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An air of desperation in the somewhat implausible story lines that have fueled Desperate Housewives since it made such a splash with its premiere in 2004 is never very far from the perfectly groomed homes and messy private lives of the women of Wisteria Lane. But as frantic, lunatic, or downright preposterous as the soap-operatic antics may seem, whether unfolding behind closed doors or right out in the open of suburban Fairview, USA, creator Marc Cherry keeps on giving devotees of Desperate Housewives exactly what they want in season seven. The big news for fans of the show who are the only ones who will care or understand what any of it means is that Paul Young is out of prison and back in the lives of the housewives and their husbands; newly separated Bree Van de Kamp has a studly new boyfriend 15 years her junior; and a replacement housewife has moved into the neighborhood, returning the gang's fluctuating membership to its prime value of five. Vanessa Williams plays Renee Perry, a jet-setting college friend of Lynette Felicity Huffman whose dream marriage to a pro baseball player has fallen apart, landing her in a place where her cattiness and conniving ways fit right in. Marcia Cross brings Bree's entrée into menopause a dash of flippant fun, especially when she sets her sights on season guest Brian Austin Green as Keith, a handyman who helps her out with some contracting needs then moves in to continue helping with more personal home-based needs. Show stalwarts will remember Paul Mark Moses from the beginning seasons as the husband of Mary Alice Young Brenda Strong, still narrating each episode from beyond the grave who got away with one murder but was sent away after being framed for another he didn't commit. His reappearance gives the heebie-jeebies to everyone, but mostly to Susan and Mike Teri Hatcher and James Denton, for whom hard times have meant a move to a sleazy apartment and the inability to keep Paul from maneuvering himself back into their houses. The dynamic between Susan and Paul changes considerably over the course of the season, and it doesn't help when Paul discovers a naughty secret Susan is keeping to help ease her family's financial burden. Lynette's got a new baby, which puts a new strain on her marriage to Tom Doug Savant. That situation is not helped after Renee gets whirled into their mix with a secret of her own. The family secrets that Gaby and Carlos Eva Longoria and Ricardo Chavira are keeping from each other become sources of even greater dramatic conflict right up to the final episode, centered on a progressive dinner party involving the entire cast. Ultimately it is the women of Wisteria Lane who keep genuine desperation at bay by keeping close tabs on each other's backs. Theirs is a complicated world of devious doings, but allegiances always come home to roost through a bond of friendship that continually ties them together. As is apparent from even this offhanded rundown of key plot points, convoluted and far-fetched remain watchwords for the show's creative team. For the legions of admirers who wouldn't have it any other way, Marc Cherry has confirmed that there will be at least one more season of dramedic machinations, probably two. Ratings have declined over the years, but ABC and the core cast members--Cross, Hatcher, Huffman, and Longoria--still seem happy to keep on giving fans what they want.
Special features on the DVD set are pretty thin. Obligatory blooper and deleted-scene segments are included, but there are no commentary tracks and only two short interview-based extras: "Desperate for Trivia," a game show-like collection of Desperate Housewives minutiae, and "Growing Up on Wisteria Lane," which checks in with most of the actors who have passed through the series as children over the years. --Ted Fry