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Lifetime's Devious Maids: an ABC reject with a hot, saucy Latina beat


Dishing the dirt during one of Devious Maids’ gossip get-togethers. Lifetime photo

Premiering: Sunday, June 23rd at 9 p.m. (central) on Lifetime
Starring: Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sanchez, Edy Ganem, Judy Reyes, Mariana Klaveno, Grant Show, Matt Cedeno, Melinda Page Hamilton, Susan Lucci, Drew Van Acker, Rebecca Wisocky, Tom Irwin, Brianna Brown, Brett Cullen, Paula Garces
Produced by: Marc Cherry, Eva Longoria, Sabrina Wind, Paul McGuigan, Larry Shuman, David Lonner, John Mass, Paul Presburger, Michael Garcia

Rejected by ABC but perhaps perfect for Lifetime and these times, Devious Maids lathers up Sunday night with a sudsy, bounce-around premiere.

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry and co-star Eva Longoria are co-producing a serial soap that’s both wholly derivative and in its own way a trailblazer. Never have so many Latinas held the power in a prime-time TV series, even if they’re outwardly scraping by as underlings of mostly smug, condescending, rich Beverly Hills whites.

Let’s get ahead of ourselves a bit with a pretty delicious scene near the end of Episode 1. A domestic named Marisol Duarte (Ana Ortiz), who of course is not all that she seems, is preparing to serve dinner at the home of Michael and Taylor Stappord (Brett Cullen, Brianna Brown). But then Michael’s recently discarded ex-wife barges in and starts throwing things.

“Do not screw with me, bitch. Or you will live to regret it!” a take-charge Marisol suddenly commands. She then strong-arms the ex- and evicts her with this kiss-off line: “To people like you, I’m just the woman who opens the door.” Marisol then slams it in her face.

If only all of Devious Maids were that well played. Although after a pretty clumsy start, DM does start to find itself amid a whirl of characters populating not one, not two, but five households. That’s a lot of thespian mouths to feed, particularly when several scenery-chewers are repeatedly in play.

Principal among them is Susan Lucci as Genevieve Delatour, an aging, self-deluded socialite who employs both wizened Zoila Diaz (Judy Reyes) and her willful daughter, Valentina (Edy Ganem), who has a crush on Genevieve’s cutey poo son, Remi (Drew Van Acker). Early in Episode 1, Genevieve hides under her bed after imbibing a bottle of pills. What else is one to do after being rejected by the pool boy.

Genevieve is resilient, though. In Episode 2 she co-conspires with Valentina with the understanding she’s still “got dibs” on the mansion landscaper. “I’ve been priming that pump since the day he trimmed my hibiscus,” Genevieve notes.

There’s also laughably haughty Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky), whose husband Adrian (Tom Irwin) has been having an affair with head maid Flora Hernandez (Paula Garces). In a device likewise used in the first episode of Desperate Housewives, Flora ends up as the designated corpse after staggering into the midst of a poolside party before making her last big splash.

Who did it will remain an open question, as it also was for a good while in DH. But Evelyn is more concerned about the bloody mess that Flora left behind. “Well, who is going to clean all this up?” she asks before the opening title card and credits kick in. She later fires off another one: “For God sake, Taylor, poor people like to be pretty, too.”

Producer Cherry also has populated this series with Odessa Burakov (Melinda Page Hamilton), an icy Teutonic head maid with a serrated tongue and a wooden leg. She barks out orders to piping hot Carmen Luna (Roselyn Sanchez), an aspiring singer hoping to latch on to her pop star employer, Alejandro Rubio (Matt Cedeno).

Whew, this is starting to get exhausting. But just one more household to go.

Spence and Peri Westmore (Grant Show, Mariana Klaveno) are well-heeled actors with a maid named Rosie Falta (Dania Ramirez). She’s a widow whose little son has been left behind in Mexico while she strives to make ends meet and send a little money back home. Rosie also has the goods on what Peri is doing behind Spence’s back. But will she play that card?

Throughout the first two episodes, Devious Maids is afflicted with a constant and oft-dippy soundtrack that sounds like what you might hear at an Idaho Mexican restaurant run by a gringo named Herb Tuber. As did the principals of Desperate Housewives, the stars of Devious Maids also find time to gather for off-site gossip sessions. Pretty convenient, with subtitled Spanish spoken for a least a few token sentences.

Even so, Lifetime could really use a new series that pops. And the curvy maids of this concoction just might be able to make that happen. Semi-inspired lines such as “You’re wearing your smug smile -- the one that makes me want to strike you” -- provide just enough counter-balance to stuff like, “I may unclog drains for a living, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”

There’s also a seemingly ham-handed closeup of the book The Peasant & The Devil after the ever-randy Adrian Powell starts closing in on maid Marisol. But hey, the book also contains an incriminating note.

Devious Maids prominently features what looks to be a record number of Hispanic actresses. And there’s certainly potential strength in viewer numbers as the U.S. Hispanic population continues to grow at a rapid rate.

So maybe the ABC network messed up by not giving this a fling, even though ABC Studios is still the overall producer and Lifetime is half-owned by the Disney-ABC Television Group. Still, it cues me to a line in Episode 2: “To steal another woman’s husband is rude. But to steal her maid is unforgivable.”

In this case, Lifetime actually didn’t filch anything. ABC just let Devious Maids go to a sister cable network. No matter. There’ll be a bit of a mess to mop up in ABC’s executive offices if DM emerges as a Lifetime hit. And these maids will demand double overtime and then some.


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