Something seriously unfunny is happening on two of TV's most notable hour-long comedies, Desperate Housewives and Gilmore Girls. Not that either show is beyond rescue, but I fear it's going to take a while this season to extricate some heretofore favorite characters from the miserable corners they were painted into last season.

Most infamously, Lorelai Gilmore (still, against the odds, effervescently played by Lauren Graham) is mired in an unpleasant situation that makes her overextended estrangement from daughter Rory a while back look like a walk in the park. Last season ended on a dreadful thumb-nosing note by departing series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino as Lorelai walked away from fiancé Luke after making an impulsive (some might say irrational) ultimatum, and then ended up in her former flame (and Rory's father) Christopher's bed. No good can come from this.

In Tuesday's opener, Lorelai tells everyone who'll listen, "It's over." If only it were. Not Lorelai and Luke, but the series itself, which in this latest contrivance to keep the couple apart is only taxing our patience. Which isn't to say there aren't many delightful moments in the episode. This is Gilmore Girls and Stars Hollow, after all. Paris and Babette each go on flights of hilarious shtick, and while Im not entirely a Logan fan, his romantic parting gesture to Rory almost redeems the hour. (Don't try to figure it out, or go to the effort to Google the episode title. Just let it impress and surprise you the way it does Rory.)

But Lorelai couldn't be more maddening, even though there is still so much charm and humor in her character (especially with Rory) that you cant help wanting to give her the benefit of the doubt. Still, her refusal to go to Luke even after he suffers a calamity during the episode is just about unforgivable. I've never been much of a fan of " jump the shark" talk, finding it much too easy a way to condemn the inevitable missteps almost every series makes during the long run, but Gilmore Girls has been making a pretty good argument for it ever since Luke's surprise daughter April was introduced. (Actually, April is in many ways a pretty cool kid, and the better narrative choice would have been for her, Lorelai and April's mother, Anna, to bond, leaving Luke comically frustrated with all these women bustling around in his life. Instead, a panicked Luke kept the situation a secret for too long, Anna turned a cold shoulder to Lorelai, and things went south fast.)

A surprise "love child" has also hobbled one of Desperate Housewives' more substantial characters, Lynette, played by Emmy-winner Felicity Huffman. While Sunday's premiere had many promising elements, including some juicy gags for Susan and Bree (who confused her first orgasm for a small stroke) and a compelling mystery involving Bree's latest psycho suitor (and how cool to see all the women rallying around her, albeit to little initial avail), Lynette is trapped in a story line so desperately unamusing, one that makes her and everyone around her act so idiotic, that you have to pray that we'll soon see the last of the obnoxious Nora, mother of Tom's surprise daughter - and really folks, when is this plot twist ever a good idea? Watching Lynette grovel to the boorishly shrill Nora when her clumsy lies are discovered is painfully unpleasant and unfunny. It kinda made me envy Mike being in the coma (the latest indignity for James Denton, whos been underused since the first season).

On the plus side, I loved seeing Laurie Metcalf as Orson's suspicious neighbor and Valerie Mahaffey as Orson's presumably ill-fated first wife in the sinister prologue. Orson wearing rubber gloves to clean up the morning after her disappearance reminded me (in a good, shuddery way) of Hitchcock's Rear Window, in the way Raymond Burr disposed of his wife. In pieces. Also got a kick out of Orson's fastidiousness being an aphrodisiac to Bree, leading to an ensuing demonstration of Libertarian-vs-Republican sexual relations. Now that's the Desperate Housewives I'd been missing.

As I noted earlier, neither show is a lost cause, and Housewives in particular shows encouraging signs of getting its act together. (Although having watched the very strong season openers of Cold Case and Without a Trace in their new time periods Sunday night, following another outstanding episode of The Amazing Race, I'm beginning to feel my allegiance to ABC on Sundays seriously drifting.)