Marc Cherry’s first post-Desperate Housewives project, Devious Maids, was a long time coming to the small screen, jumping from ABC to Lifetime where the series began airing Sunday night. Like Cherry’s recent big series, Devious Maids offers a window into the lives of the wealthy, but this time the story has been transplanted to Beverly Hills and the real heroes are the unsung maids who have the ability to air all of the household’s dirty laundry.
There’s Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez), an aspiring singer with an attitude, who is unsuited for the world of cleaning, and it shows. Then there’s Zoila (Scrubs actress Judy Reyes) who is busy dealing with her daughter, Valentina (Edy Ganem), who is falling for their employer’s son. There is Rosie (Dania Ramirez), who is working for a selfish employer in order to make money to bring her son to the States. Finally, there is newcomer Marisol (Ugly Betty’s Ana Ortiz), who doesn’t seem to fit into the world of cleaning. By the end of the first episode, we learn her secret, and it has to do with a murder mystery sweeping through the small community.
Yes, in a nod to his recent work, Devious Maids begins with the death of a poor maid named Flora. Audiences get one brief scene to mourn the cheeky maid before moving on into the main storylines of the episode, but the mystery surrounding her murder doesn’t seem like the type of thing that will stay under wraps for long, with a planted secret note ripe for the plucking and a cast of maids ready and willing to stick it to their employers, who provide more of the soapy conversations throughout the hour-long episode.
While Carmen’s employer, Alejandro (Matt Cedeno), seems innocuous so far, the rest of the key household heads are either creepy or flat-out selfish and bitchy. The worst of the worst is Evelyn Powell (The Mentalist’s Rebecca Wisocky), a careful and pointed individual who is certain to put her husband, her colleagues, and especially the maids in their places. Susan Lucci also puts in an All My Children-worthy performance as a drugged up mother named Genevieve. The rest of the household female cast is plugged with selfish blondes. The series is based on a telenova, but with a few tweaks of the bosses’ personalities, the villains of the show could have gone from soapy to evil or at least complicated. As it stands, fans of undercutting, catty girl moments will get plenty thoughout the pilot episode and little else.
I was initially a little surprised when Devious Maids did not move forward as part of ABC’s lineup. There are a lot of similarities between Cherry’s late, great series and Devious Maids, but while Desperate Housewives popped onscreen for a good portion of its run on network television, so far Devious Maids is far more lackluster. The biggest problems with the new series are pretty big ones, with the pacing all over the board and the tone changing depending on whether the maids are interacting with one another or interacting with their bosses. I didn’t expect a lot of fuzzy or warm moments between employer and employee, but I also didn’t expect to find a set of warm and deep maids juxtaposed with cold and foolish caricatures for bosses. It’s right that the household workers personalities should be the focus of this drama, but that doesn’t mean every other character needs to be a dull rehash of the wealthy people we’ve seen on television in the past.
Pilot episodes are notoriously unreliable indicators of what is to come, but what I can be certain of is that Devious Maids should fit right in line with the other original programming Lifetime has going on right now, Project Runway included, due to the saccharine nature of the series and the female-geared dialogue throughout the show. By the end of the first episode, Rosie has already machinated one bitchy moment to damage the reputation of her truly awful employer, Carmen has moved one step closer to becoming a pop star, and Marisol is a baby step closer to discovering who may be behind the murder. While most of this stuff is fluff, it’s that baby step that matters and that might keep viewers coming back for more in Season 1. The real test will be whether or not the writers will be able to stretch the intrigue beyond a first season, and leave fans primed and waiting for more.
One word of advice: We as a society are no longer at the point where a series should feel the need to subtitle the greeting ‘Hola.’
Devious Maids airs on Lifetime on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET.