Can Wilhelmina Slater from ‘Ugly Betty’ — I mean Vanessa Williams! — make ‘Desperate Housewives’ good again?
It’s been a long time since people really cared about Desperate Housewives. Though its sixth-season ratings have been respectable (No. 15, with a weekly average of 14 million viewers), the dramedy hasn’t been a watercooler conversation piece since its 2004-to-2005 and 2005-to-2006 first and second seasons, when it was TV’s No. 4 show, with a weekly average of more than 20 million viewers, not to mention, an Emmys, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards favorite.
Where did things go so dreadfully dull? I could go on and on with theories: Too much focus on the mystery-of-the-season and not enough on the relationships among the core housewives. (Season 5’s nut job with an ax to grind was particularly unbearable.) Hiring top-notch Emmy-winning actresses like Dana Delaney, Alfre Woodard and Drea de Matteo, and then wasting them in drab roles. Giving too much screen time to nobody characters, as with the April 25 episode that focused entirely on the kid who was running around strangling every girl on the block who looked at him the wrong way. Too much violence, not enough funny (see previous reason). And, of course, killing off Edie Britt during the fifth season, which was perhaps the biggest blunder of all, as every soap needs a permanent resident bitch.
Hopefully, that’s where Vanessa Williams comes in. It’s just been announced that the former Ugly Betty costar will be moving to Wisteria Lane next season. Though the details of her grand entrance have yet to be divulged, one would imagine that DH creator and executive producer Marc Cherry was a fan of Williams’s Betty character, Wilhelmina Slater, and will be crafting a similarly bitch-with-a-capital-BITCH role for the actress.
While I have always hoped that Heather Locklear — most recently of the just-axed Melrose Place reboot — would find her way onto Wisteria Lane, maybe my wishful thinking was a little too obvious. Yes, Locklear bitched up the proceedings nicely on Dynasty in the ’80s and Melrose Place in the ’90s, but despite her three-season run on Spin City, she has never really proven herself to be particularly adept at comedy. Her character may have ended up being a bit too much like Dana Delaney’s Katherine Mayfair, criminally unfunny only with a bit more venom.
So perhaps Marc Cherry is on to something. Let’s just hope he starts making every guest appearance really count. Though I fear that Betty White might be coming soon, may I suggest Julia Louis-Dreyfus, now that she’s been relieved of her duties on the just-cancelled The New Adventures of Old Christine? But I digress. Judging from the 160 comments on the EW.com article announcing the news, Williams has a more ardent following than I thought. A sampling:
- “Now I have a reason to watch that butt awful show. Vannessa is a goddess.”
- “Wow, what an AMAZING idea….Vanessa is going to be freakin’ fan-BLOODY-tastic on DH!!! WOW!!!”
- “Yes, yes, yes! I am so freakin excited! I too will be watching again, i stopped after season 2.”
- “Holy reakin’ cow! That’s awesome! Seriously, the most exciting news to come out of the upfront news blitz thus far.”
- “Always from the very beginning, I thought Vanessa Williams should have been a housewife. She will be great! Now…LISTEN UP Marc Cherry, use her properly. Do not waste her valuable talents like you did with Alfre Woodward & Dana Delaney. If you are only going to waste her talents then let Glee have her. She would be perfect on Glee!”
Get the picture?
Speaking of Glee, I myself was secretly hoping that Williams would resume the singing career that made her a star in the late ’80s after all that Miss America unpleasantness. (The 1984 winner was forced to give up her crown after nude photos she took two years earlier turned up in Penthouse). But I’ll take this. If it means the prospect of a good old-fashioned throwdown catfight between Bree Hodge and Wilhelmina Slater, I’ll be looking forward to the fall TV season for the first time in years.