It’s fast-forward five years as Desperate Housewives deals with tumbling ratings, writes Erin McWhirter
SHE’S starring in one of the world’s most popular TV programs, but being Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives drove Felicity Huffman to tears last year.
After four seasons playing a mother to the child actors who portray her rough-and-ready troupe in the series, Huffman learned they were being shafted for a storyline that propels Wisteria Lane’s housewives five years into the future.
‘‘When they first told us I thought, ‘Oh that’s exciting’. Then I realised, ‘Oh no, we have to get new kids’,’’ says Huffman, relaxing at the Hollywood mansion of the show’s resident sexpot Gabrielle Solis and her husband, Carlos.
‘‘The mothers of a couple of the younger actors came into my trailer and were upset and I started crying. They were wonderful kids, perfect for the show. We do miss them.’’
But shows must continue to produce ratings. If a program starts to slide in audience share, alarm bells sound. Creator Marc Cherry could hear the bells and saw the audience waning in season three, which he says was a troublesome year.
He rebounded with a corker season the following year when mystery surrounded new resident Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delaney), new husband Adam and daughter, Dylan.
Cherry’s remedy for maintaining momentum rolling into season five? Flash forward five years.
‘‘Early in season four, which was receiving all the critical hosannas for its energised storylines and delightful introduction of Dana Delany, I started to worry about season five,’’ Cherry says.
‘‘I worry about the viewers being unable to relate to the show. I thought about the pilot episode. Lynette’s kids driving her crazy, Gabrielle having an affair, Bree’s husband wanting a divorce, Susan wanting a man. It was all so simple. I decided I had to make a bold move with the show.’’
Originally Cherry wanted to move forward 10 years, but that was too big a jump to age the characters, so five years was decided and the actors have embraced it wholeheartedly.
‘‘I love it because it gave us the chance to reset the show going forwards in time,’’ says Doug Savant, who plays Huffman’s on-screen husband and pizza shop owner Tom.
‘‘I thought it was a smart creative choice.’’
The relaxed chemistry between Huffman and Savant isn’t hard to detect. They are comfortable, bounce jokes off each other, finish each other’s sentences and share a mutual respect.
Their tight bond has been forged over the four years they have played husband and wife.
‘‘We spend a lot of time together and I couldn’t be happier,’’ Huffman says, smiling at Savant. ‘‘I don’t know how I lucked out with getting Doug. I have to say the days Doug isn’t working it’s like, ‘I don’t know if I really want to be here’, and when Doug’s here it’s like, ‘Yay, we have the whole day’.’’
‘‘When she’s not drinking she’s fantastic,’’ Savant jokes as they both burst into laughter.
‘‘I adore her. This is my favourite job in 26 years of being an actor. I love her. We get along so easily.’’
The pair’s on-screen married life hasn’t all been rosy. Out-of-control kids, a secret daughter, a former flame and Lynette’s cancer battle are some of the challenges they’ve faced.
Despite this, Huffman can still rest easy knowing the Scavos are the most normal family on the block considering other neighbours’ problems include covering up murders, faking death and mothering a child who’s not their own.
‘‘We are the most normal in the sense that it’s a functioning marriage, not perfect, but functioning,’’ she says.
‘‘We have children and issues of dealing with small children and now dealing with teenagers. So we are not a Hispanic supermodel (Gabrielle) or your Bree Van De Camp. We’re just normal.
‘‘In the first season they had plans to break us up in different kinds of ways and the public said we like this marriage, we like these two people being together, so the writers have kept us together.’’