Housewives aren't the only desperate ones

Suburban life's never seemed so mysterious as it does on the surprise hit of the television season, the dark comedy "Desperate Househusbands."

Hysteria Lane appears to be an idyllic suburban street, where the lawns are manicured and the vinyl siding never needs painting. But dark secrets exist behind the facades of those ranch-style homes.

On Hysteria Lane, the women work and the men stay home, diddling computers and tending the children and ignoring the housework. It's a traditional family structure turned on its head, and the consequences can be extreme -- social stigma, tax audits, bad debt, even murder.

Let's meet the "Desperate Househusbands:"

--Leonard Downsizer had a high-paying corporate position until his job was shipped off to India. Then he and his wife decided that she'd work and he'd stay home with their four small children. Leonard questions this decision on an hourly basis, particularly when the little hellions set his minivan on fire or run the neighbor's hamster through the blender. Leonard never knew it would be so difficult to "manage" the children. He regularly thinks about going back to an office to escape the kids, but the family dog keeps eating his resume, then woofing it up on the carpet. To deal with the everyday stress, Leonard's developed a bad habit: All-day cocktails, milky concoctions of rum and Mylanta that he calls Housework ("Just doin' the Housework, dear. Hic."). Will Leonard admit his problem when his friends mount an "intervention?"

--Edam Limburger, a perky redhead of a man, keeps a perfect house and raises seemingly perfect children. But something stinks in the Limburger household. Edam's wife, Gouda, is having an affair with her boss, and Edam has found out. Now he'll do everything he can to torture poor Gouda. The Limburgers' eldest son, Jack, has moved back home from Monterey, and he's troubled by the marital discord. He thinks the only solution is to slice all the neighbors into wedges. Edam, meanwhile, is spreading himself too thin: He's captivated by two sisters who live with their redneck daddy in a nearby trailer park. Will Edam let these crackers ruin his life?

--Divorced and alone, Larry Loosebottom lives on Hysteria Lane only until the mortgage company catches him answering the door. He spends all day every day in his bathrobe, unwashed and unshaven, browsing his computer rather than doing the work that's piled up next to all the unpaid bills. Larry once had a wife, a family, a position of responsibility in the community, but he lost it all because of his dark secret -- an addiction to E-Bay.

--Stuart Schniffle, the neighborhood snoop, wastes much of every day peering out his windows. Alone at home all day, Stuart is desperate for contact with the outside world. Every noise, every passing wisp of gossip, drags him away from his work. Disgusted by his nosiness, the neighbors shun Stuart. His own family has begun to avoid him because he never has anything interesting to say. But Stuart's snooping has finally paid off. He's found out a dark secret: The women of Hysteria Lane are planning an uprising.

When they first agreed to the husbands working at home, the wives felt daring and bold and proud of their men. But now that they've seen what a cheesy mess their husbands are making, they're ready to turn the tables. They'll trade in their bosses and deadlines for the isolation, tedium and child endangerment that comes with working at home.

If they hate being at home, they can always get together in the afternoons with their fellow housewives. To comiserate. Over a pitcher of Housework.

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