Los Angeles Welcome to Wisteria Lane, Mr. Cherry's neighborhood.
Here, in seemingly placid suburbia, homemakers tend their husbands, children and flower beds -- while barely suppressing fear and frustration that threaten to blow the place sky high.
That's how Marc Cherry, creator of ABC's "Desperate Housewives," paints his fictional corner of the world. It's a comically dark view but one, he insists, that's a big step removed from satire.
"Satire sounds like you're making fun of something. And the truth is I'm not making fun of the suburbs. I love the suburbs," Cherry said. "I love the values of the suburbs, loved my family, our neighbors.
"It's just that stuff happens. I don't romanticize that life at all."
In "Desperate Housewives," the houses are more perfect and the housewives more perfectly beautiful (and deeply troubled?) than in a typical neighborhood. The series debuts 9 p.m. CDT Sunday.
The ensemble cast all has solid credentials in prime-time angst.
Teri Hatcher ("Lois & Clark") is Susan, a single mom looking for love, maybe in the wrong places. Felicity Huffman ("Sports Night") plays Lynette, a high-powered businesswoman turned highly frazzled mom. Marcia Cross ("Melrose Place") is Bree, a pent-up perfectionist. Eva Longoria's ("L.A. Dragnet") Gabrielle may be reconsidering the price she paid for a suburban haven.
Hovering nearby is the spirit of Mary Alice (Brenda Strong, "Starship Troopers"), whose suicide stunned Wisteria Lane. She's now a one-woman Greek chorus, watching as her former pals try to keep their balance.
In a TV season crowded with reality programs and endless variations on a criminal theme, "Desperate Housewives" stands out.
There is no promise of happy endings in "Desperate Housewives," but expect laughs along with the suffering. "The comedy comes out from the fact that our gals tend to make bad choices," Cherry said.
The writer-producer figures that, so far, his own choices are being validated. "Desperate Housewives," heavily promoted by ABC, has drawn plentiful buzz and solid reviews.
"It's nice, ain't no denying that. Having done shows where they weren't talking about them, or when they were talking about them they weren't saying nice things, it's definitely nice," he said.