Skip to main content International
The Web      Powered by

Anatomy of a guilty pleasure

By Stephanie Snipes

"Melrose Place" alum Marcia Cross, right, returns to prime-time soaps in "Desperate Housewives." From left, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria and Teri Hatcher also star.
"Eye on Entertainment" talks about the weekend's happenings on CNN's "Live Today" between 10 a.m. and noon ET Thursday.
Eye on Entertainment

(CNN) -- In the world of prime-time soap operas, catty women being thrown in pools and cheating heartthrobs getting slapped in the face combine to create the ultimate guilty pleasure.

Perhaps it's the "Oh no, she didn't!" factor or the "He's such a slimeball!" revelations that have viewers setting their TiVo and chatting the morning after around the water cooler.

Audiences can't seem to get enough of this stuff.

Take ABC's highly touted and critically acclaimed Sunday night soap "Desperate Housewives."

In the first two episodes we've seen a bored wife have an affair with a teenage gardener, a jealous single mother burn down a neighbor's home and an uptight Martha Stewart wannabe "accidentally" try to kill her husband.

And let's not forget the suicide in the first 10 minutes of the pilot.

The show have averaged about 20 million viewers an episode, a coup for ABC, which doesn't fare well in ratings overall.

The cast has been gracing covers of entertainment magazines. And they visited Oprah Winfrey, who usually saves her entertainment-themed episodes for movies stars, not TV soap operas.

Not to be outdone, Fox, whose past dramas include "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills 90210," releases the first season of its latest steamy serial, "The O.C.," on DVD on Tuesday.

That show, a combination of wit, drama, sexiness and innocence, centers on Ryan Atwood, a teenager born on the wrong side of the tracks who is taken in by a family living the high life in Orange County, California.

Both shows overflow with the textbook components so common in TV melodrama.

Eye on Entertainment kicks off its heels and jumps into the catfight.


When you break down shows such as "The O.C.," "Melrose Place" and "Dynasty," you find many common plot points. Without them, well, you'd just have a plain old ordinary drama.

First and foremost are catfights. It's not a soap opera, prime time or not, unless there's a woman slapping another woman. Just cause is negotiable. (Throwing someone into a pool or trying to run her over with your car qualifies.)

Next: affairs. Someone will always be sleeping with someone they shouldn't. Usually, it's someone they met at work -- a la Michael and Kimberly on "Melrose." If viewers are lucky, they might get a guy who sleeps with his girlfriend's sister or worse ... mother. (This is usually where the catfights begin.)

Another commonality -- pregnancy. Someone is either pregnant (see, Amanda in "Melrose" and Theresa on "The O.C.") or has a pregnancy scare (Brenda in "90210"). Usually, pregnancies end in miscarriages ("Melrose," "Party of Five") or the woman has the baby but lies about who the father is. (A possible plot point in "The O.C."? Tune in to next week's premiere to find out.)

Then there is the highly touted and emotionally driven drug addict/alcoholic (see all of the above). It isn't drama until someone drives drunk, snorts some cocaine, gets busted or has their stomach pumped.

Other crucial plot points that perfect prime-time pleasure include arrests, return of long-lost family members, love triangles, car accidents/carjackings, shopliftings, throwing a drink in someone's face, crazy exes and the previously mentioned suicides and cheating men.

In the end, it all comes down to creating the perfect equation -- a recovering alcoholic plus a crazy ex plus an unexpected pregnancy minus a healthy dose of morals equals a hit.

"Desperate Housewives" airs at 10 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.

On screen

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to the horror/sci-fi scene in the remake of "The Grudge." Gellar, in her biggest post-"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" role yet, plays a nurse living and working in Tokyo who is exposed to a mysterious curse. The film opens Friday.
  • A year after it was slated to hit theaters, "Surviving Christmas," starring Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini, bows to the public. The film, which struggled through re-shoots and numerous screenwriters, tells the story of Drew Latham (Affleck), a lonely man who "rents" a family for the holidays. The film opens Friday.
  • On the tube

  • Grab your big foam finger and a plastic cup of beer -- the World Series gets under way at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox.
  • Sound waves

  • Depeche Mode's new album, "Remixes 81-04" (Warner Bros.), hits stores Tuesday.
  • Paging readers

  • "Hour Game" (Warner Books) by David Baldacci comes out Tuesday.
  • Video center

  • While parachute pants and leg warmers can stay in the '80s where they belong, the release of "21 Jumpstreet," starring Johnny Depp, is a welcome addition to the plethora of TV shows making their way to DVD.

  • Story Tools
    Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
    Top Stories
    Review: 'Perfect Man' fatally flawed
    Top Stories
    EU 'crisis' after summit failure

    CNN US
    On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
       The Web     
    Powered by
    © 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
    A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
    external link
    All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
     Premium content icon Denotes premium content.