A moment of doubt crept in for me when the Desperate Housewives series one finale opened up with an Agatha Christie style explanation of the underlying mystery. The remainder of the episode also suffered from an almost rushed feel that contrasted with the rest of the series as things were wrapped up and new cliff hangers installed. But all that was redeemed thanks to the way Bree was set up for Rex’s murder (hey, it the stress of apparently discovering his wife was trying to kill him that finished him off) and the series remains a work of genius.
What lifted it up was the blending of genres. The characters’ lives might have been no more than a little soapy, if it wasn’t for the crime mystery that drove the overarching narrative. Nip/Tuck’s second season did this to even greater effect with its sudden descents into horror. If the Carver suddenly appeared in something we’d been told was a horror we’d have yawned, but here it wasn’t clichéd at all.
But what American TV does so well, and there really no British equivalent, is well written drama with the highest production values that understands the spirit of the age so well it actually helps define it. When we look back on the first decade of the millennium, it’ll be shows like this together with The Sopranos and Six Feet Under (and I guess 24, though that lost it very quickly for me) that define the pop culture of the day.