November 2, 2005

Desperate Housewives bets on Edie for November sweeps

By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The ABC network is letting trampy,
vampy Edie Britt out to play this month on "Desperate
Housewives," betting that the popular supporting character will
give the top-rated show an added boost for Nielsen's November
"sweeps" survey.

The bad girl of Wisteria Lane, played by actress Nicollette
Sheridan, was never meant to be central player on the darkly
comic prime-time soap, which centers on the intrigues of four
women who live on a seemingly quiet suburban cul-de-sac.

Sheridan began the show's first season last fall as a mere
plot device to keep klutzy Susan, played by Teri Hatcher, from
snagging hunky plumber Mike.

"I had to cast someone who was sexy and gorgeous that would
make Susan feel uncomfortable," the show's creator, Marc
Cherry, told Reuters on Friday. "I never intended for Edie
Britt to be one of the regular characters."

But Sheridan was so good as serial-divorcee Edie, and the
storyline about two forty-something women competing for the
neighborhood's only single man was so compelling, that ABC
executives insisted she be written into the show as a regular,
albeit subordinate to the four starring "Housewives."

Her character proved so colorful that she was featured in a
notorious ABC "Monday Night Football" parody promo for the
series, in which Sheridan, as Edie, seduced football wide
receiver Terrell Owens in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room.

Her role will be expanded more this month as ABC and rival
networks go all out to attract bigger audiences for "sweeps,"
the special Nielsen survey used by local TV stations to set
future advertising rates.

A sweeps subplot involving Edie's 6-year-old son and her
romance with Susan's ex-husband, Karl, will take center stage
on the show starting on Sunday.

"There will be a huge crack in the relationship between
Karl and Edie that has direct implications for Susan," Cherry
said. "For all her bravado there is a lifetime of hurt (in
Edie). That's something we are going to reveal very slowly and
something that Nicollette is great at playing."

Sheridan and her character have come a long way from the
first season, when her second-tier status was apparent even in
cast photographs with Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman
and Eva Longoria. Sheridan was often in the background.


The 41-year-old former "Knots Landing" actress originally
auditioned for the part of the uptight Bree Van De Kamp, a role
that went to Cross. When she was cast instead as Edie, Sheridan
expected her turn as man-eating real estate agent to be brief.

"They weren't sure what they wanted to do with Edie, and I
just thought she was a character I could score with," Sheridan
told Reuters. "When they tested the show people really
responded to her."

Cherry returned to his favorite vixens, Kathy Baker, who
played the neighborhood tramp in the 1990 Tim Burton film
"Edward Scissorhands," and Jane Wyman of the 1980s TV series
"Falcon Crest," for inspiration in fleshing out Edie.

"This is a gal that's a little more vulnerable than people
think. She's a woman who's in her sexual prime who's ready to
let folks know about it ... but it's her relationship with
other women that makes her not so confident," Cherry said.

Noting the potent chemistry between Sheridan and Hatcher in
the pilot, Cherry set about exploring the relationship between
the two women.

In a recent interview, Hatcher joked that her on-screen
rapport with Sheridan is so strong that "next year at the MTV
movie awards they should put us up for best couple."

"Without her I would not be as good or as funny," Hatcher

"Desperate Housewives," a breakout hit that led the way for
a ratings turnaround at Walt Disney Co.'s ABC last season,
ranks as the No. 1 show among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group
most prized by advertisers. It also is the second most watched
prime-time show overall (behind No. 1 "CSI" on CBS), averaging
24.4 million viewers a week.