With Desperate Housewives expected to conclude its run in 2013 (pending contract renewals with the four leading ladies), series creator Marc Cherry is already plotting out the next neighborhood he'll terrorize. In an exclusive interview with TV Guide Magazine, the writer/producer describes his new one-hour ABC pilot Hallelujah (which he's producing with partner Sabrina Wind under their Wind Productions) as "a cross between Touched By An Angel and Dallas."
Cherry sold Housewives to ABC at a difficult time in his life, when a business manager absconded with the money he'd earned writing Golden Girls and other sitcoms. And while his desperation at the time fueled the world of his desperate Wisteria Lane ladies, it is a feeling of gratitude that has helped him mold the fictional town of Hallelujah, Tennessee.
"I've spent the last few years being incredibly grateful and kind of amazed by the things that have happened to me," says Cherry, who drew inspiration for his new series from the 1947 Christmas film, The Bishop's Wife, in which an angel (Cary Grant) arrives in a small town. "It got me thinking a lot about having faith and a plan larger than your own and writing something that addressed that. Something totally different from Desperate Housewives."
Committed to making a show that will help people feel good about humanity, Cherry says he dreamed up a mysterious stranger who brings hope and, perhaps, miracles to these small town citizens in ways they initially won't understand. But fans of Housewives' cheekiness won't be disappointed. He promises to deliver characters with "delicious, juicy, dark secrets" involved in battles between good and evil.
Two noticeable differences between Housewives and Hallelujah: music and men!
Cherry, who spent part of his childhood raised in a small Oklahoma town, says they'll be a "generous helping of gospel music" to help narrate the series in the way the deceased Mary Alice Young character guided Housewives. "I'm calling it Glee for conservative Republicans," Cherry jokes.
After years of writing primarily for female leads, Cherry is giving birth to several dynamic male characters who will take center stage. "It's about a battle between a very good-hearted diner owner and the corrupt powerful businessman who runs the town," he explains. "And in the middle of all this, a mysterious stranger arrives and miraculous things start happening."
Cherry and Wind hope to begin shooting by early April, in time for ABC to consider the series for a spot on its 2011-12 lineup. Here are Hallelujah's central characters, which Cherry and Wind will soon be looking to cast with both familiar and fresh faces.
Rye Turner, the church-going diner owner who starts to become aware of some of the corruption pervading his town.
Ruth Turner, Rye's good, although bitter, wife, who has been hardened by years of heartache and tragedy.
Willow, Rye and Ruth's beautiful, hard-working daughter.
Matthew, Rye and Ruth's 8-year-old handicapped son who was left brain-damaged in an accident and hasn't spoken a word since.
Del Roman, the richest man in town, with a very young wife he can't control, who starts engaging in questionable behavior.
Vita, Del's sexy young wife, who is also a troublemaker.
Gideon, Del's delinquent teenage son, who has just been booted from college and forms a fondness for Willow.
Miss Dulcie, the 75-year-old blind black woman who raised Del and is keenly aware of what's going on in Hallelujah.
Jared, a mysterious stranger who drifts in to town. He possesses a special quality but is covering up a dark past.
The town will also include various other characters, including the sheriff, reverend and deacon. So given this, would you rather live on Wisteria Lane along with Susan, Bree, Gaby and Lynette, or take up residence in Hallelujah, Tennessee?