VIFF Film & Television Trade Forum
On Thursday September 28th, Alexandra Cunningham, Supervising Producer/Writer from the Desperate Housewives, set up house at the 2006 Vancouver International Film Festival Trade Forum. Scott Wood, host of the interview show was there to housesit.
Whether you love it or hate it, the Desperate Housewives has changed the prime time television drama. The show is a mix of drama, comedy, mystery - and garbage, some would argue, but hey it is primetime American TV (whaddaya expect?) - defying all "traditional" genres. As Cunningham revealed, behind the scenes, the show is also run differently from most other TV dramas. The writers act as a team collaborating on each episode - which is unusual for a primetime drama where writers are typically given their outline and then told to go write solo.
Now, time for a Desperate Housewives Secret: Last season's much maligned Applewhite storyline - involving actress Alfre Woodard - was network mandated. Originally the Applewhites were supposed to be keeping a pregnant girl in their basement - to prevent her from having an abortion. Sadly this storyline was nixed by ABC - still too risky in 2006 - and the shows writers found themselves having to write the story on the fly. A situation experience has taught Cunningham to avoid in a serialized medium.
Desperate Housewives Secret Two: Series creator Marc Cherry came up on The Golden Girls starting as a writer eventually moving up to showrunner. After that show ended, Cherry "couldn't get arrested," "lost his house and moved in with his mother." He attended Robert McKee's storywriting seminars and hence the desperation in the Housewives' pilot is real.
Cunningham also revealed that the show's story arcs strictly adhere to Robert McKee's 5 plot points of a story. Each of the four (sometimes 5 if you count Nicolette Sherdian) main players of the show have a storyline in each episode that follows the pattern: 1) insighting incident, 2) progressive complication, 3) crisis, 4) climax, and 5) resolution.
For more information, check out www.viff.org. PLUS: Catch the interview show every Monday @4:30pm.