On the Scene: Who’s ‘Desperate’ Now?

Just who are those "Desperate Housewives" pushing down the basement steps now?

Could it be … Emmy? No, that's Caleb. Emmy is Michael Berenbaum's thing.

And what a thing it is for the Philadelphia native son, who still has family here. For when push comes to shove, it was Berenbaum who was pushed into the spotlight the other night, earning an Emmy Award – one of few the series got – at ceremonies out L.A. way.

If Berenbaum's flying high for winning as editor of the smash-hit series pilot, it's understandable – just better not let the quirky quartet of "Housewives" get their hands on his award lest it wind up a plot point.

But that's the point; anything goes with Wisteria hysteria – and Berenbaum helped show the way.

A TV and feature film editor for more than two decades, Berenbaum is over the moon at winning – not that being named best of the best is anything new. He took home two ACE Awards for his work on "Sex and the City," too.

But it was Philadelphia that served as his first backdrop for set and the city. His movie debut? "I've been making movies since I was 10," recalling that first one as "a cowboy shootout."

Was Clint Eastwood available to star in the Movie With No Name? "No, it was my friend, Steve Weinraub. I edited the film in the camera."

After graduating from George Washington High School, Berenbaum headed north – to New York University's prestigious film school, also landing an internship at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

"I always knew I wanted to work in film," he says.

Better Than a Check

Lights! Cameras! Editing? "Not many people actually know what an editor does," says Berenbaum of the cut-and-snip jobs that make it sound akin to being a mohel of the movies.

Speaking of Jewish rites of passage … It was the exact right moment in life for Berenbaum when "my Uncle Lenny bought me an editing set for my Bar Mitzvah. It was the best gift I ever got."

In reality – and in reel life – editors are gifted artists, using their talent to give shape and substance to footage the director has helmed and the actors starred in. Not that everyone acknowledges that.

Sometimes, the editor is edited out when it comes to making the scene. "I am so far removed" from day-to-day shoots, says Berenbaum. "At 'Sex and the City,' they used to have softball games for cast and crew on the weekends and forget to tell the editing crew."

Yer outta there! Yeah, just try and make a series without an editor. But don't expect the talented Berenbaum – who has collaborated with such directors as Martin Scorcese, Joel and Ethan Cohen, and Julian Schnabel – to focus on himself.

"It's the script; it always starts with the script," he says of his "Desperate Housewives" work.

Of course, even as editor, Berenbaum had nothing to do with cutting characters from the plot. That's producer/writer Marc Cherry's cherished job.

But if time seems to have gone quickly for viewers tuning in for the pilot, they may have Berenbaum to thank. "Pace is one of the most important points in comedy," he says. "The faster that [a segment] goes, the funnier it may seem."

Funny thing about "Housewives": It became big in a hurry.

"On the Street Where You Live" soon became the song sung by millions of fans who can't get their share of the women husbanding their energies and daffiness in pursuit of having it all. "It got huge – and huge fast!" says Berenbaum.

If the series fired up ABC's schedule, it was a fire that best displayed Berenbaum's talents in the pilot.The scene in which Susan (Teri Hatcher) accidentally set Edie's (Nicollete Sheridan) house on fire could have meant curtains for the comedy's impact if not done properly. "When it happened, the flames shot up the curtains too quickly for it to be comedically appropriate," says the editor, who "technically delayed the scene when the flames were revealed."

When you're hot, you're hot. And what could be hotter than working on the sexed-up "Sex and the City" before Berenbaum encountered the horny "Housewives"? The women were wonderful on the HBO series – as are the "Housewives" he worked with on the pilot – he says, but felt that "New York itself had a large part to do with the pace of that show," on which Berenbaum was the editing-room's Mr. Big, working from the first show to the last.

It looks like "Desperate Housewives" will last for a while; of course, Berenbaum has long moved on to other productions. But, since he lived for a bit on Wisteria Lane, one question that maybe a former resident could answer: Why are none of the "Desperate Housewives" Jewish?

He laughs. "I'm sure there will be some eventually."



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here