Lifetime’s Devious Maids drew scorn from some cultural critics based on its promos alone, but with its Sunday-night premiere in the books, the question looms: Will the sudser clean up with audiences?
From Desperate Housewives producer Marc Cherry — and based on the telenovela Ellas Son La Alegría Del Hogar (They Are the Joy of Home) — the show focuses on the lives of a quintet of Latina domestic workers in Beverly Hills, and it doesn’t hurt that the ensemble is led by Ugly Betty‘s spectacular Ana Ortiz, an actress who can deftly shift gears from outrageous comedy to high drama without breaking a sweat.
The action opens with the murder of Flora, a sexy but troubled young maid for the Powell family, moments after her affair with the family patriarch has been exposed and she begins to write a letter (to whom, we can’t be certain) that contains an accusation of rape (by whom, we can’t be certain). While a waiter at the Powell’s party is implicated in the killing, it’s pretty clear he’s not guilty — a fact of which the Powells are also certain, but unwilling to reveal, since they appear to be sitting on a large cache of secrets and aren’t eager for any more police attention.
Enter Ortiz’s Marisol, who scores a job working for the wealthy Mr. Stappord and his young second wife — while also eventually freelancing for the now housekeeper-less Powells. Turns out, Marisol is the jailed waiter’s mother, and she’s determined to prove his innocence, whether it means she has to clean up the murdered girl’s blood and gore from the Powell’s study, cozy up to her fellow Beverly Hills housekeepers, put up with Mr. Powell’s come-ons or hide her true identity from everyone around her. “You sound like you went to college,” says Mrs. Stappord, dubiously, during their interview. “Thank you,” says Marisol, offering no more details. Later, in the premiere’s best scene, Marisol almost breaks her cover — but wins over her new bosses — by ejecting Mr. Stoppard’s first wife after she causes a melodramatic scene at his birthday party. “Do not screw with me, bitch, or you will live to regret it,” she roars, before composing herself and telling the assembled guests, “I worked very hard on this dinner. I’ll be damned if I let anyone ruin it.”
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Marisol is greeted warmly by her neighbors’ maids (gathered for lunch in a local park) — but they freeze up when she begins digging for intel on Flora’s murder. In a nutshell, the other “Devious Maids” include:
* Zoila and Valentina (Scrubs‘ Judy Reyes and Edy Ganem): A mother/daughter team employed by a dotty, pill-popping socialite (Susan Lucci, camping it up). Valentina, though, has her sights set on the family’s college-student son, much to Zoila’s chagrin. “Rich boys, they never fall in love with the help. Trust me on this,” says Zoila, without offering any additional backstory. (Here’s hoping Reyes gets more to do going forward, no?) Valentina certainly knows how to repurpose a maid’s costume into a little yellow fantasy romper. (Maybe she can cross over to Lifetime’s Project Runway?)
* Carmen (Without a Trace‘s Roselyn Sanchez): This aspiring singer scores a job with Latin music sensation Alejandro Rubio, but her efforts to get her tunes into his hands keep getting thwarted by Alejandro’s hard-charging assistant Odessa — at least till she’s knocked unconscious falling down a flight of stairs due to Carmen’s dropped dust rag. Might Carmen find true love with another live-in assistant, the understatedly sexy Sam?
* Rosie (Heroes‘ Dania Ramirez): This widowed mother has left her son in her homeland and come to California to earn money by working as a nanny for a rich, spoiled film actress and her soap-star hubby. When her boss won’t let her have a day off to meet with a lawyer to help get her son to the US, though, Rosie proves crafty enough to launch a scheme where a TV journalist is led to believe the actress’ son’s first word — “mama” — was directed at Rosie. Cue a sudden need for mother-son bonding time. And cue a day off for Rosie. Expertly played, girlfriend!
Yes, a lot of Devious Maids‘ plot is generated by absurd one-percenter foolery — “For God’s sake, poor people like to be pretty, too!” cries Mrs. Powell, when Mrs. Stappord expresses incredulity about the former socialite asking if Marisol had plastic surgery — but it all seems to be in the spirit of good, trashy fun.
What did you think of Devious Maids? Did you enjoy all the Desperate Housewives supporting players who wound up in the mix? Take our poll below, then hit the comments and expand on your thoughts!