The women of Wisteria Lane are bracing themselves for a new arrival.

Carol Burnett has signed on to make a guest appearance on Desperate Housewives as Eleanor Mason, the icy stepmother of Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross).

"I thought this would be a hoot," the 72-year-old thesp told USA Today. "I'm a soap opera fan. I've watched All My Children for a hundred years, and this, too, is a very campy soap. All these crazy things happen in this one town--just like [Children's] Pine Valley."

Burnett begins taping next week and is tentatively scheduled to make her Desperate debut on Apr. 9. While she is currently slated to appear in only one episode, all parties are reportedly open to a return visit next season.

While series creator Marc Cherry credits Burnett with teaching him how to be funny, he said he was giving her character an evil side to differentiate from the hammy personalities the actor portrayed in her long-running variety show.

"Eleanor took over after Bree's mother was killed when Bree was a child," Cherry told USA Today about the character. "She's a very tightly wound, proper lady for whom appearances mean everything. A lot of what Bree has become came from this woman." He described the relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter as "polite but strained."

Burnett was all in favor of Eleanor's nasty side. "I said, 'I want her to be a little [meaner],' " she told USA Today. "It's more fun to have those villainous takes--like Ms. Hannigan," her famously sinister character in 1982's Annie.

Eleanor and her husband, Harry, come to town after Bree's son Andrew announces that he wants to be legally emancipated. "Andrew is bringing up all sorts of family secrets, and they want it stopped," Cherry said.

With the second season of Housewives nearing its conclusion, Cherry advised fans to expect more baby drama for Gabrielle and more trouble in Susan and Karl's platonic marriage. He said the two-hour season finale would involve numerous flashbacks and the return of dead characters.

Cherry also said that Alfre Woodard's and Mehcad Brooks' characters would be getting a "big finale" and that next season's mystery would revolve around one of the four main characters' involvement "with a man who has some dark secrets."

Housewives returns to its usual place in the ABC rotation this Sunday, after having stepped aside for the two-hour Dancing with the Stars finale.

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