Approximately nineteen years ago, on a sunny day, in the idyllic suburbs of a town called Fairview, a housewife, Mary Alice Young decided to end it all. What followed afterwards was a series of misadventures including adultery, blackmail, shocking deaths, plot twists, and dysfunctional relationships, all of which has had fans looking for more shows like Desperate Housewives. Thanks in no small part to Mary Alice’s melodramatic storytelling, viewers got a front-row seat to the lives of her friends, family, and residents of Wisteria Lane.
Desperate Housewives premiered in 2004, and soon became a huge hit among the TV audience, and eventually became regarded as one of the most iconic television series of the 2000s. It was proof that a fantastical spin on female-led comedy mysteries set in a quiet suburb, was compelling enough to sustain a primetime audience’s attention. Now we know you’ve since finished watching and re-watching this spectacular series and want more TV shows like DesperateHousewives with all of the drama, comedy, crime and secrets. We’ve got you covered and have compiled a list of 15 shows like Desperate Housewives for you right here!
List of TV Shows like Desperate Housewives
1. Devious Maids (2013)
When Desperate Housewives ended in 2012, creator Marc Cherry launched a new series titled Devious Maids. Similar to shows like Desperate Housewives, this show is a comedy-drama and mystery series. Devious Maids centers on four Latina housekeepers working in the homes of Beverly Hills’ wealthy and powerful elites.
When the maids go undercover and attempt to solve the mysterious murder of a fellow maid, they connect over their struggles, dreams for a better life. And of course the dramatic lies and juicy secrets of their rich bosses makes Devious Maids the perfect show to binge with your friends.
2. Gossip Girl (2007)
Who wouldn’t love another helping of drama that explores the lives of the rich? Gossip Girls is quite similar to shows like Desperate Housewives, but instead of a suburban setting, this show is set in the high-end world of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gossip Girl revolves around the anonymous blogger known as Gossip Girl, who keeps tabs on the students at Constance Billard School for Girls and St. Jude’s School for Boys, exposing their secrets and scandals to the world.
The series centers on the main characters, Blair Waldorf, Serena van der Woodsen, Chuck Bass, Nate Archibald, and Dan Humphrey, as they navigate romance, friendship, and family drama, all while trying to maintain their social status and reputation in high society. With iconic one-liners, fashion, and plot twists, Gossip Girl has become a cultural phenomenon, and you have to watch it to find out why.
3. Sex And The City (1998)
This is certainly a name you have heard of, Sex and the City is as evoking a title as it was as revolutionary a show. This series was adapted from a newspaper column by Candace Bushnell and a book of the same name. In a similar tone to shows like Desperate Housewives, these female ensemble characters rely on each other for emotional support, advice, and camaraderie.
The story is about four friends, Carrie, Samantha, Kristin, and Miranda, who are in their 30s and 40s. They all have different personalities, natures, and ever-changing sex life, but they still stick together. Through the story of these four, the creators and writers tried to bring up many modern issues about safe sex, sexuality, femininity, and promiscuity. Majorly Desperate Housewives is all about love and friendships, so there’s a lot to like about this one.
Also Read: Shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm
4. Orange Is the New Black (2013)
Orange Is the New Black is based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman. Similar to shows like Desperate Housewives, with its strong female leads and mix of drama and humor. OITNB follows recently engaged Piper Chapman played by Taylor Schilling, who 10 years ago was so in love with her drug runner girlfriend she foolishly transports a suitcase full of drug money for her.
Now sentenced to 15 months in prison, terrified Piper swaps her privileged New York life with her fiancé, Larry, for an orange prison jumpsuit. She navigates the challenges of strange prison culture, confronts her past actions, and comes to terms with the different person she has become. As she struggles to learn in the new world she’s plummeted into, she finds unexpected friendships, rivalries and conflict amidst an eccentric and outspoken group of inmates. If you enjoyed Desperate Housewives, you’ll love this.
5. How To Get Away With Murder (2014)
Viola Davis delivers an award winning performance as Annalise Keating in this legal thriller. In a similar vein to shows similar to Desperate Housewives, it keeps viewers guessing with unexpected plot twists and cliffhangers. HTGAWM follows Annalise and her team of top students who become involved in a series of high-stakes legal cases, soon enough find themselves in an ever-spiraling saga of lies, deceit, and intrigue.
As fearless in the courtroom as she is in the classroom, Annalise is a defense attorney who represents the most hardened, violent criminals – people who’ve committed everything from fraud to arson to murder – and she’ll do almost anything to win their freedom. It’s not as melodramatic as some of the shows on this list, but it’s a must watch regardless.
6. Jane the Virgin (2014)
We’re back to the more telenovela style comedy drama we’ve come to expect with Jane the Virgin. Although it’s filled with enough drama, twists, and turns and even the occasional murder. It shares the same narrative style with series similar to Desperate Housewives. Set in Miami, the series details the surprising and unforeseen events that take place in the life of Jane Villanueva, a hard-working, religious young Latina woman whose family tradition and a vow to save her virginity until her marriage, is shattered.
She accidentally artificially inseminated her through a doctor’s error during a routine check-up. As if that is not complicated enough, the sample donor is a married former playboy and cancer survivor who is not only her new boss, but a former crush. It’s a wacky premise that will keep you laughing and entertained as you watch.love with her sweet detective boyfriend, Michael Cordero.
7. Ugly Betty (2006)
The story of this show is all about Betty Suarez; a girl who, despite falling short of the usual beauty standards, manages to get a job at a fashion magazine as a result of her grit and hard work. Betty proves to be a valuable member of the team, using her intelligence and hard work to excel in the fast-paced and cutthroat world of fashion.
Although a series like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty are two very different shows in terms of tone and genre, they share a few similarities between them with their strong female characters coupled with some elements of comedy and drama. The show, during its time on air went on to be nominated for 163 awards, winning a whopping 62 of them!
8. Why Women Kill (2019)
This show shares quite a number of similarities to shows like Desperate Housewives, top of which is the show’s creator Marc Cherry. Sharing more than just terrible and unhappy marriages, the women in this series also happen to share the same house albeit at different time periods.
Why Women Kill tells a frothy tale of what happens when women have had enough and they plot to do something about the situations that they are in. It’s a show with a good amount of dark humor and suspense. If you’re looking for a slight tweak to the Desperate Housewives formula, you should give Why Women Kill a watch.
9. Pretty Little Liars (2010)
Pretty Little Liars shares similar tropes to our favorite Wisteria Lane residents, but is set in the world of teenagers going through high school. Just as the plot of Desperate Housewives kicks off with Mary Alice’s suicide after she finds out she’s being blackmailed, the show kicks off with an anonymous text from ‘A’.
‘A’ apparently knows all the friends’ secrets and is threatening to expose their deep dark secrets involving the death of their friend Alison. Much like series like Desperate Housewives, there is no shortage of murder, blackmail, and secrets which fuels the mystery/thriller element of Pretty Little Liars. Throughout the series, we see the four friends go to desperate measures to keep their secrets buried. Prepare to be entertained.
10. Arrested Development (2003)
Similar to series like Desperate Housewives, Arrested Development revolves around scandal. And, much like Gabrielle Solis, this show’s characters are learning how to live their lives after they’ve lost everything. It’s a highly relevant show that helped propel the careers of actors like Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Michael Cera. If you’ve already seen it, check out our list of shows like Arrested Development.
Arrested Development depicts the life of Michael Bluth, a once-wealthy widower saddled with the responsibility of keeping his family together after his father is imprisoned for stealing money and illegally building houses for his real estate company in Iraq. The show had a five-season long run to become one of the most popular sitcoms on air for its hilarious comedy and clever dialogue.
11. Big Little Lies (2017)
Suburban mums hiding deep secrets is the plot line of this hugely successful HBO series, which is based on the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name. The series follows a group of moms who get entangled in a murder investigation. Sharing a common theme with series similar to Desperate Housewives, Big Little Lies is full of sex, lies, drama, and murder.
With a star-studded cast of Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, this drama series had millions of people tuning in for its nail-biting cliffhangers. Though it was initially planned to be a limited series, the show received so many high praise and award nominations, and was soon followed up with a second season. If you’ve never seen this series, then what are you waiting for?
12. Good Girls (2018)
Nothing says desperate like these two sisters and their best friend who decide to rob a local grocery store to get the cash they need to get ahead. It’s an easy job until they discover that the money they stole belonged to a gang whom they now must work for to pay off their debts.
Good Girls is full of nail-biting twists and turns in this female-led series that’ll remind any viewer of shows like Desperate Housewives. Both series are bent on revealing the darker side of seemingly perfect neighborhoods and communities, and you should tack this one onto your watchlist.
13. Bridgerton (2020)
Quite similar in tone to series like Desperate Housewives, there is no shortage of intrigue and drama in Bridgerton. Full of mystery, Bridgerton soon became a record-breaking series on Netflix. It is set in the Regency era of London’s town, where the nobility and gentry meet and hold balls, dinner parties, and charity events so that the youth can find themselves a partner.
The story primarily focuses on Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter, as she navigates the competitive world of matchmaking and falls in love with the Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett. Their relationship begins as a ruse to ward off other suitors, but soon evolves into a genuine emotional connection. It’s one of the best romantic series on TV today, and if you’re looking for something like that, Bridgerton has got you covered.
14. Dead to Me (2019)
Dead to me and shows similar to Desperate Housewives are not short on lies, betrayal, and murder. This show centers on Jen Harding, a widow struggling to cope with the death of her husband who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. At a grief support group, she meets Judy Hale who recently suffered a tragic loss of her own, and despite their different personalities, they become unlikely friends.
However, the show quickly takes a turn when it’s revealed that Judy isn’t mourning the loss of her boyfriend and instead is the hit-and-run driver who killed Jen’s husband. It’s a huge shock that brings about multiple potential interesting paths which the show could follow. If you want to know what happens next, you’re going to need to check it out yourself.
15. You (2018)
There is no shortage of stalking, murder and romance in series like Desperate Housewives, neither is there on the Netflix original series You, starring Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl fame. You centers on Joe Goldberg, a charming and intelligent bookstore manager who becomes obsessed with a young woman named Guinevere Beck after she walks into his store one day.
Joe, who sees himself as the romantic hero in his twisted story, becomes increasingly obsessive and he goes to extreme lengths to become a part of her life. Joe will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone who poses a threat to his relationship, including the object of his infatuation. You has since become a cultural phenomenon, with Joe being memed to death. If you haven’t seen this one, then where have you been?
Here are more series like Desperate Housewives full of dramatic storylines, romance, and comedy that didn’t make our list but you can watch regardless:
- One Tree Hill (2003)
- Revenge (2011)
- Grey’s Anatomy (2005)
- 90210 (2008)