Secret Lives of Stepford Wives could also be called “The Real Desperate Housewives of Snapped.” That is a compliment.
The Secret Lives of Stepford Wives — back-to-back episodes air on Investigation Discovery Tuesdays at 10pm.
This true crime show focuses on seemingly perfect housewives who are driven to MURDER. Each episode is a dramatic reenactment of a case featuring commentary from investigators, attorneys, and the sultry narrator.
Nothing was mentioned in the press release for the show about previous projects. Instead, it would be better to count the influences, which include: Snapped, Mad Men, Desperate Housewives, The Stepford Wives, and an incredibly dark sense of humor. Here’s a quote from the press release:
“Every community has that one devastatingly attractive alpha-female with the Bergdorf-blonde hair and effortless charm that men love and other women love to hate,” said Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and Military Channel. “Secret Lives of Stepford Wives reveals the ugly truth behind pretty women whose lives are all wine and roses, until someone discovers the skeletons in their walk-in closet.”
Secret Lives of Stepford Wives is unapologetically trashy. The producers know this and play it up for hilarious results. I mean, the tagline for the show is “Perfect Life. Perfect Wife. Perfect knife.” How the show approaches its subjects executes a challenging point of view. They are playing on the idea that every person is the hero of her story, even if she did murder her secret lover’s wife. In the first episode, a church-going housewife in suburban Dallas is lovingly referred to as a Bible-thumper even though she used an axe to take out her adversary. The show borrows the family portrait motif from The Royal Tenenbaums, with the soon-to-be-victim looking like an extra from The Walking Dead. It is almost as if the show is suggesting she might have deserved to be murdered, which is insane.
What Doesn’t Work
The program is about 95% narration, which means what we see is exactly what we hear. It’s supposed to be a TV show, not a TV tell. Even though this falls into the true crime genre and the show claims all the stories are real, there is a Dragnet type feeling of “the names were changed to protect the innocent.” The experts who discuss the case may or may not be the ones who were directly involved in the investigations and prosecutions. I think it is assumed, which is why the show doesn’t go the extra step to include it in the chyron.
Although the subject matter is grim, it is presented with the same twisted sense of humor of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.1 The art direction on the show plays with vibrant colors, adding another unsettling yet cartoonish element to the show. This isn’t appointment television—you know what you’ll be getting each episode—but it is perfect marathon viewing for a Saturday afternoon. Secret Lives of Stepford Wives is TV for those who know their TV tropes.