Once upon a time, Teri Hatcher was swept up in Superman’s arms.

But that was long ago in another television galaxy, says the former Lois Lane of ABC’s “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”

“It’s a different time in my life. I wasn’t a mom when I was on ‘Lois & Clark,'” says Hatcher. “I’m a different person now. I’m a single mom. There are so many things that have evolved in me over the last seven years that it doesn’t even feel connected in any way.”

Connected, Hatcher means, to her newest prime-time incarnation as one of the fascinating women of “Desperate Housewives,” a colorfully offbeat suburban soap opera with a smart twist of dark wit that premieres in early October on ABC. “Wives” is one of the fall season’s most promising new series.

“It’s exciting and terrifying to be involved in a buzz (show). Because a buzz can be just a buzz. . . . I hope we live up to it,” says Hatcher, who chatted over dinner and drinks at an ABC stars party in Los Angeles this summer.

Ensemble cast “Desperate Housewives,” which will occupy the 9 p.m. Sunday time period until “Alias” returns for a new season in early 2005, is blessed with a nifty female ensemble of stars that also includes Felicity Huffman, Nicolette Sheridan, Eva Longoria and Marcia Cross.

Hatcher’s new alter ego, Susan Mayer, is part of a group of close friends who live along the same cozy suburban street. Like Hatcher, who is divorced from actor Jon Tenney, Susan Mayer is a divorced mother raising a daughter. Hatcher and Tenney’s daughter, Emerson Rose, will be 7 in November.

“This really works for me right now. It’s the right time for me to go back to work,” says Hatcher, 39, whose most notable TV exposure in the past few years was in a series of comedy-laced ads for Radio Shack with former pro football star Howie Long. “My daughter’s in first grade, so she’s getting a little more independent. That was important for me to be around her first 6 or 7 years.”

Having left her comic book persona back in the 20th Century when “Lois & Clark” ended its four-year run in 1997, Hatcher loves the different acting personality she’s slipping into on “Desperate Housewives.”

“I get to really embrace the softer, vulnerable, sort of neurotic, comedic side of myself and have that be more dominant than the viewpoint of being sexy or competent or bitchy,” says Hatcher. “It’s fun for me.”

‘Bubbly and stupid’ Part of the fun will be playing scenes opposite Sheridan, whose sexpot divorcee Edie Britt is the designated conniving vixen of “Desperate Housewives.” Hatcher’s insecure single mom and Sheridan’s scheming man chaser initially compete for the romantic affections of James Denton (“Threat Matrix”), who plays their hunky, slightly mysterious new neighbor.

“When I walked into the (audition) room and saw Nicolette there, I thought: ‘There’s Edie.’ It’s so perfect,” says Hatcher of Sheridan, who played manipulative minx Paige Matheson on “Knots Landing.”

“She personifies that sort of confident sexuality so strongly, there’s just not an ounce of doubt in her. It’s so much fun to work with her because she carries that end of it. And I just get to be bubbly and stupid.”

Hatcher says she’s “unbelievably grateful” for the opportunity to be part of the “Desperate Housewives” ensemble.

“I know there are people who didn’t get my part because they wanted a bigger trailer. I think, ‘Thank God they wanted that bigger trailer,'” Hatcher says with a laugh. “There are lots of things that fell into place for me to make this happen. I’m not trying to be corny or weird about it. I’m just grateful.”

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