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Episode Name: Pilot
Air date: 6/23/2013
Summary: The women turn to one another for support when their friend and fellow maid Flora is brutally murdered at the home of her employers, Evelyn and Adrian Powell, at one of the largest society events of the year. Meanwhile, newcomer Marisol is hired to clean the home of Taylor and Michael Stappord, a newlywed couple with a complicated love history. But Marisol has ulterior motives and when someone she loves becomes wrapped up in Flora’s murder, she goes undercover to learn the truth.
Gorgeous swimming pools abound on Lifetime’s sleek new drama “Devious Maids,” centered 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 tantalizingly 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” — visually, tonally, thematically — that it seems like a companion show. (It nearly was — the pilot was originally developed for ABC, and Eva Longoria is an executive producer.) 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 that 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, which ups the ante on the typical Lifetime drama.
“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.
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 mysterious 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 (played by 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.
If your head is already spinning, the episodes don’t slow down, continuously jumping from house to house. The darkly comic tone sets in early, with horrific secrets lurking in beautifully furnished mansions set amid bright colors beneath the perpetually shining Southern California sun.
“I think what you people do is heroic,” crazy evil rich lady Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky) tells her maid, Flora (Paula Garcés). “You wash clothes you can’t afford. You polish silver you will never dine with . . . and you still dream of a better life.”