From left, Ana Ortiz, Edy Ganem, Judy Reyes, Dania Ramirez and Roselyn Sanchez
Starting tonight, Lifetime starts serving up a bracing glass of summer sangria in the form of Devious Maids, a featherweight but entertaining new dramedy from two former Desperate Housewives collaborators, actress Eva Longoria and series creator Marc Cherry. Adapted from a Mexican TV series called Ellas son la Alegria del Hogar (which means “they are the joy of the household”), the series revolves around four Latina maids working for (usually) demanding and insensitive wealthy families in some of the most fabulous mansions in Beverly Hills.
Devious Maids opens with the fatal stabbing of another maid, Flora, during a party at the home of her employer, Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky), shortly after the latter has upbraided her for allegedly seducing Evelyn’s husband, Adrian (Tom Irwin). Adrian and the party guests are horrified by the murder, but Evelyn is primarily preoccupied with the fact that she can’t find anyone to clean up the gore from the murder scene.
“(The agency) gave me attitude because Flora was murdered,” she complains to a friend. “I’d understand if I had had a few maids slaughtered, but I’ve only lost the one. It’s not fair.”
Meanwhile, Marisol Duarte (Ana Ortiz, Ugly Betty) has landed a job cleaning the home of the Powells’ neighbors, Michael Stappord (Brett Cullen) and his new trophy wife, Taylor (Brianna Brown), although Taylor is uneasy that Marisol has no accent and speaks as if she had gone to college (translation: “She has an attitude”).
Marisol soon begins to win over Taylor by listening to her frustration about living with Michael in a home that had been extensively decorated by his first wife (guest star Valerie Mahaffey), an insecure shrew given to dropping by at inopportune moments. Marisol also offers to help Evelyn by filling in at her home as well until a replacement for Flora can be found, and we begin to see that Marisol is more than idly curious about the murder.
In another mansion, Zoila Del Barrio (Judy Reyes, Scrubs) has her hands full keeping her aging and deeply neurotic mistress, Genevieve Delatour (Susan Lucci), from having a nervous breakdown, but she’s not too busy to notice that Zoila’s daughter, Valentina (Edy Ganem), has set her cap for Genevieve’s handsome son, Remi (Drew Van Acker), an infatuation that Zoila recognizes is a fast ticket to catastrophe.
At the home of soap star Spence Westmore (Grant Show, Melrose Place) and his B-list movie actress wife, Peri (Mariana Klaveno, True Blood), Rosie Falta (Dania Ramirez) picks up most of the slack when it comes to nurturing their little boy while struggling to find a way to bring her own young son from Guadalajara to be with her in Los Angeles.
Finally, relentlessly ambitious Carmen Luna (Roselyn Sanchez) keeps flirting with disaster – and her new superstar employer, Alejandro Rubio (Matt Cendeno) – in hopes that he will help her launch her own singing career.
Since Cherry created both Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids, it’s no surprise that the two shows share some creative DNA (a dark mystery at the heart of the story, a somewhat camp sensibility, strong female characters and even similar musical underscoring). I’m a little surprised that Maids has ruffled some feathers in terms of handling its ethnic characters since, by and large, the Anglo characters are far less appealing and sympathetic than the principal maids are. The ensemble cast is very strong, led by Ortiz on the domestic side and, on the other, the gloriously over-the-top Wisocky, who once guest starred as Bree’s mother on Desperate Housewives.
Devious Maids isn’t out to make any truly subversive sociopolitical points – or, if it is, it fails notably on that account. It is, however, an entertaining way to spend an hour on a summer night, and on that score, I suggest that you check it out.