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May sweeps often bring out the worst in our normally well-believed networks that mostly give us what we’re expecting every week.  But when they’re all competing for advertising dollars, as they do this time of year, everything goes a little nuts.  First, it’s important to say from the outset that anyone who’s regular life is disrupted by May sweeps really ought to turn off the TV and get out of the house.

Thank goodness someone at the Desperate Housewives bunker had the bright idea to go backwards in the housewives lives to tell the story of how they all got to Wisteria Lane (May 21, ABC).  This is important because the show has, to put it in the current lingo, jumped the shark.  Jumping the shark is a verb invented by someone on the Internet (www.jumptheshark.com) that marks the moment a television show has gone bad, like when Fonzie jumped the shark on Happy Days, thus ensuring no one would ever want to watch the show ever again.  Smart producers take shows off long before they reach that point but unfortunately, some of them reach it long before their time.  Like a bottle of rancid vegetable oil, Desperate Housewives has run out of ideas.  Now, with Susan getting back together with Karl, or attempting to, and Gabrielle with the baby already. What happened to the sleeping with the teenage gardener, Gabby?  Their back-stories ought to give the writers somewhere else to go. 

Survivor will announce its winner on May 14 (CBS), just in time for sweeps, followed by the usual one-hour reunion show.  It is sensational enough without having to add anything to it.  But The Amazing Race also rolls into town on May 17 (NBC) and of course, the crown jewel for Fox, American Idol, holds its grand finale May 23-24. 

Many shows are bringing their season to a close, like Housewives.  Included are Boston Legal, CSI (which promises the death of the one of the show’s characters), Prison Break (how will they set up the second season?), Grey’s Anatomy and of course, The Gilmore Girls, which delivers the last of its season with the writing team of Amy and Dan Palladino. 

It will be the end for some long-standing, beloved television shows, like 7th Heaven on the WB, which will bring back Barry Watson and Jessica Biel for the final episode that will complete a 10-year run.  The West Wing (NBC) finally comes to a close after seven long years with a retrospective of clips from past episodes.  Malcolm in the Middle (Fox), also with seven years under its belt, That 70’s Show, (FOX) which has surprisingly survived for eight years, and Alias (ABC), now that star Jennifer Garner has baby makes three occupying her attention.  And alas, Will and Grace will make its exit after eight seasons (NBC). 

Something to look forward to: Stephen King’s Desperation, (May 23).  King’s new TV movie will star Tom Skerritt and Steven Weber.  Since most Americans probably think the end of the world is not too far off, there is Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America, on May (ABC) and Apocalypse (May 21-22), which stars Beau Bridges as the president during an earthquake.  It has become sort of a rule that there has to be end-of-the-world disaster epics during sweeps.

Barring unpredictable real life events, like hurricanes or the Iraq war coming to an end, it will be business as usual on the networks.   Since NBC will be saying goodbye to the biggest enders, the network could win the sweeps, but CBS is expected to take it.  Fox will be sitting pretty with Idol as easily the most watched show of the month.   

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