When Marc Cherry created “Desperate Housewives,” he didn’t have a handle on two characters — Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) and Carlos (Ricardo Chavira). They were just sort of “generalized yuppies.”
Until he saw similarities between Longoria and the “brilliant” Rue McClanahan, who played the vixen Blanche on “The Golden Girls.”
“No matter how selfish or vain her character acted, you still loved her,” said Cherry, who was a “Golden Girls” writer/producer. “One day, I was looking at little Eva Longoria and I went, ‘I think she could get away with that.’ ”
Longoria wasn’t thrilled that her character started talking about her own beauty. “The more self-involved and vain and selfish and egotistical she became, the funnier she became,” said Cherry, adding it was a “big shock” when Gabrielle and Carlos “became our go-to comedy couple because they were both so despicable to one another that it became just a joy.”
And “Desperate Housewives” has been a joy for fans for eight years. Soon after its debut, it became a pop-culture phenomenon, attracting 25 million to 30 million viewers a week. It was smart, funny, sexy and surprising — an unlikely mix of soap opera and sitcom.
As was the case with Gabrielle and Carlos, even its creator didn’t always know where the show was going. “Sometimes you’ll take something and some [actor] will come along and then it just it pops,” Cherry said. “We’ve had times where we maybe cast the wrong guest actor. Some of the plot twists got maybe a little convoluted, so storylines didn’t go.”
Yes, the show hit a sophomore slump. A seasonlong storyline involving new neighbors, secrets and murders never jelled.
But Cherry learned from his mistakes. Although the show never regained all those first-season viewers, it actually improved over that first season, as the plotting got better and the comedy stayed strong.
Cherry took a chance between the fourth and fifth seasons, jumping the narrative ahead five years — and it was a smashing success that re-energized the show.
After Sundays’s penultimate episode (8 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4), “Desperate Housewives” will wrap things up Sunday, May 13 — Mother’s Day. It will be the ending Cherry has planned since the series launched, more or less. His writers,“started adding things. So it definitely got better. But the last act, I’ve had it down for quite a while now.”
And he insists he’s going to make a cameo appearance in the series finale. “Try to stop him,” Longoria said with a laugh.
“I’m going to do a Hitchcock,” said Cherry, who looks like a writer, not a performer. “And the hair and makeup people will go through more hell that day than they’ve ever gone through with this cast, just so you know.”
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.