There has been a lot of discussion about the new comedy/drama series “Devious Maids,” much of it expressing disappointment over the show’s depiction of five Latina women who work as domestic help. While many critics applaud the groundbreaking choice to put Latina actresses in leading roles on an English language program, some see the decision to make them housekeepers as enforcing a stereotype. I mention this debate because it’s difficult to review the show without acknowledging that it’s about maids and they are Latina, and this makes some critics and viewers angry. Despite the controversy, the show has become a hit for the Lifetime network and has already been renewed for a second season.
“Devious Maids” is executive produced by Eva Longoria and Marc Cherry, the man behind “Desperate Housewives,” and like that show, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The maids, who are only occasionally devious, work for wealthy people who are needy, demanding and insecure. There are the Powells (Rebecca Wisocky and Tom Irwin), the Stappords (Brianna Brown and Brett Cullen), the Westmores (Mariana Klaveno and Grant Show), Mrs. Delatour (Susan Lucci) and Mr. Rubio (Matt Cedeno). Their maids, Marisol (Ana Ortiz), Rosie (Dania Ramirez), Zoila (Judy Reyes) and Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez) are friends. The employers have secrets. The maids have problems. Everyone has an agenda, some more admirable than others. The minor subplots (Rosie’s trying to bring her son to the U.S.; Zoila is trying to keep her teenage daughter Valentina (Edy Ganem), who works alongside her, from falling for the Delatour son Remi (Drew Van Acker); Carmen is trying to kick-start a music career), support a larger murder-mystery storyline.
The series begins with the death of Flora (Paula Garces), the Powell’s maid, who is stabbed during a party they are throwing at their home. She stumbles onto the terrace and falls into the pool right after she writes a note declaring that she was raped. Marisol arrives on the scene shortly after Flora’s death. She gets a job with the Stappords with some side work for the Powells. Mr. Powell quickly grows suspicious that Marisol is not who she pretends to be. Then again, neither is Mr. Powell.
While Flora’s death is the drama part of this comedy/drama and tailor-made for a Twitter hashtag (#whokilledflora), the laughs come from some good one-liners, most delivered by Evelyn Powell. Surveying the mess left behind from Flora’s murder, she desperately asks: But who’s going to clean all this up? The line works because it’s so inappropriate but also because it’s an expected send-up of the wealthy. On this show, the employers are mostly awful to their long-suffering maids who find a few humorous (and devious) ways to occasionally reverse the power relationship. It’s not an original dynamic but the story lines are pure soap opera fun and the actors do them justice.
Whether or not you feel that the casting choices on “Devious Maids” is contributing to a negative perception of Latinas, the show does portray women who have heart and integrity. There’s nothing devious about that.
“Devious Maids” is on Sundays at 10 p.m. EDT on Lifetime.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.
Stay Tuned: Lifetime scores a hit with Devious Maids’