devious-maids-cast

It airs on Sunday nights at 9pm. Features a female ensemble cast and a season long mystery. Characters include a goofball with a heart of gold, a world-weary mother figure and a vampy, bitchy gold-digger. And the tone veers from physical comedy to dark tragedy, often with a kinky edge. Yep, Devious Maids features more than its fair share of Desperate Housewives DNA.

And just like its ABC predecessor Devious Maids is now on its way to becoming a hit. After debuting with a middling 2 million viewers a month ago Maids has gained viewers almost every week and is developing into a sizeable, buzzy hit for Lifetime. Expect a second season renewal any moment now!

Now here’s the most important question… is Devious Maids actually good?

Speaking as a viewer who loved Desperate Housewives for most of its run – I checked out in the final season when the show was clearly creatively exhausted – I’m finding myself sort of enjoying Devious Maids. But I don’t love it… yet.

Parts of the show work really well. But the series is also still finding its feet. It hasn’t found its tone and style nearly as quickly as Housewives did way back in 2004. That show really hit the ground running and fully deserved its instant success. Maids is more of a slow boil.

So in case you’re not watching Devious Maids here’s the basic plot. The show – based on the Mexican series “Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar“ - revolves around 5 maids working in Beverly Hills. There’s Rosie, the religious one, who works for a bitchy actress called Peri and is starting to fall for her husband, the kind hearted Spence. Carmen is a budding singer who’s using her position within the household of a pop star called Alejandro to boost her career. Then there’s mother and daughter Zoila and Valentina. They work for the unstable – but sweet – Genevieve and Valentina is madly in love with her boss’s hunky son Remi. And finally there’s Marisol, the newcomer of the bunch who’s at the center of the show’s central mystery. She’s just started working at the home of creepy / kinky couple Evelyn and Adrian Powell, whose last maid Flora was murdered in the show’s opening episode. Marisol’s son has been framed for the murder and his mom is determined to secure justice for her son. But what secrets will she uncover along the way…

Judy-reyes-and-susan-lucci-devious-maids

Okay here’s what’s working about Devious Maids so far. The cast is largely charming and fun – especially Ugly Betty alum Ana Ortiz as Marisol and the clearly having a ball Susan Lucci who’s relishing the chance to escape her daytime roots in the role of Genevieve. There’s plenty of other familiar faces in the mix too: Ex Melrose Place star Grant Show as Spence, Desperate Housewives’ Carl as Genevieve’s brother, even Sister Mary Bernard, Gaby’s nemesis on Housewives, is here, playing stern Russian housekeeper Odessa.

Then there’s that Desperate Housewives tone, which still largely works. The show’s central mystery is intriguing and no doubt there are many twists and turns along the way. And Maids zips along at a fun and frothy pace. It’s total TV comfort food.

Okay so that’s the good. The bad? Sometimes the show’s comedic tone feels forced with key characters and situations and punch lines you can see coming way in advance. Odessa’s fake leg has already run out of comedic mileage. And the character of Carmen as a whole isn’t quite there yet – you sense she’s meant to have the same bitchy appeal of Housewives’ Gaby, but at the moment she’s more annoying than funny. Meanwhile Valentina needs to be given more to do than just moon over Remi. Too many of the Devious Maids cast are feeling one note at the moment. They need to be more surprising – and frankly devious. The show is too safe.

Then there’s the show’s rich employers. In episode one it was hard to find anyone on the other side of the show’s economic divide who was likeable, a key mistake in my opinion as it made the show feel unpleasant and only added to the show’s unfortunate racial stereotypes (downtrodden Latina maids working for horrible rich people). Now we’ve come to know the characters this is much less of a problem – but the show still needs more shading and surprises – and frankly more soapiness. It’s just not as clever as Desperate Housewives at this point and the show’s relentless Latino music cues and telenovela style don’t help. Housewives was trashy – but it was also smart at the same time.

Still it’s early days and Devious Maids has time to find its feet. At the end of the day the show feels different. It’s interesting. And it’s fun. So if you haven’t watched Maids yet it’s worth a look. And hopefully these maids will ramp up their devious sides soon!