Monday 20 November 2017

Wives outstay their welcome

SOME things on television never change. Peter Kay's jokes; Bruce Forsyth's hair; Roy Cropper's cardigan in Coronation Street; Pascal Sheehey's tone of voice, and Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives (RTE2)/Jig (RTE1)

Has it really been seven whole years since Marc Cherry's comedy-drama tottered onto television in its high heels, bearing a plate of freshly-baked cookies and a nuclear-white smile that masked a walk-in wardrobe full of dark suburban secrets?

Yes, it has. And if that doesn't thoroughly depress you, then you have a higher tolerance level for such things than I do. I watched Desperate Housewives when it started, not because I wanted to --I don't exactly fit it into its target demographic -- but because I was duty-bound to.

It was hailed at the time as the wackiest, edgiest, raunchiest and most darkly comic adult-themed series to hit American network television since David Lynch's Twin Peaks, to which its theme of dysfunction lurking behind pristine white picket fences bore a superficial resemblance.

All this, as it turned out, was more a case of hype and hopefulness than anything else. Veering wildly from slapstick comedy to soapy melodrama to glutinous sentimentality and back again, Desperate Housewives has always been about as daring and subversive as an episode of I Love Lucy.

Yet it's somehow managed to endure and enjoy respectable, if declining, ratings while other, better series have come and gone. But now the end is nigh.

The eighth series, which kicked off on RTE2 last night, will be the last.

It opened with our four hyperactive heroines, played by Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross (49 years old and with a face so immobilised by Botox she looks like an avatar from a mid-90s computer game), pledging, hand-on-hand, to keep the latest dirty little secret: the killing of Longoria's characters' rapist stepfather, whose body they'd buried in a makeshift grave.

It ended with Cross discovering to her horror -- or to as much horror as a face like hers can express -- a note that reads, "I know what you did. I'm going to tell."

In other words, a note just like the one the series' deceased narrator, Mary Alice, found way back in series one, just before she killed herself.

So Desperate Housewives has come full circle. Or if you want to put it another way, gone back to square one. Farewell, ladies. It was nice for a while -- but not seven years' worth of nice.

I had a special interest in Jig, a documentary about Irish dancing, and so had our youngest daughter, 12 next month. She's has been dancing at feiseanna for a couple of years now and absolutely loves it. I know, because I've spent numerous Sundays ferrying her to draughty community halls.

She's something of a natural too, amassing medals faster than some pop stars amass husbands -- although it's the pure love of dancing as much as the triumphs that keep her legs pumping.

But rather than focusing on the joy and sense of satisfaction dancing brings to the vast majority of kids who take part, Sue Bourne's film, shown here in a cut-down version 30 minutes shorter than the one released in cinemas last year, took a selective approach that made the pastime seem more cult than culture.

Focusing on four young competitors at the World Championships in Glasgow, it zoned in on the negative aspects: the overpriced dresses, the hideous curly wigs (which none of the girls in my daughter's dancing school wear) and, above all, the monstrously pushy and competitive parents and teachers, who are nothing at all like the ones we share those draughty halls with.

"I had three sons, I had one daughter and I wanted her to be a world champion," rasped a hard-faced bottle-blonde from Derry. "I didn't care if she couldn't read or write. I know a lot of people will say, 'That's ridiculous, their education's more important', but for me it wasn't."

Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.


JIG 2/5

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