sitting down at a friendly neighborhood dinner party, and the hostess spices up the conversation with this delightful icebreaker: ”Rex cries after he ejaculates.” Hey, beats the hell out of ”Pass the salt.” Such audacity — plus one supremely gripping mystery — is what made the ABC series Desperate Housewives such an immediate sensation. To prepare you for the sophomore season kicking off Sept. 25, we went through the season 1 DVD, picking out the best and worst episodes and uncovering a few other secrets of Wisteria Lane. (Do they ever end?)

The Best

PILOT The moment that DH declared itself a fresh and exciting new offering was not when the seemingly perfect Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) blew her brains out, but when neighbor Martha Huber (Christine Estabrook) went over to investigate, and — after seeing the dead body — stole the woman’s blender! Brilliant. And exasperated moms across the country found a new hero when Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) strode fully clothed into a swimming pool at Mary Alice’s wake to forcibly remove her terrible tykes.

WHO’S THAT WOMAN I swear this didn’t make the cut only because of Edie’s (Nicollette Sheridan) infamous car washing bit. (Of course, that certainly didn’t hurt its candidacy.) In an extended version of this episode, we are treated to new opening and closing scenes that get at the heart of Mrs. Huber’s financial desperation, with her going so far as asking her comatose mother to die so she can get some cold hard cash.

GUILTY Oh, Mrs. Huber, you’ll never have to worry about money again. Just as noteworthy as her death is a scene that didn’t make it in — between a robed Detective Shaw (Richard Roundtree) and Edie in skimpy lingerie — shot before Monday Night Football’s Towelgate but never aired. We’ll take John Shaft over Terrell Owens any day.

CHILDREN WILL LISTEN The show at its darkest — and most intriguing. Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) physically forces Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) to sign a post-nup, and we get our first full-fledged Housewife feud after Bree (Cross) spanks one of Lynette’s sons. Hurts so good.

ONE WONDERFUL DAY A truly aces season finale, in that — unlike some other shows (did someone say Lost?) — most of the main questions were actually answered. Bree’s initial denial and ultimate despair over Rex’s (Steven Culp) death was pitch-perfect, and learning Mary Alice’s secret was both shocking and satisfying…although I’m still not sure why she just didn’t adopt.

The Worst

SUSPICIOUS MINDS For a lame episode involving a fashion show, we can watch The O.C., thanks. Even the voice-over in this one (”People are complicated creatures…”) is cheesier than usual.

YOUR FAULT Lynette finds out her father-in-law (Ryan O’Neal) is a cheater. (Yawn.) Then we learn that husband Tom (Doug Savant) has a deep, dark secret too — which must not be all that important, since we never hear about it again.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR I understand this show requires considerable suspension of disbelief, but would Mike (James Denton) really go out to a romantic dinner after being shot in the side? That’s just bloody stupid.

The Bonus Bits

Meredith Vieira must be a big fan, as she hosts two featurettes. She also offers up the set’s most confusing moment, asking creator Marc Cherry who will survive the gunshot when Mike encounters Zach at the end of the season finale (one problem: there is no gunshot). Cherry’s commentaries are pretty dry, but the ladies liven things up. ”This has never actually happened to me,” says Cross about Rex rejecting Bree’s sexual advance, ”but I’m sure it wouldn’t be pleasant.” And Hatcher on her nude plunge into the shrubs: ”That is not a comfortable thing, let me tell you — lying with branches up your you know what.” In another extra, the writers discuss ideas for season 2. ”Do we have her start to have a nervous breakdown?” asks Cherry about Bree. ”Or do we go straight to alcoholism?” (We vote for the former.) And leave it to Huffman to reveal the most shocking secret of all — how a man like Cherry can write so well for female characters: ”He’s got a vagina in his brain.”