Skip to main content

CBS Takes ‘Desperate’ Measure

Television executives regularly dream about killing the competition, especially the other guys’ hit shows. But CBS took the idea to a new level with the movie Spring Break Shark Attack, when women who looked an awful lot like the women of Wisteria Lane on ABC’s Desperate Housewives became chum in CBS’ shark-infested waters.

The first shot of the TV movie, which aired on March 20, showed four attractive, middle-aged women out in the ocean, relaxing on a raft and drinking martinis. That got our attention right away: The movie was supposed to be a shameless jigglefest of frightened coeds, aimed at guys who’d seen the hype on CBS’s March Madness basketball coverage earlier in the day. What were those moms doing here?
Then it became clear. “Alice would have loved this,” one of them lamented. (Hmmm, Desperate Housewives is narrated from the grave by suicide victim Mary Alice Young). Then there was the line, “Let Matt take care of the triplets for a change” (one DH couple has twins). After a hungry shark turned the women into a floating buffet, we saw this newspaper headline: “Desperate search for missing housewives continues…”
Executive producer Frank von Zerneck says he’d like to take credit for the scene, but it originated with screenwriter James La Rosa. “It was fun and a tip of the hat,” von Zerneck says.
The Spring Break programming stunt helped CBS win the ratings war for the night, though at a 7.1 rating/11 share vs. 8.6/13, the movie couldn’t pull even a rerun of Desperate Housewives underwater while the two overlapped.