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Count on Edie to heat up ‘Housewives’

Nicollette Sheridan will help the slumping soap take on November sweeps
/ Source: Reuters

ABC is letting trampy, vampy Edie Britt out to play this month on “Desperate Housewives,” betting that the popular supporting character will give the top-rated show an added boost for Nielsen’s November sweeps.

The bad girl of Wisteria Lane, played by actress Nicollette Sheridan, was never meant to be central player on the darkly comic prime-time soap, which centers on the intrigues of four women who live on a seemingly quiet suburban cul-de-sac.

Sheridan began the show’s first season last fall as a mere plot device to keep klutzy Susan, played by Teri Hatcher, from snagging hunky plumber Mike.

“I had to cast someone who was sexy and gorgeous that would make Susan feel uncomfortable,” the show’s creator, Marc Cherry, told Reuters Friday. “I never intended for Edie Britt to be one of the regular characters.”

But Sheridan was so good as serial-divorcee Edie, and the storyline about two forty-something women competing for the neighborhood’s only single man was so compelling, that ABC executives insisted she be written into the show as a regular, albeit subordinate to the four starring “Housewives.”

Her character proved so colorful that she was featured in a notorious ABC “Monday Night Football” parody promo for the series, in which Sheridan, as Edie, seduced football wide receiver Terrell Owens in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room.

Edie's son enters the pictureHer role will be expanded more this month as ABC and rival networks go all out to attract bigger audiences for sweeps.

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A sweeps subplot involving Edie’s 6-year-old son and her romance with Susan’s ex-husband, Karl, will take center stage on the show starting on Sunday.

“There will be a huge crack in the relationship between Karl and Edie that has direct implications for Susan,” Cherry said. “For all her bravado there is a lifetime of hurt [Edie]. That’s something we are going to reveal very slowly and something that Nicollette is great at playing.”

Sheridan and her character have come a long way from the first season, when her second-tier status was apparent even in cast photographs with Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria. Sheridan was often in the background.

The 41-year-old former “Knots Landing” actress originally auditioned for the part of the uptight Bree Van De Kamp, a role that went to Cross. When she was cast instead as Edie, Sheridan expected her turn as man-eating real estate agent to be brief.

“They weren’t sure what they wanted to do with Edie, and I just thought she was a character I could score with,” Sheridan told Reuters. “When they tested the show people really responded to her.”

‘A woman who’s in her sexual prime’Cherry returned to his favorite vixens, Kathy Baker, who played the neighborhood tramp in the 1990 Tim Burton film “Edward Scissorhands,” and Jane Wyman of the 1980s TV series “Falcon Crest,” for inspiration in fleshing out Edie.

“This is a gal that’s a little more vulnerable than people think. She’s a woman who’s in her sexual prime who’s ready to let folks know about it ... but it’s her relationship with other women that makes her not so confident,” Cherry said.

Noting the potent chemistry between Sheridan and Hatcher in the pilot, Cherry set about exploring the relationship between the two women.

In a recent interview, Hatcher joked that her on-screen rapport with Sheridan is so strong that “next year at the MTV movie awards they should put us up for best couple.”

“Without her I would not be as good or as funny,” Hatcher said.

“Desperate Housewives,” a breakout hit that led the way for a ratings turnaround at Walt Disney Co.’s ABC last season, ranks as the No. 1 show among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group most prized by advertisers. It also is the second most watched prime-time show overall (behind No. 1 “CSI” on CBS), averaging 24.4 million viewers a week.