September 22, 2013



ABC, which passed on DEVIOUS MAIDS and allowed it to be picked up by corporate sibling Lifetime, is probably lucky the cable network only programs the show during the summer off-season.  Maids, which of course is the brainchild of Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry, has been zeroing in on what was once the Housewives audience on Sunday nights, and given Lifetime’s smaller universe, it’s been extraordinarily successful, with ratings in the 1.0 area, not that far off from ABC’s regular-season Housewives replacement Revenge–usually in the 1.7-1.8 area–and ahead of the network’s Sunday night flops like 666 Park Avenue and Red Widow.  If Lifetime went head-to-head with the ABC soaps during the regular season, it’s not clear just who’d win.

It’s a triumph for Cherry, not to mention another black eye for network TV.  And the truth is that just about any fan of Housewives would find Devious Maids perfectly watchable, since it’s as close a companion piece to Housewives in style and tone as any non-spin-off could be.  (Technically, Maids is an adaptation of Mexican telenovela.)  That’s both good and bad, since for a show about housekeepers, Maids, like Housewives in its latter seasons, is awfully sloppy and unkempt.  But Cherry knows how to keep a dumb story spinning, and Maids is never boring.

As was often the case on Housewives, the central mystery that formed the spine of the Maids storyline has been its weakest part.  Marisol (Ana Ortiz) is a literature professor who went undercover as an LA housemaid when her son Eddie (Eddie Hassell) was arrested for murdering maid Flora (seen in flashbacks).  She kept her real identity secret not only from her employers, but from Flora’s friends:  Zoila and Valentina (Judy Reyes and Edy Ganem), who work for Genevieve Delatour (Susan Lucci); aspiring singer Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez), who cleans for pop star Alejandro Rubio (Matt Cedeno); and illegal immigrant Rosie (Dania Ramirez), whose bosses are Peri and Spence Westmore (Mariana Klaveno and Grant Show).  Marisol, while trying to track down the real killer, works for Flora’s former employers Evelyn and Adrian Powell (Rebecca Wisocky and Tom Irwin), as well as Adrian’s lawyer Michael Stappord (Brett Cullen) and his wife Taylor (Brianna Brown).

The identity of Flora’s killer was never very interesting, and tonight’s season finale, written by Cherry and directed by Larry Shaw, didn’t even bother to throw a curve ball, confirming what had been obvious for the last several episodes, that the killer was Genevieve Delatour’s ex-husband Phillippe (Stephen Collins), furious because Flora was pregnant by Philippe’s son Remi (Drew Van Acker) while demanding blackmail from Philippe because he raped her when she refused to go through with her prostitution duties (at Adrian’s behest) with Phillippe.  Cherry didn’t have the slightest interest in exploring this kind of aberrant behavior (on everyone’s part) with any depth, so it was all vaguely scummy, with little difference among the older-than-middle-aged men who formed Adrian’s group of friends/johns.  The only attempt at a surprise was Adrian and Evelyn killing Phillippe themselves out of pique, solving Marisol’s problem when she couldn’t get Phillippe to confess on a hidden videotape.

Other stories through the course of the season were sillier but less ugly, as Rosie began an affair with “Mr. Spence” under the nose of Peri, who confirmed her bitchiness in the episode’s epilogue by having Rosie apprehended by ICE (setting up next season), Marisol became a genuine friend to her insecure boss Taylor, and Carmen wobbled between being ruthless in pursuit of her career (which would have entailed, in the finale, serving as beard/wife for her secretly gay boss) or settling down.  The show never really figured out much to do with Zoila and Valentina, with the latter spending the entire season obsessed with her love for Remy–a worthless coke addict, until the show weirdly decided to reform him and send him to Africa to work with the poor–and Zoila did everything in her power to stop the romance.

Devious Maids only intermittently made sense, and there was some merit to the objections voiced that something was offensive about a superficial entertainment about Latinas written and produced by Anglos (although with Eva Longoria as a celebrity producer), but if you didn’t scrutinize it too closely, it could also be fun.  The cast played both the comedy and melodrama well (Lucci was a particularly good sport, since her role was nothing but jokes about aging and bubbleheadedness), and the pace was speedy, hours shooting by through sheer momentum.  Surprisingly, Cherry didn’t do much beyond the ICE arrest to set things up for next season (especially since Marisol, her son freed from jail, will presumably go back to being a professor, unless she developed a fondness for vacuuming and laundry during her time undercover)–no doubt he’ll come up with plenty of yarns between now and then.

Devious Maids is hardly quality television, but it’s more enjoyable than anything ABC has aired on Sundays since Desperate Housewives departed.  Amidst our Breaking Bads and our Louies, there’s still a place for its kind of boneheaded silliness in the TV mix.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."