Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Desperate Housewives, before the next one airs

There seems to be something in the air that propels me toward guilty pleasure TV on sunday nights. It could be HBO and the wonderfully vacuous Entourage, sadly post-season now. Or it could be Desperate Housewives. Which I do watch, though not religiously, but I'm glad I caught this one. Last spring I talked with a reporter who asked me what I thought of DH. My answer was that it wasn't good enough, and I mentioned that I would like the show to deal with Lynnette's struggles as a mother who had a big career and was now at home. I wanted more workplace angst, in other words.

Well, I got it. Sunday showed Lynette's husband at home. Of course, he's being set up to fail, with a back that just went out, but hey, my back went out with a six-month at home, and I was flat on the floor too, so I have sympathy. I do hope the show can let him be competent. Dads can hands-on parent as well as moms, and we don't need another stereotyped Mr. Mom dad who can't quite get it right. (By the same token, I'm glad that last night's premiere of Commander-in-Chief didn't let the female president's husband become chief of staff, and made a big deal of showing him the first lady's office, swathed in pink. Men CAN do what women have always done).

We also get to see Lynnette get a new job. She carousels back in, not without some flack. Of course, it's the woman who criticizes her in advance for having kids, and wonders whether she can do the job. We want images of female solidarity, but this image too, is quite real, and one of the places where mommy wars take place is not on the playground, but in offices everywhere, with women with and without children taking out frustrations on each other. I did love the segment where Lynnette is interviewed for five seconds by the big boss, who needs to leave early to catch a basketball game, putting to rest the idea that it's only parents who need special daytime hours off for their kids' needs. And the scene in which Lynnette diapers her baby and fast-talks a presentation on what the company's next steps should be is priceless.

So, comments: was the on ramp too easy? It's clear that she's taking a lesser job than she had; after all, she's the one with more knowledge and know-how. Is her on-ramp too easy to be a good, helpful image for mothers everywhere? Or is it helpful for all of us to have a TV image of a mom who gets back into the workforce? To see her business focus and smarts up against one boss who's petty and biased against moms, and another who respects her as he's heading out the door to play?

I say, keep it up and give us more. Yes, we need to talk about the difficulties of reentry, desperately. And we also need these public images and stories about mothers who move in and out of home and work, of moms who carousel as many of us do. Even, perhaps especially a popular TV show about a mom getting back in starts to shift the culture we live in. Go Lynnette. Get that husband of hers to the chiropractor and get him standing again.

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