There are four desperate housewives and their issues are clearly illustrated via the food they bring to the funeral of their friend, Mary Anne, and a key scene in the first 10 minutes. Lynette made a choice between kids and her career, Gabrielle has a loveless marriage, Bree is too controlled (think Annette Bening in American Beauty) and Susan is single.
After setting up these a) funny, b) conventional or c) archetypal issues, the show uses Act Two to introduce a significant conflict into each housewife's subplot. Susan battles the town slut for the love of a man. Gabrielle has an affair. Bree’s family rebel, leading to her husband asking for a divorce, and Lynette compares herself unfavourably to a friend who decided not to have kids and stayed in her career.
During Act Three the show hit its stride:
"Let's risk it."
"Yes, well I feel badly about it."
"I'm sick of the bizarre way your hair doesn't move."
It also made Susan do something dumb and contrived solely for the purpose of setting up a criminal subplot for her. To be fair, the writers did try to solve this problem by establishing that Susan does dumb and contrived things but it still felt weak.
I wouldn't have decided to watch the next episode on Monday if the ending hadn’t promised to explore an ongoing plot about Mary Ann's suicide. Now, I've heard the series doesn't deliver on that promise but I'm willing to give it 2 more eps to see for myself.