NEW YORK — The same TV critics that Bree of “Desperate Housewives” would have happily welcomed to a dinner party last year would now probably get one of those icy glares she reserves for her misbehaving son.
Viewers are still lapping up new episodes of the Sunday soap, but the first rumblings of a critical backlash have set in. That forced show creator Marc Cherry to insist he’s just as involved in the show’s preparations as he’s always been.
“Yes, we’re trying some new stuff,” Cherry said. “Some of it might work. Some of it might not. This, of course, is the nature of episodic television. They can’t all be gems.”
But Cherry said he’s pleased with how the season has started creatively and that he’s doing his best to please his audience.
ABC’s hit is second only to “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” as television’s most popular show this fall, although several critics have taken issue with how its second season has begun. Joanne Ostrow of The Denver Post said the hour is “edging toward vapidity.”
“The tone is off,” Ostrow wrote. “Not campy enough to make the comedy clever, not real enough to make it engaging as mystery-drama. The story is too rooted in convention to be truly outrageous, too melodramatic to make it plausible as anything but goofy comedy.”
David Bianculli of the New York Daily News said the series doesn’t have any traction. This season’s new story line, with Alfre Woodard’s new character, Betty, imprisoning someone in her basement “has not only wasted Woodard’s talent, but our time as well,” he wrote.
This season finds the series “clinging to old plots while fumbling with new ones,” wrote Robert Bianco of USA Today.
“Perhaps it was too much to hope that the second season of ‘Housewives’ would get off to the same kind of explosive start as the first,” Bianco wrote. “But we do expect the series to do more than just mark time.”
Cherry says he’s as involved as ever
Both Bianco and Bianculli noted that Cherry had not written any of the season’s first three episodes. Although it’s likely Cherry made major contributions to the scripts, “that’s not the same thing,” Bianco wrote.
Cherry said that it’s “patently untrue” that he’s less involved in the writing.
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Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings “I am as involved in the writing process as I’ve ever been,” he said. “I help come up with the story lines, I give notes and, indeed, I rewrite things constantly. I take the credit and the blame for everything that goes on the screen.”
Touchstone Television announced last month that Cherry had signed on as co-executive producer of another series, “Kill/Switch,” described as a murder-mystery with humor.
It’s an old Hollywood story that people behind a successful project are suddenly in demand to do much more, and often find themselves pulled in different directions, said critic Aaron Barnhart, who runs the TV Barn Web site.
“It’s probably awfully tempting to think of yourself as building an empire and wanting to develop several shows instead of being satisfied developing that one exquisitely good show,” he said.
This season’s first three “Desperate Housewives” episodes were seen by an average of 27.2 million people, above the 23.7 million average for all of last season. This year’s average doesn’t include the preliminary ratings for Sunday’s episode, seen by 25.5 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Fans are offering their own critiques on message boards. One fan posted on the Television Without Pity Web site that “I haven’t been loving the new season thus far, but this (Sunday’s episode) was good.”’
Bree’s odd relationship with the town pharmacist was the topic of much Internet chatter. “What is wrong with Bree?” one fan asked. “The doyenne of all things seemly and mannerly and she is having her male friend for dinner already?”
Rest assured, Cherry said, “I’m paying attention to my audience’s response and am trying my darndest to please them. And I will continue to do so as long as I’ve got that executive producer credit above my name.”
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