Wisteria Lane

Californian Dream (Part 3: The Big Orange)

“I love your hair colour, Roberta. Oh, the whole family’s gorgeous!” – A loud-mouthed ‘Brooklyner’ compliments us at Universal Studios

The prospect of entering one of the World’s most famous cities with a massive population of 3.9 million was daunting. After negotiating our way through the rush-hour traffic, we arrived in the LA district of Century City, the location of our hotel. The Marriott hotel itself was brilliant. The lobby was stunning, the staff were helpful and they even had valet parking to boot. It was as glamorous as you’d expect. My Dad and Debbie had been less keen on the idea of the city of Angels. They had been more excited by the culturally-rich San Francisco. However, me and my sister were desperate to immerse ourselves in the Big Orange and we opted to take a quick tour around the city in our car.

Modern Family… The Dunphy household on Dunleer Drive, Cheviot Hills

What immediately struck me was the variety that LA possessed; one minute you could be around corporate skyscrapers and the next in a humble, quaint housing estate all housed within the same city. The city also seemed to have a huge gay scene (I don’t mean that there were a lot of obese homosexuals), more-so than San Fran. One street was so packed with gay clubs and shops it should have been renamed Brokeback Boulevard.  Before we’d left for the hotel I had keenly searched for the location of the Modern Family houses, as you probably know I’m a massive fan of the show. I couldn’t believe my luck when one house was located within Century City itself and another in nearby Cheviot Hills. Of course, I forced a detour to both locations and wearing  an ear-to-ear smile got a snap in front of the houses. Unfortunately, my Dad has since lost the camera and I cannot share these photos with you but at least I have the memories. We then went to eat at BJ’s restaurant, a stylish restaurant complete with delicious food. It quickly became a family favourite if not for it’s excellent service but it’s opportunity for innuendo.

City Love… I ♥ Los Angeles

The next day, we were awoken by our sink backing up in the hotel. Black water was oozing from the basin. After a series of complaints to the front and a quick breakfast we hit Santa Monica beach. Following the strenuous task of finding a place to park, we settled on the beach, armed with chicken salad sandwiches from 7-Eleven. We decided to take a stroll down Santa Monica pier, which was plastered with classic sea-sidey pleasures; rollercoasters, candy floss and souvenir shops. However, the best sight on the pier was our first and only celebrity spotting of the trip, Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez. What are the chances? A hotel in the same district as the Modern Family houses and a spotting of one of the cast members on the pier?  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture with him, he was with his family who had formed a turtle formation around him. However, my Dad managed to pap him and told me that he watched me and my sister have our photo taken as if it were some sort of creepy consolation. The rest of the day on the beach mainly involved playing volleyball and reading Alan Carr’s autiobiography whilst skewed on the golden sands. Afterwards, we went for a walk down Venice Beach, I bought an ‘I ♥ LA’ t-shirt, only the second city to receive that honour (after Leicester). That night, we once again frequented BJ’s and for the second night running I had their delicious Mango Chicken Salad, which is odd for me because I usually hate salads.

Hollywood… The famous hillside sign

On Monday, we drove the 5 mile distance to Universal Studios. We arrived just after 9am so as to beat the crowds. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessary seeing as we had front of the line passes. The place is fantastic. They have water spray stations able to cool you in the blistering heat, complimentary Brooklyners leaning out of windows, one of which called my family ‘gorgeous’, a waxwork of Vin Diesel that my sister enjoyed and the cheesiest souvenir shops you could wish for. Naturally, my thrill-seeking Dad and Holly were desperate to get on the rides so they did whilst my pasty skin frazzled in the sun. I used to like rollercoasters but I’ve since been deterred following  a near-death experience at Drayton Manor, but that’s a different story. In fact, I did brave 3 rides during our visit; The Simpsons 3D, Shrek 4D and even the Jurassic Park water ride which is the most exhilarating log flume I’ve ever been on. Other than the dino drop, I was there for the back-lot studio tour. It was incredibly insightful. The tram took you around many iconic sets, props and stages from a simulated earthquake in a subway to a recreation of Jaws in the town of Amityville. Of course, I was most excited to arrive on Wisteria Lane, and it was spectacular, just as pristine as on the box. Within the last three days, I had visited the homes of Modern Family, met Manny Delgado and been to Wisteria Lane. LA was shaping up to be the perfect city.

Bright lights bigger city… Night-time view from Santa Monica pier

Our final day was twinged with a bit of sadness for me. I woke to find my iPod of 18 months unresponsive on the bed-side table and the Apple store staff unable to save her. We grabbed a croissant, I sat sullen remembering the life of my digital pal until I was inadvertently distracting by an upcoming actress discussing scripts with her agents, unfortunately we didn’t catch a name of someone who is sure to be a rising star. We then made the journey to Tinseltown!  Oddly enough there is something quite satisfying about having your picture taken with a celebrity’s name that’s been stencilled on to a path. From Ed O’Neill to Felicity Huffman, I had my snap taken with all my favourite stars. Better yet, I discovered my hands and feet were the exact same size as the great king of pop, Michael Jackson! Okay, I may have jumped the gun there – the best part of the day was an unexpected compliment from an LA local who said ‘that’s a very cool shirt, dude!” referring to the Leicester City shirt I was proudly donning. On the way out of the city, we stopped by Johnny Depp’s house for my sister. His street is a winding street just off a main road, cleverly secluded by high trees. The houses there were fantastic but we were clearly not welcome. The road was a dead-end and there were even bouncers glaring at us from a driveway as we tried to sneak a peek at one of Hollywood’s A-List pads. Further down that road we encountered our first ‘insane’ American, a homeless man seemingly blaming Jennifer Aniston for life’s shortcomings. LA was  fantastic and when I left for San Diego that afternoon, I did so with a heavy heart. Could ‘America’s finest city’ compete with La La Land?

Blame… Jennifer Aniston is the leading cause of homelessness.

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Desperate Housewives – Top 5 Episodes

In honour of the passing of Desperate Housewives I have compiled a list of my top 5 episodes.

5 – Down The Block, There’s a Riot (Season 7, Episode 10)

In the ultimate ‘disaster episode’ of the series. The street is rocked by a riot that erupts due to Paul Young’s plan to introduce a half-way house on to Wisteria Lane. In the resulting fracas, Susan is badly trampled and Paul Young is shot.

Riot… Susan is crushed by protesters.

4 – Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)

You know it’s a good pilot when a major character is dead within the opening sixty seconds and that’s what happens when Mary Alice’s warm commentary opens up an 8-year-journey packed with scandal, secrets and desperation.

First meeting… the housewives toast Mary Alice.

3 – Bang (Season 3, Episode 7)

In the show’s first ever ‘disaster episode’. Carolyn Bigsby holds a cluster of people hostage in a supermarket including Lynette Scavo and Julie Mayer. This episode is packed with tension and drama, particularly during the death of Nora Huntingdon. However, this episode is perhaps most memorable for the most chilling scene of the series, Lynette’s final dream of Mary Alice.

Wronged… Carolyn Bigsby prepares to shoot Nora.

2 – Look Into Their Eyes and You See What They Know (Season 5, Episode 18)

The penultimate episode on the countdown is that which follows the death of Edie Britt. This episode provides a unique look at one of the show’s most dimensional and entertaining characters before she is given a poignant send-off with the scattering of her ashes around Wisteria Lane.

Pensive… Edie predicts her premature death.

1  The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (Season 5, Episode 13)

The winner of Desperate Housewives best ever episode goes to the 100th episode of the show. The episode is based around handyman, Eli Scruggs and the housewives’ remembering the things he did to help them before he died. The show incorporates charming flashbacks tying previous storylines together in a wonderful self-praising sixty minutes.

Handyman… Mary Alice meets Eli Scruggs.

Desperately Disappointing

Desperate Housewives signed off after a successful 8-year-reign on ABC with it’s 2 hour finalé which aired in the States last night.

The show is often credited for ‘changing television history’ and is constantly praised as ‘iconic’.  You’d think having started off with a bang  (the suicide of Mary Alice Young) the finale would go out in the same manner? Well it didn’t,  it went with a pathetic whimper. The show has been declining in the ratings for years and after the dross, Marc Cherry served up last night. It was almost complimentary for the series finalé to have averaged 11.23 million viewers (40 million less than ‘Friends’).

Kiss them goodbye…The housewives have one last poker game

The show explores story arcs of the four main housewives and Renee and Karen;

Bree’s trial is in full swing and more and more evidence is being stacked against her; Ben is reluctant to answer any questions and Renee’s testimony reveals that she saw Bree return from the woods after she had buried Alejandro.
Gaby and Carlos are preparing to reveal the truth when Karen McCluskey overhears and subsequently ‘confesses’ to killing Alejandro in what can only be described as the best moment of the finalé.
Bree spends the second hour spurring the advances of her lawyer, Tripp only for her to go back on her decision and settle (I stress that) with her final love interest.

Susan spends the first hour serving no real purpose. It is revealed that she is hoping to move away from Wisteria Lane sooner rather than later and Lee has already been enlisted to help her sell. Despite, the odd attempt to hide her plans from her friends she is merely a bystander for the first hour.
During the second hour, Susan is seen frantically rescuing her daughter from giving birth in the back of a limousine and spends a solitary couple of minutes pondering her future with her daughter, Julie.

Lynette’s storyline is perhaps the most predictable albeit necessary of the episodes. She finally gets back together with Tom to close part 1 – ‘Give Me The Blame’.
She is then slapped with a CEO job offer in New York from returning, Katherine Mayfair. She ponders the decision and after a run-in with the same woman she runs in to in the supermarket from the pilot. However, she realises that Tom and her family are all she needs to be truly happy,  a delightful coming together for the show’s most realistic character.

Gaby spends the finale as we’ve become accustomed to seeing her in the last few seasons; quietly cracking jokes and mischievously pushing the plot along. Her ending is like Lynette’s, anticipated but appropriate. The viewers are treated to a happy ending in which Carlos and Gaby quietly bicker in to their old age, but they don’t have a particularly big part to play in the finale.

Elsewhere on the lane, the writers devote far too much time to Renee Perry and her wedding. ‘Edie Lite’ is seen on screen perhaps as much as the four main characters. Something, I thought inappropriate for a series finale. In direct contrast,  the death of Karen McCluskey was treated with grace and dignity.

With all this going on it’s easy to forget the delightful first meeting of Martha Huber and Mary Alice at the start of ‘Finishing the Hat’. It was just what the finale needed to boost any absent feeling of nostalgia.

However, in what could have been described thus far as a more than satisfactory series finalé. Marc Cherry left his audience not with a tingling down the spine but more a tingling slap to the face as a great TV show was dealt the injustice of this poor coup de grâce.

The final scenes depicted the four girls having their last ever poker game before vowing to keep in touch, however it is swiftly revealed that this promise was in vein. Omniscient narrator, Mary Alice then treats us to three flash-forwards revealing that Lynette moves to New York with Tom and the pair go on to have  six grandchildren. Gaby opens her own shop and becomes a presenter for the Home Shopping Network and Bree moves to Louisville with Tripp, where she is eventually voted on to the State Legislature. There is no denying that these endings are apt for where the characters started back in 2004. Lynette reaches the top of the corporate ladder, Gaby and Carlos are living the high life in a Californian mansion and Bree is paraded as the proud Republican she is.

The scene then switches back to Susan, the first to leave Wisteria Lane; she welcomes new housewife Jennifer and assures her that Wisteria Lane is far from boring. Susan then leaves before taking one last drive around the neighbourhood, as she is surrounded by endless cameos of dead characters from George Williams to Nora Huntingdon, Mike Delfino to Mary Alice Young, all clad in white during the tackiest moment of the series. This, accompanied by Mary Alice’s final poignant narration should have closed the show but instead Cherry chose to present one final cliffhanger as Jennifer is shown looking distressed as she hides a box in her cupboard whilst Mary Alice reminds us that “no secret stays hidden.”

Overlooked… Mary Alice didn’t wrap up proceedings.

What Went Right 

  • Bree avoided prison.
  • Lynette and Tom were reunited.
  • The conclusion of Lynette’s journey as a character.
  • The inclusion of Martha and Mary Alice’s first meeting.
  • The charming montage to Johnny Mathis’ ‘Wonderful! Wonderful!’

What Went Wrong 

  • The exclusion of Lynette, Gaby and Bree in the ultimate scene.
  • Ending on a cliffhanger rather than a poignant Mary Alice quote.
  • Bree settling for Tripp.
  • The girls leaving Wisteria Lane.
  • The unnecessary re-brand of Katherine’s character.
  • The tacky ghosts.
  • Not enough Mary Alice Young – The show didn’t come full circle.
  • The absence of Edie Britt, one of the show’s most popular characters.
  • The rushed, contrived and poorly elaborated finish.

Episode rating: 6/10 – I was expecting a lot better. Perhaps because it was a series finalé and my expectations are high or maybe because Marc Cherry has known how it was going to end for 8 years and he never realised just how awful his plan was.