Cashing in on sins

telly review

Desperate Housewives is a women-centric show that has carved its way to cult status, quite in the same way as the globally-popular Sex and the City, riding on the follies of its four protagonists from whom it earns its title. The current season comes riding on a new flavour — ‘Sin is In’.

With all eight seasons airing on Zee Cafe, theme ‘Sin is In’ has been dished out to entice extra eyeballs, especially of the young urban women, and garner a wider audience engagement. Also, in an effort to entice cosmopolitan India’s disparate and desperate housewives into a deeper engagement with a relatable storyline, the channel’s creative heads have launched a website and roped in social media and radio channels through hashtags, RJ mentions, strictly-for-girls contests.

In a season that has seen sin being very much the flavour in some of the Bollywood offerings on celluloid, a la Horror Story 2, for a television drama to dish out ‘sin’-only spices up the menu for the couch potatoes who may be bored of all the dance shows or soaps eating up a major slice of primetime, just as a foodie is fed up of the bland pasta or sushi, and hungers for hot Thai Red Curry.

The award-winning series revolves around four ‘desperate’ housewives — Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross) and Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria), the hip and happening residents of a suburb called Wisteria Lane. The tale of intrigues, infidelities and improprieties staged on Wisteria Lane is witnessed and heard through the eyes and voice of Mary Alice, an apparently contented housewife who commits suicide out of apprehension about her dark secret unveiling.

The narrative, thereafter, emanates from the grave: Tales of Mary’s friends — embodying secrets, fears, lies and lust — as they reveal themselves to Mary.

While unearthing the reason for the Mary’s death constitutes the core plot of the drama, the individual tales of her four friends make up the subplots and subtexts. Even as Mary’s narration, which ties the subplots, reveals the dark secrets and desires of her friends, it doesn’t assume a judgemental tone, but is the sound of an invisible spectator who, in death, is privy to the private foibles of her friends. She might have missed this while she was alive.

Woven into the tale as a subplot is the mysterious death of Martha Huber, a nosy neighbour on Wisteria Lane and sister of Felicia Tilman, the woman who has been blackmailing Mary Alice. So, as Susan, Bree, Lynette and Gabrielle are engaged in uncovering bits and pieces of the puzzle that constitute the disappearance of Martha, they also go about their daily lives, dealing with the love, lies and longings that make up the lives of middle-aged urban women.

As with Sex and the City, it’s the strong and broad spectrum of characterisation that sparks off and sustains the interest of an average urban woman in the Desperate Housewives storyline. Single mother Susan’s longing to be loved, Lynette’s trials and tribulations of traversing the spectrum between a working woman and a stay-at-home mom, Bree’s grappling with the challenges of a spouse’s infidelity and children’s rebelliousness, and Gabrielle’s secret lust for a younger man and love for a life of luxury — such subtexts symbolising the aspiration quotient of modern urban women give this drama series an appeal that its audience can engage with.

By imbuing the current season with the theme ‘Sin is In’, the drama series has spiced up a script that could have otherwise slipped into stagnancy. With primetime packed with soaps, comedy shows, dance shows etc, for the viewer hungering for variety, this show sure delivers, even if variety is tinged with vice.

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