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Published: Friday, 6/21/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

TELEVISION

Lifetime’s ‘Maids’ in need of an overhaul

Weak writing plagues drama

BY RICH HELDENFELS
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL
'Devious Maids' producer Marc Cherry 'Devious Maids' producer Marc Cherry
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

The new series Devious Maids has drawn attention for its focus on Latina characters and derision for having those characters all be, well, maids. Eva Longoria, the Latina co-star of Desperate Housewives (which, like Devious Maids, came from producer Marc Cherry), took to the Huffington Post to defend the new series. She wrote:

“Stereotypes are constructed and perpetuated by those who believe in them. I choose not to. As an executive producer, I choose to break the cycle of ignorance by bringing to light something we have not seen before, a deeper, more complex side to the women who live beyond the box that some choose to put them in. The only way to break a stereotype is to not ignore it. The stereotype we are grappling with here is that as Latinas, all we are is maids. And yet, this is a show that deconstructs the stereotype by showing us that maids are so much more.”

In other words, in the series premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime, the maids do not define themselves by their work, nor are they in most cases content with their current working role.

One, for example, is an aspiring musician who sees a career path in her job with a Latino pop star. But even if we accept that the show wants to go beyond stereotypes, it does not do it very well. As Vanessa Erazo wrote in the Post’s Latino Voices blog, it is “kinda like a crappy Desperate Housewives Latina redux.”

Indeed, there are cartoon-like characters, including two vain actors and a wicked couple of society leaders.

There is a mystery: another maid, Flora Hernandez (Paula Garces), is murdered as the series begins. There are schemes and twists, extended bits of comedy and sudden dramatic turns.

All focus on the five main characters: the widowed maid Rosie Falta (Dania Ramirez), the musician Carmen Luna (Roselyn Sanchez), senior maid Zoila Diaz (Judy Reyes) and her co-worker daughter Valentina (Edy Ganem), and the newcomer Marisol Duarte (Ana Ortiz), Flora’s replacement. Their respective employers offer different challenges, as do their families; Valentina, for one, is attracted to her employer’s son (Drew Van Acker), and other maids discover secrets their bosses are keeping.

But, as capable as the acting ensemble is, the first two episodes of the series do not add up to much.

The first one drags as it introduces the many characters; the second keeps plots moving, but in the stumbling way. Look at someone like Reyes, so very good on Scrubs, so underserved here. Nor is the acting uniformly skilled; Susan Lucci, as Zoila’s and Valentina’s boss, is particularly bad. While the series does battle stereotypes, it can’t beat weak writing.

Devious Maids airs 10 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime.



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