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PUBLISHED: Deliciously Devious Maids

Maid To Entertain

A new show might deal with social commentary, but it’s still a prime-time soap, writes Emily Yahr

Devious Maids examines an underlying class warfare

Gorgeous swimming pools abound on sleek new drama Devious Maids, centred on the complicated relationships between wealthy Beverly Hills families and their hired help.

Gorgeous swimming pools abound on sleek new drama Devious Maids, centred on the complicated relationships between wealthy Beverly Hills families and their hired help. 
Because it’s a show from Marc Cherry (the sharp, calculating creator of ABC’s Desperate Housewives), the pools seem to serve a symbolic purpose: the aquamarine water glitters tantalisingly in the sunlight, showing off the privilege of the entitled homeowners while reminding their employees of what they can’t have.
And, because it’s a show from Marc Cherry, within a few minutes, someone winds up stabbed, dead and floating in one of those pools.

With that, we begin Devious Maids, which has so many echoes of Housewives that it seems like a companion show. The series focuses on five women, involves a complicated web of characters and hooks viewers immediately with a murder mystery.

Like its predecessor, the show is also obsessed with exploring the fraudulent ways in which people live their lives, trying to appear perfect while everything is actually falling apart. The difference with Maids, however, is the underlying class warfare in every scene.

“You don’t have an accent,” blurts out Taylor Stappord (Brianna Brown), a trophy wife interviewing a potential maid (Ana Ortiz). “I’ve never met a maid who didn’t have an accent. You sound like you went to college,” she says, accusatorially.
Ortiz’s character gives a pained pause. “Thank you,” she responds.

Still, does the campiness outweigh the social commentary? Of course – it’s still a prime-time soap, adapted from a Spanish telenovela. 
Among the titular characters, Ortiz stars as Marisol, who conveniently applied for the job just after the mysterious murder took place; no-nonsense Zoila (Judy Reyes) and her teen daughter (Edy Ganem) are virtual babysitters for their pill-popping employer (an amusingly batty Susan Lucci); aspiring singer Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez) only accepted the gig so she could slip her pop star boss her demo CD; and kindhearted Rosie (Dania Ramirez) is trying to earn money to bring her young son from Mexico to the States.
The darkly comic tone sets in early, with horrific secrets lurking in beautifully furnished mansions.

“I think what you people do is heroic,” crazy evil rich lady Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky) tells her maid, Flora (Paula Garc├ęs). “You wash clothes you can’t afford. You polish silver you will never dine with… and you still dream of a better life.”
“That said,” Evelyn adds curtly, “if you don’t stop (having sex with) my husband, I’m going to have you deported.”

A few moments later, a sobbing Flora is murdered by a gloved killer, kicking off the season-long mystery of who did it and why – and the meaning behind a puzzling note Flora left behind. Later, Evelyn pouts when the cleaning agency hesitates to assign another maid to her house. “I’d understand if I’d had a few maids slaughtered,” she sulks. “But I only lost the one. It’s not fair.”

Some of the many story lines work better than others – such as when Zoila’s daughter falls hard for the boss’s college-age, often shirtless son, and Zoila’s forced to teach her a harsh lesson about what happens when the classes clash. 

It’s also satisfying to see emotionally abused Rosie get revenge on her nasty employer, a malicious actress who can’t bear to spend a minute with her own baby. 
A frequent complaint with Housewives was that many of the best moments came when the five lead women were all together.

Here, the main actresses have solid chemistry as well, though they meet too infrequently – only short lunch breaks to swop stories.

In the first few episodes, the show has enough momentum to offer some promise, even if Cherry’s vehicles tend to start strong and go off the rails quickly. But given the ability of his previous Housewives to dig deeper than many dramas, it feels right to give this series the benefit of the doubt. – Washington Post

Catch Devious Maids on Thursdays, M-Net Series Showcase at 8pm.

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