DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES “Flashback” Season 7 Episode 14 – So after a brief winter hiatus of reruns, Desperate Housewives is back in full swing. FULL DISCLOSURE: When I got this Daemon’s TV gig, one of the series up for grabs was this one. Since I had watched and moderately enjoyed the pilot season of Desperate Housewives, some seven years ago, I decided to give it another crack.

I knew ahead of time I was getting back into a series that is, in a nutshell, all about the Lie Of The Week. Here’s the formula: housewife (insert Bree/Lynette/Susan/Gabrielle) lies to / is lied to by (insert spouse or neighbor) and hijinks ensue. Less commonly, it’s a simple misunderstanding in which everyone is telling the truth, and one of the characters is either just blind or stupid. Each episode equally features the four redoubtable housewives, so each week we have four separate stories about four different forms of deception and/or comical misunderstanding. (Sometimes five if one of the background players gets his or her own mini-thread, but there are usually four tales for each of the four leads.)

The episodes are narrated by the long-dead Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), who simply refuses to leave Wisteria Lane. (Or at least her voice does. Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing her actually start haunting the bloody place.) She leads us into each episode and, at episode’s end, ties each story thread together in one neat little thematic package. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Far be it for me to pooh-pooh a working formula. And though the season debut opened with its weakest ratings in series history, it has since performed strongly. So with the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” adage firmly in place, we’re not likely to see any real change.

I’m hoping the increased ratings aren’t credited to the insertion of Vanessa Williams to the cast, as she’s not only terrible, but terribly out-of-place. Williams looks about as comfortable in a middle-class cul-de-sac as “The Situation” looked on Dancing With The Stars, which is to say not at all. ABC should whisk her away, stick her back in uptown Manhattan where she belongs, and give her her own show that I don’t have to watch.

The show has yet to solve the “Edie Void,” created once the only character anyone could really root for, Edie Britt (Nicolette Sheridan) was killed off. They keep trying and failing to find that elusive “Fifth Beatle.” Edie was probably the most honest character the show has ever had, save for the bluntly unrealistic Mike “the hot everyman” Delfino (James Denton), especially since the rest of the female leads seem to be able to lie with equal ease.

But hey, if morally bankrupt lead characters were a problem, Gossip Girl would not enjoy the success it has. So clearly that appeals to some people. (At least the ladies of Desperate Housewives seem to pay for each deception – usually by the end of the each episode.)

So where are our stories right now? Here’s my primer:

Lynette (a wry Felicity Huffman) and her stay-at-home weenie of a husband Tom (Doug Savant, graduating badly from Melrose Place) are being put upon by Lynette’s mother Stella (Polly Bergen) and her new husband, a rude-as-I-wanna-be millionaire named Frank (a rude-as-I-wanna-be Larry Hagman, who clearly can’t wait for Dallas to get the reboot). During a forced family photo session, Frank up and dies. Stella then talks Lynette into keeping the corpse at their home overnight so she can legally inherit Frank’s money. Thus far it’s working, though Stella is now exhibiting Frank-like behavior. That won’t somehow go south, right?

Susan (the still-annoying Teri Hatcher, who always looks like she’s ready to burst into tears even when she’s gleefully happy) is still living in an apartment away from Wisteria Lane. Worse she has kidney failure, but is surprised to find an old high school acquaintance, a sad sack named Monroe (Dave Foley, clearly missing the other Kids In The Hall) is a match and willing to donate a kidney to her. She quickly discovers Monroe has long had an obsession for her, generating the episode’s single funny line, “There’s close … and then there’s Glenn Close,” and as soon as she tells him she cannot reciprocate his feelings he takes the offer off the table. I don’t think this stalker is going away for long, however.

Bree (Marcia Cross, also graduated from Melrose Place, still gorgeous and still playing the prim role better than most) and her current midlife crisis fling Keith (Brian Austin Green doing a bad Mike Delfino impression) are still hot and heavy. This is complicated by the arrival of Keith’s ex-girlfriend (Rochelle Aytes, a natural beauty probably not used to playing such a plain girl’s role) and the revelation that she secretly had a son by him. Bree’s first instinct is a cover-up using money (her go-to weapon), but her moral compass gets the better of her and she reveals the truth to Keith. My hope is they get rid of Keith (the chemistry is terrible) and find a real match for Cross’s skill.

Gabrielle (the snappy Eva Longoria) is now forced into therapy because of an unhealthy obsession she’s developed for a doll (the “replacement” she’s been using for losing her natural child Grace). The therapist tries to get Gabrielle to open up about her childhood, but Gabrielle refuses; Gabrielle deceives her husband Carlos (a disinterested-looking Ricardo Antonio Chavira) and, in pure Gaby style, ends up in “massage therapy” instead. Gabrielle is probably the most cartoonish character on the show, though I forgive that because she usually gets the best lines. (In an earlier episode, Bree hits Gaby’s fat daughter with her car, and Gabrielle quips, “Didn’t see her? How could you miss her?”)

So there’s where we are now. It’s anyone’s guess where we’re going, but my bet is that lying to a spouse will somehow be involved.

Crazy housewives are invited to follow me on Twitter! That’s @Axechucker, you freaky yentas!