‘Desperate Housewives’ writer says she experienced ‘overt racism’ from creator
Patty Lin details her time working for the “showrunner who was impossible to please” in her new memoir End Credits: How I Broke Up With Hollywood.
Much like living on Wisteria Lane, working on Desperate Housewives was not as idyllic as it may have appeared from the outside. Former TV writer Patty Lin claims that she experienced “overt racism” while working with creator Marc Cherry on the first season of the hit ABC drama.
She writes that she was already considering leaving Hollywood in 2004 when she read Cherry’s pilot script for Desperate Housewives, but that “the script won [her] over.” However, after joining the writers’ room for the first season, she discovered that, as the daughter of Taiwanese immigrant parents, she was the only person of color on the staff of 10 people.
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Lin recalls a “honeymoon period” where “the room felt surprisingly democratic,” but didn’t expect it to last. “Not with this many big personalities. The biggest was Marc’s,” she writes. “I had never encountered overt racism until I worked for him.”
During one lunch, she writes, the writers were discussing Margaret Cho’s short-lived sitcom All-American Girl about a Korean-American family. “Marc turned to me and said, ‘Patty, you should write a show like that,'” Lin writes. “I love Margaret Cho, but please don’t lump us together just because we’re both Asian women in show business.”
From there, Lin says things only got worse between her and Cherry. “As soon as Marc wrote the first episode after the pilot, it became obvious to me that he didn’t have a vision yet of what the show was going to be. This uncertainty, paired with his obsessive tendencies, amounted to a showrunner who was impossible to please. ‘No, that’s not it’ was his mantra. He rewrote even his own material with a maniacal drive … He was incapable of articulating what he wanted. It was maddening.”
Representatives for Cherry and ABC have not responded to EW’s requests for comment.
Lin goes on to describe how Cherry would miss deadlines and required his own “writing bungalow” in an “undisclosed location because he had a short attention span” and “keeping him in solitary was the only way to get this goose to lay any eggs.” She likened the writers’ room to a “Lord of the Flies situation,” as Cherry turned one pair of writers into his “loyal team” while giving the rest of the staff “busy work.”
“With this wildly inefficient system, it’s a miracle that any episodes of Desperate Housewives ever got made,” writes Lin, who was let go when ABC picked up the back nine episodes of the first season. “The quality that had attracted me to the pilot — the dark humor — was lost in the slapdash, assembly-line approach to what was supposed to be a creative process. We were putting out schlock. The fact that it became the hottest show on TV, won multiple awards, ran for eight years, and earned more revenue than God still boggles my mind.”
Lin also reveals that while the writers weren’t barred from set, they didn’t feel welcome. “Usually we’d see the cast only at table reads, where we’d sit quietly in the back and try not to make eye contact with Teri Hatcher.”
Along with Hatcher, Desperate Housewives starred Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Eva Longoria as neighbors living on the fictional Wisteria Lane, as seen through the eyes of their neighbor who took her life by suicide in the premiere. It ran from 2004 to 2012.
Desperate Housewives (TV Show)
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