ABC newsmags ‘Desperate’ for ratings

Stossel will report from 'Housewives' set

Desperate to reverse a ratings slide, ABC’s newsmagazines are broadcasting another racy “Desperate Housewives”-themed show, with lazy husbands, terrible kids and frazzled parents who swap spouses to unwind.

On “20/20” on Friday, John Stossel will report straight from the Wisteria Lane set on the “real-life woes of some everyday desperate housewives.”

Earlier this season, sister show “Primetime Live” drew from the Wisteria Lane well with a visit from “Desperate” housewife Teri Hatcher.

ABC is finding that there are plenty of housewives to go around. Diane Sawyer did a weeklong series interviewing the women of Wisteria Lane for “Good Morning America” during February sweeps, in addition to weekly Monday-morning visits from the cast and a “Desperate Housewives” fashion show.

The “20/20” hour isn’t on “Desperate Housewives” specifically but cleverly uses the skein as window-dressing for reports on “Desperate” themes. Stossel uses hidden cameras to uncover what one mother calls “psychotic” moments in parenting, and he reports that “millions of American couples” participate in “the lifestyle known as ‘swinging,’ in which couples have sex with other couples and it’s all out in the open.”

NBC set a new standard in cross-promotions between the news and entertainment sides of the network last year with its relentless “Dateline” tributes for “Friends” and “Frazier,” but ABC appears to be mounting a strong challenge. Trend seems to be gaining steam as the ratings for newsmags plummet.

Just five years ago, critics crucified CBS for running a mere eight-minute segment on “48 Hours” about the affect “Survivor” had on its participants.

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