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 Aug 4 - 10, 2005 
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Idiot Box

Ballin' in Old Blighty

“Footballers Wive$” on BBC America

By Devin D. O'Leary

If you're one of those people who's suffering summertime withdrawal from “Desperate Housewives,” you are advised to head on over to BBC America for a regular fix of sex, drugs and criminal behavior in suburbia. Not only is BBC America happy to compare their trashy new drama “Footballers Wive$” to ABC's runaway hit, they've conveniently programmed it in the same Sunday time slot. So, if you're bored with reruns, pick up the remote and head to England.

“Footballers Wive$” (like “Desperate Housewives”) is inspired largely by the nighttime soap operas of the '80s. It follows the assorted affairs of the high-living spouses of the Earls Park Football Club members (soccer players to you and me). Chardonnay (Susie May) is a famous model engaged to marry the team's heartthrob Kyle (Gary Lucy). Unfortunately, Kyle's mom is a bitch and Chardonnay is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Donna (Katharine Monaghan) is a down-to-earth gal married to the team's newest player, Ian (Nathan Constance). Unfortunately, Donna and Ian are in the middle of searching for the son they gave up for adoption years ago. Oh, and Ian just got caught by a tabloid photographer romping around in bed with two female fans. Meanwhile, ambitious bitch Tanya (Zöe Lucker) is busy controlling the career of her husband, team captain Jason (Cristian Solimeno). Unfortunately, the couple recently beat the team owner into a coma during a drunken row. Oh, and Jason is having an affair with Donna's wild-child sister. Is that enough campfire fuel for you?

Like “Desperate Housewives,” “Footballers Wive$” is very conscious of its genre, occasionally keeping its tongue in its cheek and finding moments to laugh at itself. At the same time, the show amps up the trash appeal for European audiences. There's a lot more cursing, sex and nudity going on here than there is on Wysteria Lane, my friends.

If you're not an adventurous viewer, “Footballers Wive$” is probably not the show for you. It does require you to decipher some mighty thick British accents and has more than a few cultural references that are likely to sail over the heads of ethnocentric Americans. Also, as mentioned above, this show isn't quite as genteel as “Desperate Housewives,” which teases, but hardly titillates. Producers of “Desperate Housewives,” for example, quickly yanked a scene in which Nicollette Sheridan catted around with a leather whip when network execs got uncomfortable. The BBC has no such qualms, and “Footballers Wive$” features frequent seminude romps in hot tubs, bubble baths and bedrooms.

Ultimately, “Footballers Wive$” lacks the sharp, satirical writing of “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry. But, as a brief summertime fling, “Footballers Wive$” more than satisfies the craving for trashy behavior and backstabbing intrigue.

“Footballers Wive$” airs every Sunday night at 8 p.m. on BBC America.

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