The first time I watched Desperate Housewives,a camp comedy-drama about a group of women who live on the most cursed street in America, I was 14 years old. My friend, already a convert, made me watch a season-four episode in which a tornado hits Wisteria Lane and neatly ties up some pesky narrative threads. I had no clue what was happening: Why was there a tornado in this show that I thought from the advertising was about hot bitchy women eating apples? What are the real-world chances of a man being impaled [ɪm’peɪl] by a rogue white-picket fence in the most picture-perfect Lynchian visual metaphor? Andwho exactly was this smug know-it-all talking over everything?
With the help of a very grainy, very mid-aughts streaming service, I then watched Desperate Housewives from the start and learned that this woman was not just a narrator — like how Ron Howard is the narrator of Arrested Development for some reason — but an actual ghost. In the first episode of Desperate Housewives, in an act of desperation, Mary Alice Young takes her own life to protect a terrible secret, narrating her own grisly end. In death she’s assigned the role of surveyor of everything, destined to watch every boring and horrific thing her friends do for all eternity. Opening a show with something so shocking and imbuing it with camp felt groundbreaking, and I soon learned that at its core, Desperate Housewives is a melodramatic exercise in extremes.