2. Voice-over narration in Desperate Housewives
2.1 The tradition of voice-over narration
2.2 General facts about voice-over narration in DH
2.3 The narration of Mary Alice Young
Desperate Housewives is an American comedy-drama serial created by Marc Cherry. After its premiere on October the 3rd, 2004 on “abc” the serial had altogether 111 episodes in six seasons. Desperate Housewives won several awards since its broadcast, like the Emmy, the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award. In April 2007 the serial was awarded as most popular show with an audience of over 119 million viewers.
The fictional setting of Wisteria Lane in Fairview is the home of a group of women protagonists: Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross), Edie Britt (Nicolette Sheridan) and Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delany) are the main female characters that are more or less friends. All of them have their own specialties and problems in their lives. The plot of each episode follows these struggles they have to deal with in their family lives in domestic surroundings. But with every episode it becomes clearer that even in beautiful and seemingly perfect suburban neighborhoods lots of secrets, crimes and mysteries are buried. The answers to these mysteries are mostly given by another friend of them – Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) – who died in the pilot episode of Desperate Housewives because she committed suicide.
Mary Alice Young nevertheless appears in the series – but as the narrator of each episode. Her voice leads the viewer through the happenings and through the plot of Desperate Housewives and structures the series with her pro- and epilogues. The following composition is going to deal with the narration of Mary Alice Young and is based on the presentation to the according topic of Desperate Housewives in the seminar “Serial TV”. This term paper will first concentrate on the tradition of voice-over narration and afterwards on general facts of the voice-over narration in Desperate Housewives. In a final step the narration of Mary Alice Young will be discussed.
2. Voice-over narration in “Desperate Housewives”
Using voice-overs as a stylistic element is not new in filmic productions. The series Desperate Housewives also utilizes this device by having a detached narrator who is narrating from beyond the grave. Each episode is lead by the words of Mary Alice Young who died in the pilot episode of the series and has therefore a special role as a narrator.
But before going over to Mary Alice Young as the narrator of the series, the following part is going to concentrate on the tradition of voice-over narration and its origin in genre films.
2.1 The tradition of voice-over narration
Narration itself is predominantly associated with literature rather than with fictional filmic productions and cinema. But with the development of technical and stylistic elements used for cinema, new possibilities emerged to use narration in different ways. So, the narrative device of voice-over narration became popular in movies. Meanwhile there are more and more TV-series that also make use of this gadget. Typical examples that became known in the past years are the American series Sex and the City and Scrubs. Both of them are known for their narrators Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Dr. J.D. Dorian (Zack Braff) that became to a kind of symbol of the series and without them the whole plot would not make sense at all. Desperate Housewives is another series which now is unthinkable without its narrator Mary Alice Young.
In the history of cinema voice-over narration was predominantly used by classical Hollywood`s film noir movement that is popular for murder mysteries and a high tension in its plot. Furthermore the device of voice-over narration was also used in films of the women`s picture from the 1940s where the plot usually was arranged around female protagonists in a domestic setting. In these kinds of movies women protagonists were given the voice-over in order to lead the narration, as it was for instance in Rebecca (1940) or in A Letter to Three Wives (1949).
 Comp.: JERMYN, Deborah: Dying to tell you something: Posthumous narration and female omniscience in ‘Desperate Housewives’. IN: McCabe Janet/Kim Akass (eds): Reading Desperate Housewives: Beyond the White Picket Fence. I.B. Tauris. 2006. p. 171.