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JUMPING INTO THE AFFAIRS OF 'HOUSEWIVES'

There's a solution to the problem and I think I've got it.

What problem? The reported hissy fits that periodically seem to afflict the cast of ABC's smash-hit "Desperate Housewives." The last one, we're told, occurred during the shooting of a Vanity Fair cover where, according to the published reports, Teri Hatcher got there first and snatched the red swimsuit for herself, thereby somehow causing Eva Longoria to cry and Marcia Cross, a bit later, to walk off the cover shoot in disgust.

The show's publicist, it's been written, is charged with keeping Hatcher from getting to "wardrobe" first, or of being in the middle of photographs lest the rest of the cast feel undervalued and underloved.

Please remember that all this comes on the heels of two separate but nearly identical junk "stories" interviewing the men of "Desperate Housewives" (i.e. its actors) in two different huge-market magazines ("TV Guide," "Entertainment Weekly") who, in a clear-cut majority, confided to the different interviewers that the sexiest actress of the bunch, by far, was Marcia Cross, who plays Bree, the show's red-haired uber-frau.

After a thing like that, another actress on the show might well make sure she gets to a photo shoot early so that she gets the red swimsuit.

Well, I'm offering my services as peacemaker. So here's my advice to the cast:

Let's all chill here. The only paradigm some people have for a working group of beautiful women is an endless, all-star bitch-a-thon -- a daily convulsion of Cat Scratch Fever. Knowing that, you'd have to be foolhardy indeed to do anything that feeds it. It doesn't increase your ratings even a smidge but it certainly denigrates your collective achievement in earning the one you've got.

The solution to your cast problem couldn't be more obvious: Felicity Huffman.

In every photo shoot from now on, make sure she's the one who gets the red swimsuit (or whatever the sexy costume; make sure she's always the one standing in the middle. And whenever there's an award to be accepted, give her the speech.

Always. Without question.

Why? Easy.

Because she has the least glamorous role on the show -- the mother barely coping with two monster children and an infant at home. Not only that, she is the least overtly glamorous of the show's five actresses. It's unlikely that a teen boy would look at Felicity Huffman and immediately think Hustler Magazine thoughts.

It goes without saying, I hope, that she is a hugely attractive woman. If you must know, I personally find her the sexiest by far but then I've seen her in "Sports Night" and Showtime's miniseries "Out of Order" and I'm one of those mature men who find wit and intelligence extremely sexy (Your show does too. Who can ever forget that immortal line when Longoria was trying to keep her teen lover from straying to a more age-appropriate girlfriend: "I can do things to you that she can't even pronounce.")

The point is this: While the rest of you can be easily exploited in some sort of "luscious babe" contest, Huffman is harder to sell that way. Therefore, let her be the one who gets the hot wardrobe and the center of every shot. It ought to be part of her compensation for spending every show chasing after horrific twin sons and wiping baby mewlings off her clothes.

Putting her in the middle and the forefront also presents you as a group with the dignity that may well serve you all well at contract time (by all means, you should all sit down and have a talk with David Schwimmer about solidarity and negotiation strategy.)

Oh yeah. And one more thing. You might as a group insist that the show get a new publicist. The one you've got isn't helping your reputation one iota.

e-mail: jsimon@buffnews.com