"Desperate Housewives" has always been a hard to define show. Is it a drama, or a comedy? It's an hour long, and it always has a season-long mystery, which would seem to suggest drama, but there are way more comic lines and plots than would ever see the light of day on a true drama, like, say, "CSI" or "The Good Wife."
But "Housewives" would be a lot easier to classify as a drama, and would also be a lot more boring, if it weren't for Gaby Solis, brilliantly played by Eva Longoria Parker. Without her, the show would lose almost all of its comedy, and most of its heart.
Gaby and Carlos are by far the couple you'd most want to know in real life. Tom and Lynette are dreary, Bree and Orson a tighly wound mess, and Susan and Mike strive for comedy, but the endless slapstick became tiresome halfway through season one.
Gaby and Carlos are glamorous, rich, and funny. They're had their tough times -- with Carlos' blindness, jail time, and temporary money woes -- but they came back swinging. And never once did the Solises let themselves get dragged down into the Wisteria Lane gloom. Even when Gaby lost their first baby, and when Carlos turned into a boss from hell by tormenting the pregnant Lynette, something about the Solises rose above the scripts.
Sunday's episode was a perfect example. Bree's practically being stalked by a new employee, Lynette's daughter ran away, Susan stuck her nose into Karen and Roy's relationship... all pretty standard, and dreary, stuff.
But Gaby turned what could have been a gloomy plot of her own -- chicken pox strikes her daughters -- into a gleeful fantasy. She moved in with gay neighbors Bob and Lee, drank cocktails, rode around in a vintage red convertible, and recaptured a bit of the fun of her fashion-model youth. Seriously, if Lynette's kids had come down with the pox, this plot would have involved hospitalization, therapy, and more tears than the movie "Precious."
But Gaby wasn't painted or played as a heartless child-hater. In the end, seeing the nursery Bob and Lee had set up for the baby they dream of adopting reminded Gaby of what was important, and how much she loved her own family.
Writers know how to write for Gaby, and Longoria Parker knows how to play it. Her character walks a fine line between being rich and vapid and having a good heart. She never turned into a "Real Housewives of New York City" type stereotype, because she maintains a raw sense of humor and never loses her likability.
"Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry has reportedly signed to make the show through 2013, but the stars are only signed through 2011. Losing any of them would be a blow to the show, but losing Longoria Parker would make this viewer pack it in for good.
© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints