"Desperate Housewives" starts its final lap


"Desperate Housewives" has done wonders for ABC and for TV viewers, bringing fresh style to a tired landscape. Today, it confirmed that this is its final season; here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

For “Desperate Housewives,” the
farewell phase is beginning.

“The only thing harder than creating
a hit series is knowing when to end it,” Marc Cherry said.

Now he's decided. On Friday, Cherry –
the show's creator and producer – called cast members, to tell them
that the upcoming season will be the last; on Sunday, he made it
official. “I want to go out in the classiest way possible,” he
told the Television Critics Association.

Paul Lee, the ABC programming chief,
called the upcoming season “a victory lap” for the series. ABC
will have had an exit strategy for the two shows that revived it.

Within 11 days of each other in 2004,
“Lost” and “Desperate” debuted, bringing buzz to a low-buzz
network. A half-year later, “Grey's Anatomy” joined them.

For “Lost,” the problem was a
sprawling story line that needed an end date; its finale was set
three years in advance. “Desperate” had a familiar problem for a
long-running show: Salary costs increased, ratings dipped slightly
and the stars' contracts were endIng after the upcoming season.

Lee had asked if he wanted to wrap up
the show, Cherry said. “I was ambivalent.” When he finally
decided, plans for the new season had already been made: Key
details, Cherry said, include:

– Like other years, this will have a
mystery that spans the season. Unlike some years, that won't have to
divert attention from the main characters. It will re-visit the
murder of Mary Alice Young.

– The final episode may tie in many
of the past characters, directly or indirectly.

– There will still only be the usual
23 episodes. “I never want extra episodes.”

– And his attention will be diverted.
This season, he wrote and filmed “Hallelujah,” the pilot for a
series in a small Tennessee town; now Lee is having him rework it,
possibly for next season.

“Hallelujah” will be in the
“Housewives” style – a complex comedy-drama-mystery that builds
an entire community. That's what revived the career of Cherry –
then an out-of-work situation-comedy writer – and the ratings of
ABC.

It's also the hardest kind of show to
write, Cherry said. “I told (“Housewives” star) Eva Longoria:
'I'm just going to put you in a van and have you solve crimes.'”