Good news for Desperate Housewives

Last updated at 14:23 06 January 2005

American TV sensation Desperate Housewives became Channel 4's most popular drama launch since ER when it opened last night.

Nearly five million viewers tuned in to see the first episode of the show which has smashed ratings records in the US.

The show attracted a peak audience of 4.8 million - higher than the launches of Sex and the City or Friends.

Sex and the City had 3.4 million viewers for its opening episode on the channel, while Friends managed just 1.7 million.

It was second only to medical drama ER, which attracted five million viewers for its launch in 1995.

Channel 4 'delighted'

"We are delighted to start the year on such a high note," a Channel 4 spokeswoman said.

"Desperate Housewives has been warmly received by critics and audiences alike and confirms our reputation for continuing to bring the best of US drama and comedy to UK audiences."

Desperate Housewives features five impossibly glamorous women who live in picture-perfect suburbia.

Behind the glossy facade their lives are beset by insecurity and unhappiness.

The show began with housewife Mary Alice Young cooking breakfast for her family, loading the washing machine, polishing the furniture - then blowing her brains out with a gun.

The rest of the series is narrated by Mary Alice from beyond the grave.

Former Superman star Teri Hatcher plays a love-starved divorcee hoping to start an affair with her hunky new neighbour.

The other characters are a mother-of-four who loathes the fact she has given up her high-flying career, a feisty former model who has sex with the gardener behind her husband's back, a domestic goddess driving her family to distraction with her control freak ways, and a pneumatic man-eater on the hunt for her next conquest.

The show pulled in more than 20 million viewers when it aired in the US, filling the gap left by the end of Sex and the City.

But several major advertisers pulled out claiming the storylines were too racy and posed a threat to family values.

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