'Desperate' for a Good Time at PaleyFest
April 18, 2009 5:57 PM
It was “Desperate Housewives'” turn at PaleyFest on Saturday afternoon, as an enthusiastic audience stepped out of the bright Hollywood sunlight into the warm glow of the ABC dramedy's gorgeous cast.
The show's creator, Marc Cherry, 'fessed up that he attended the Paley Festival way back when he first came to Los Angeles, before getting his first TV job. He even went to a “Golden Girls” panel before he became a writer on the show.
Cherry said “The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” the episode screened at the event, was based on an idea he had after the death of a close friend, physical trainer Doug Blaisdell of Bravo's “Workout.” “Doug was the sort of person who was always doing small things to help people,” Cherry explained, and he was the inspiration for handyman Eli Scruggs (Beau Bridges), the central character of what turned out to be the show's 100th episode. “It's harder to get to that milestone than you might think,” Cherry said.
After the screening, moderator Will Keck of TV Guide was joined onstage by Cherry, executive producer Bob Daily and cast members Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria Parker, Dana Delany, Kyle MacLachlan, James Denton, Doug Savant, Kathryn Joosten, Brenda Strong and Neal McDonough. (Marcia Cross was celebrating her parents' 50th wedding anniversary and Felicity Huffman was teaching an acting class.)
Keck started by praising Cherry's decision to jump the show's action ahead five years this season, saying, “Suddenly every character had mysteries.” Cherry admitted his original idea had been to jump 10 years, “but then I went, Oh, I have actresses...” Daily said the counter-offer was a one-year jump, and the five-year shift was a compromise.
Cherry said he'd suggested a decade because of the kids on the show, then admitted he'd “fudged a bit” and the kids now are a bit bigger and taller than they should be.
Sunday's episode will be the first devoted entirely to one character, Cherry said, as the show bids farewell to Edie Britt, Nicollette Sheridan's memorable sexpot Realtor. Sheridan also does the narration of the episode, he said.
The following Sunday will see the return of Gale Harold, last seen heading toward the bathroom just before the nightclub went up in flames, courtesy of McDonough's Dave. Harold is fully recovered from his serious motorcycle accident, Cherry said, adding it was a good thing he was a little behind on writing Harold's arc at that time, because he could easily switch to a different storyline.
—Asked if he'd follow his wife and former co-star, Laura Leighton, back to “Melrose Place,” Savant said, “I'm open to it, but is there something I should know? Have I been voted off the island?”
—Joosten is the only actor who has been promised she'll never be killed off on the show, Cherry said. Admitting he was a huge fan of “The West Wing,” on which she'd played the president's secretary, Cherry said he'd finally worked up the nerve to ask Joosten about the show. “She indicated she was a little mad that Aaron Sorkin had killed her off ...”—“A LITTLE?" Joosten interjected—“so I made a promise that she never would be killed off on our show,” he concluded.
—MacLachlan was supposed to be on the show only for the first season, but said he was having such a good time—and it's 10 minutes from his house—that he asked Cherry to find a way for him to stay. Cherry, while praising the previous Mr. Bree, Steven Culp, said, “The great thing that Kyle brought to it is we've just had so much WASP-y fun!”
—Cherry cast Strong, who plays Mary Alice and is the show's usual narrator, with his eyes closed, just to make sure the voice was right. “I was so glad when I opened my eyes and she was so gorgeous,” he exclaimed.
—Cherry is signed for a total of seven years at the helm of the show, but ABC has committed to nine seasons of “Desperate Housewives.” Saying, “Marc touches every word on the page,” Longoria Parker admitted she wasn't entirely sure she'd stay without him, but Hatcher said she's committed, adding that different didn't necessarily mean better or worse, just different.
—Cherry had season one all planned out, but suddenly becoming an executive producer and running an hourlong one-camera show was very different from the sitcoms he had experience on, he said, adding he got lucky. By season two, however, he had less time to plan and “we were writing on the fly, it wasn't working, and so that's the season I learned my job.” For season three, he brought in Daily: “He's my Jiminy Cricket, who says, 'Oh no, don't do that,'” and the unsung hero of the show, Cherry said.
—Asked the perennial favorite, who has become the most like his/her character, Joosten said, “I'm not turning into the character so much as I always have been her. I'm kind of grumpy.” Longoria Parker said, “Teri is Bree,” and Cherry added, “She brought baked goods to her audition!”
—McDonough's mysterious character will have some startling moments before the season's over. “Dave was a guy you would want to hang out with, have a beer with,” he said. But then tragedy struck, and now he's bent on causing pain, even though “half of him loves everyone on the street,” the actor said. “The two sides of his brain are fighting each other.” He promised the audience, “You won't be disappointed by what Marc has done with him.”
—Another audience favorite: Will Mike (Denton) and Susan (Hatcher) ever get back together? “Happiness is lovely, but it's the death of drama,” Cherry cautioned. “It looks like we've got a few years to play this out,” he added, “so it seems likely Mike and Susan will find their way back into each other's worlds … but we don't know when.”
—Before that happens, however, Katharine (Delany) will start pulling some crazy Machiavellian moves on Mike in her efforts to hang on to him. And there's even a romance in the works for Mrs. McClusky (Joosten).
—And speaking of romance, an audience member asked Longoria Parker if she'd enjoyed her onscreen dalliance with her young gardener … which led to a story. In the original pilot, the part was played by a very young-looking 17-year-old, and women in test audiences really didn't like Gaby because he seemed like just a baby, Cherry explained. So the part was recast with Jesse Metcalfe, then 24, after a series of auditions of beefier, older-looking actors. At the auditions, “Jesse whipped off his shirt, and we all went, 'America will understand!'”
—Lisa D. Horowitz