Return of hit ABC drama intrigues

America’s favorite housewives are back, and this time they’ll here for the long haul. After the 2007 Writer’s Guild of America strike ended back in February, Marc Cherry, the creator of ABC’s powerhouse drama “Desperate Housewives” and his team of writers returned to the office to get cracking on a fresh new batch of episodes.

And the results are absolutely delicious.

“Desperate Housewives,” which premiered in the fall of 2004, returned to the airwaves last Sunday after a three-month hiatus. After being struck by a tornado of disastrous proportions, things on Wisteria Lane have finally returned to normal. However, normal for the ladies simply means more scandalous drama, more cruel backstabbing and even more shocking infidelities.

Plus there’s that mystery revolving around newcomer Dana Delaney as Katherine Mayfair, who may have assassinated her husband and kidnapped a baby. Shocking? Indeed.

But that is what has made the TV show a ratings powerhouse. The return of “Housewives” saw a season-low of only 16 million viewers. However, USA Today reports that on a weekly basis “Housewives” generally averages around 20 million, which puts the show in the top 10 Nielsen ratings along with “CSI” and “American Idol.”

But it hasn’t always been ratings galore.

The first season of the series was met with praise and critical acclaim from both viewers and critics alike. The second season saw the addition of a black family led by superior actress Alfre Woodard as Betty Applewhite, who chained her mentally handicapped son in a basement for a mysterious crime.

Unlike the first season, the second was rather uneven and suffered from lackluster storylines, particularly the one that was handed to Woodard. Ultimately, Cherry decided to clean up his series for the third season, dropping Woodard and recruiting Kyle MacLachlan as Orson Hodge, a man with a secret of a psychological nature.

Since then the series has been hotter than ever and has maintained strong ratings going into its fourth season, which began September 20. “Desperate Housewives” centers on the lives of five diverse women living in a blissful suburbia full of grave and often funny secrets.

Marcia Cross is Bree Hodge, the redheaded perfectionist who recently faked a pregnancy in an attempt to conceal the real pregnancy of her unmarried teenage daughter. Emmy award winner Teri Hatcher plays Susan Delfino, the klutzy housewife whose drug addicted husband is away in rehab.

Nicollette Sheridan portrays Edie Britt, the independent woman of the group whose theme song should be Salt N Pepa’s “I’ll Take Your Man.” Golden globe winner Felicity Huffman stars as Lynette Scavo, the outspoken business-oriented housewife who recently fought off cancer.

And rounding out the cast is Eva Longoria Parker as Gabrielle Solis, the former runway model whose husband Carlos was left “permanently” blinded from the tornado.

Originally, the fourth season was slated for an order of 23 episodes. However, because of the writers strike, ABC was forced to reduce the order to only 17 with a two-hour season finale. Sunday initiated the beginning of the final seven episodes of the season and delved deeper into the season-long mystery surrounding Katherine.

So far, viewers have learned that Katherine, a former Wisteria Lane resident, has returned to the street after a 12-year absence. Her daughter doesn’t remember a thing about her life before moving and her husband has mysteriously vanished. Coincidence? Perhaps.

But then again, when it comes to life on Wisteria Lane anything goes.