“It has everything, it sets up everything,” Longoria told Variety‘s “My Favorite Podcast.” “It’s super balanced in its storytelling. It was beautiful, it was stylized, it was stylistic and was so unique.”
Longoria credits creator Marc Cherry, who spent years developing and pitching “Desperate Housewives,” and pilot director Charles McDougall for creating a show that made a splash right out of the gate. For her, the “Desperate Housewives” pilot was a masterclass in how to create and launch a TV show, and she says she still uses what she learned from that experience as a producer launching her own shows.
“I always reference back to the ‘Desperate Housewives’ pilot for many things when I’m directing,” Longoria said. “There are so many iconic things that happened in the pilot.”
On this edition of the podcast, Longoria revealed why that pilot is her favorite episode of TV ever, and also discussed the new ABC drama “Grand Hotel,” which she executive produces. Plus, “Grand Hotel” star Roselyn Sanchez also revealed her favorite TV episode: the pilot to Lifetime’s (and now Netflix’s) drama “You.” Listen below:
The pilot to “Desperate Housewives,” the mid-2000s hit that put Longoria on the map, premiered on Oct. 3, 2004.
The episode introduced viewers to the neighbors of Wisteria Lane, and took place in the aftermath of the suicide of Mary Alice Young, voiced by Brenda Strong. Among the stars are Teri Hatcher, as single mom Susan Mayer; Marcia Cross as perfectionist Bree Van de Kamp, whose poise hides trouble at home; Longoria as Gabrielle Solis, who has a secret (she’s carrying on an affair with her teenage gardener); and Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, an advertising exec who put her career on hold to be a stay-at-home mother of four.
The pilot episode won three Emmy Awards: outstanding lead actress in a comedy series (Huffman), outstanding directing for a comedy series (McDougall) and outstanding single-camera picture editing for a comedy series (Michael Berenbaum). Marc Cherry was nominated for outstanding writing for a comedy series.
“ABC was in last place, and every network passed on ‘Desperate Housewives,” recalled Longoria, who was the first person cast on the pilot thanks to a talent holding deal she had with the network. “ABC was like, what do we have to lose?”
That was quite a turnaround season for ABC, as “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” all premiered in the same year.
“Desperate Housewives” was an immediate hit. “I remember we premiered and the next morning, we were working,” Longoria recalled. “I got a call from the producers — ‘we’re a hit!’ So what does that mean? I didn’t comprehend the monstrosity of it.”
Longoria credits Cherry for teaching her that “you and your director have to be on the same page in terms of setting up the tone of the show. [‘Desperate Housewives’] nailed this tone that was eerie but funny but serious and dramatic but light. That was Marc Cherry. He had a very specific idea.”
As for “Grand Hotel,” Longoria directed the show’s second episode and also makes an appearance on camera. Sanchez (above, with Longoria) stars as Gigi Mendoza, the second wife to hotel mogul Santiago Mendoza, played by Demian Bichir. Based on a Spanish format but set in contemporary times, the show is a bit of an upstairs/downstairs look at the scandals and secrets that surround both the Mendoza family and the staff that works for them.
“We shot the pilot in Miami and re-created it in Los Angeles: the blue skies look of the show,” Longoria said. The executive producer said she’s also proud of putting so many women in top production roles on the show, including a female director of photography, stunt coordinator, editors, assistant directors and more.
“We wanted to put women in traditionally male roles,” she said.
Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode With Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.