July 1, 2013

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Devious Maids”


DEVIOUS MAIDS:  Sunday 10PM on Lifetime

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on DEVIOUS MAIDS:  A quintet of maids toil for the vapid, selfish, and sometimes downright evil well-to-do of Beverly Hills.  Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez) hopes contact with her music-star boss will jump-start her own singing career.  Zoila (Judy Reyes) is trying to keep her daughter Valentina (Edy Ganem) from getting too attached to the hunky son of the house, Remi (Drew Van Acker).  Rosie (Dania Ramirez) is doing more to raise the child of her employers (Grant Show and Mariana Klaveno) than they are.  The most intriguing of the group is Marisol (Ana Ortiz), who’s only working for the Stappords (Brett Cullen and Brianna Brown) so that she can get close to their friends the Powells (Tom Irwin and Rebecca Wisocky)–their maid Flora was recently murdered, and although no one else knows it, Marisol’s son is the (presumable) patsy who’s been arrested for the crime.  His mother is out to prove he didn’t do it.

Episode 2:  The second hour of the series, written by creator Marc Cherry and directed by Rob Bailey, pushed forward with the storylines set up in the pilot, making some tweaks here and there.  In the pilot, both of Rosie’s employers had been painted as venal and narcissistic, but the plan now seems to be for Peri (Klaveno) to bear all of that burden–she’s also, we learn, an adulteress–while Spence (Show) is actually a nice guy, so nice that Rosie can’t bear to tell him the truth about Peri.  In the Zoila/Valentina story, Remi’s mother Genevieve (Susan Lucci), while still the scatterbrained egotist we met in the pilot, is apparently going to be Valentina’s ally in bringing the young maid together with her son, while Zoila inflicted a painful lesson in class struggle on her own daughter, forcing her to wait on Remi and his friends.  The Carmen story was mostly concerned with some wish-fulfillment, as the boss was away on a trip and she indulged herself by skinny-dipping, inviting the other maids over for a liquid lunch, and generally acting like the lady of the house; we were also meant to realize that her ambition is hard-wired after an as-yet undetailed broken heart, so much so that she teased and generally tormented colleague Sam (Wole Parks), who has a crush on her.  As to the pilot’s mysterious murder, Marisol succeeded in being hired to work one day per week with the Powells, after Adrian (Irwin) blackmailed or otherwise intimidated Taylor (Brown) into allowing it.  There followed some menacing flirtation on Adrian’s part, with much insinuation about his relationship with Flora while Marisol played feather-dusting detective.  Marisol found the incriminating note Floria had written before her murder, but so did Adrian, who snatched it–and apparently Marisol was too dumb to realize he’d immediately destroy it, which didn’t make much sense for a character who’s meant to be intelligent.

In Cherry’s hands, Devious Maids is hardly going to be a subtle vehicle for social commentary, and he doesn’t seem to be able to stretch at all beyond his Desperate Housewives mix of broad comedy, old-fashioned soapy plotting, and occasional heavy shows of emotion.  That blend has worked for him for a long time, of course, so in a way you can hardly blame him.  Maids is the equivalent of a paperback beach read, and this is the season for it–it’s a moderately effective page-turner, despite all its glaring and sometimes eye-rolling flaws.  So far Reyes is the one giving the closest thing to a human performance, while the rest of the cast, while personable, is stuck to one extent or another in Cherry’s extreme form of dramedy stylization.  The show’s production values, considering that this is meant to be a story about characters much richer than the ones in Housewives, are rather distractingly stingy, a fact that may have accompanied the move from ABC to cable.

Devious Maids got off to an OK but disappointing start in last week’s ratings, with the same 0.7 as the aging Drop Dead Diva that preceded it, and considerably below Lifetime’s launch of The Client List last year.  If it stays at that level, it’ll be a moderate win, but if not, it may mean that viewers have had enough of Cherry’s housewives and their help, and prefer to move on to a classier neighborhood.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else is On…

PILOT + 1:  The Light Alternative To Sunday’s Heavy-Duty Cable Dramas


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."