DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES “Searching” Season 7 Episode 15 – As per the norm, Desperate Housewives tries to tie one theme together to weave through its stories. “Searching” was about just that—people searching for a way to fill some void inside.

I think what the show should probably do first is search for some new writers. Because that’s the primary void that needs to be filled here.

I’ve spent some time in previous reviews talking about the occasional lapses in acting this storied franchise has recently found itself damaged by. I have, in fact, never been a fan of Teri Hatcher, and usually see her as the weak link in any of the series’ attempts at storytelling. We all remember how the series was originally spun, right? Susan Delfino was the “naked and clumsy” one. True to form, Susan wound up naked yet again in this episode during a vain attempt at woodland romance with Mike (a wearied James Denton), scrambling for her clothes—

—Aside: Has any single character in television ever been forced to scramble for her clothes more often than Susan Delfino? It happens so much it’s basically the show’s go-to running gag.

Anyway. What I’m trying to say is this episode, like many of the more recent ones, was weak. Except this time the onus didn’t lie in the acting. This time I found little if any fault in Hatcher’s performance, and even saw a glimmer of good ol’ fashioned depth during Susan’s “I’m not giving up on life” speech to a dejected Mike.

But the writing needs to improve, and I’m not sure it can without some sort of overhaul. As it currently stands, each primary Housewife (Susan, Bree, Lynette, Gabrielle) gets her own story thread in each episode. Add to those the story threads of various guest stars whose stories sometimes sort of tie in with one of the Housewife’s (Vanessa Williams’ Renee Perry shared time tonight with Felicity Huffman’s Lynette Scavo) or sometimes sort of try to stand on their own (Emily Bergl’s Beth Young was alone with her troubles except for a brief encounter with Marcia Cross’s Bree Van de Kamp) …

What you end up with is too little screen time for each story. The writing races through encounters and scenes at a madcap pace, inserting either timed punchlines or quickened attempts at soul gazing. No one behaves or converses as normal people should, so rushed are they to get from point A. to point D. You can almost hear the director yell, “Okay! Bree! You’re perplexed! Now you’re distracted! And now determined! Cut! Wrap!”

What suffers the most is the drama. It’s hard to become invested if we’re just watching everything just race by. It feels as though whole chunks of conversations were left on the editing room floor. And this doesn’t fall on the actors at all, because they’re doing what the script calls for; the equivalent of a runway model’s rapid-fire clothing changes … except these actors are forced to emote instead of strut (and they don’t have a convenient screen to quickly go change behind).

I think the obvious solution is less guests. Less of a parade of people. If Desperate Housewives is still as beloved as the ratings say it is, people are not tuning in to see Dakin Matthews (even though Dakin Matthews is excellent) give us his ironically raised eyebrow. They tune in for Susan, Bree, Lynette, and Gabrielle. I still don’t know why Vanessa Williams is here. Seriously.

When the series began, back in the day, it was primarily an odd little drama with touches of dark (even gallows) humor affixed. Wisteria Lane, at its heart, was that prettily-perfect-and-slightly-creepy little cul de sac, something you’d expect to see a Stepford wife in, with maybe Edward Scissorhands lurking around the next bush, just out of sight. (Danny Elfman’s opening credit score helped with that image.)

And I think the “just out of sight” part has escaped Desperate Housewives; that little dash of secrecy seems to be gone, traded for a plain old messed-up neighborhood. And really, after so many dead bodies, burnt houses, tornadoes, plane crashes …

It’s hard for that “tranquil surface” illusion to maintain.

Maybe a lot of people still tune in for the humor. That hasn’t lagged too much. Best line of the night: “That girl’s so good at violin she’s practically Asian!”

Ah, Gabrielle. We can still count on you to be wonderfully shallow. If only the kid who played your kid could act.

Not much else highlighted. Oh, the Susan-needs-a-kidney dilemma was conveniently solved with Beth’s donation-via-suicide. Which is good, because that whole thing was wearing thin.

I guess we’ll see next episode if Beth left some sort of note behind to implicate Paul. If not, Beth was as big a waste as her mom thought she was.

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