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Desperate Housewives bows out in style

MY sister is going to be terribly upset. She loves Desperate Housewives. Sorry, LOVED it. Never missed an episode. What is she going to do with her Tuesday nights now that it's over?

SHE'S the only sister I have and I care deeply for her, but clearly we're very different people. Then again, women are from Venus, men are from Mars and Desperate Housewives was never aimed at the likes of me anyway -- although judging by the slew of American newspaper articles written by straight men mourning its departure, it wasn't just women and the gay-male demographic that fell for it.

You have to admit Desperate Housewives was a phenomenon -- eight series and 180 episodes is some going in this day and age -- even if the phenomenon I found most engrossing was the changes in appearance of its leading actresses over the years.

They seemed to move backwards in time, Benjamin Button-like, growing younger-looking as the series moved on and eventually ending up, in the case of Marcia Cross's waxy, expressionless Bree, with the eerie appearance of something that nature hadn't quite finished with by the birth stage.

The chief suspense in many episodes stemmed from wondering when the physical exertion of picking up a coffee cup would cause Teri Hatcher's thin, scrawny arm to snap like a dry twig.

I watched the early episodes of Desperate Housewives, which was launched as a mainstream network rival to the raunchy, adult output of cable channel HBO. Dipping into it periodically down the years, the plots just seemed to grow more absurd and the characters more cartoonish. By comparison, last night's finale was positively restrained, piling on the sentimentality and offering happy endings for the principals.

Gaby (Eva Longoria) got a promotion and moved with Carlos to California, where she secured her own show on the Home Shopping Network.

Lynette (Felicity Huffman) realised she'd been happy with Tom all along and the two migrated to New York, where she spent her life shouting at her grandchildren.

Bree, having beaten the murder rap and married her lawyer, relocated to Kentucky and went into local politics. The final scene belonged to Susan (Hatcher). Having helped her daughter give birth, she drove out of Wisteria Lane forever, benignly observed by the ghosts of those who'd lived and died there, including dead narrator Mary Alice, whose suicide kick-started the whole thing, but excluding Edie (Nicollette Sheridan is locked in a lawsuit with DS creator Marc Cherry).

But is it really the end? Under a slightly soppy voiceover about friendship and forgiveness, we saw the new occupant of Susan's house hide a box in a cupboard. Don't be surprised if that's not the last you see of that box or of Desperate Housewives.

Stranger things have happened.

Speaking of women being from Venus, the excellent Horizon special The Transit of Venus was helmed by three women: biologist Liz Bonnin, solar physicist Dr Lucie Green and oceanographer Dr Helen Czerski. I mention this not just because it's refreshing to see intelligent, attractive women presenting science programmes, but also because it's nice to see qualified scientists presenting science programmes, as opposed to celebrity presenters like Richard Hammond.

The transit, which won't occur again until 2117, is happening in Irish skies as I write this, but the cloud cover is too heavy to see it with the naked eye.

Horizon, which explained how and why it happens, as well as its importance to mankind (a transit more than 200 years ago allowed explorer Captain James Cook to help measure the distance from the Earth to the Moon), was the third best thing to witnessing it first-hand.

The second best? Watching it happen live on my iPhone, courtesy of Nasa TV, at 11.30 last night. We live in a truly wondrous age.