First Watch: Devious Maids – “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

“You’ll have to forgive my wife. She’s drunk — and evil.”

A sample of the kind of one-liners you should expect from Devious Maids. I originally mistook the trailer as another advertisement for Mistresses — until I realized the women were cleaning houses. There are a dozen pitches for this show: Desperate Housewives for Latinas who don’t like listening to Spanish, The Help without any of that pesky award-winning acting, or an excuse to see Carla on TV again. Devious Maids shows us the grimy underside of the wealthy.

Why am I able to draw such a strong comparison between Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids? Murder. A mysterious homicide lies at the center of both the shows’. Unlike Desperate Housewives, Devious Maids uses it’s killing as more than a device meant to tease the audience; it looks like it might be solved. The victim, Flora (Paula Gracés) a maid and lover to Mr.Rich-white-guy, or Adrian Powell (Tom Irwin) if you prefer, is fired for her “seducing” Adrian by his wife, Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky), prior to her demise. After the dramatic scene, the maid makes sure to hide a mysterious note in a book. Then she’s murdered. Another one of the help manages to absorb all of the blame by finding the body.

We have another ensemble cast: Marisol Duarte (Ana Ortiz), the new, well-spoken and well-dressed maid; Zoila Diaz (Judy Reyes), who works alongside her lovesick daughter Valentina (Edy Ganem); Rosie Falta (Dania Ramirez), a single mother who traveled to America to make enough money to support her son; and Carmen Luna (Roselyn Sanchez), an aspiring singer infiltrating her way into the business in an unconventional manner. Marisol keeps asking around about the murder, leading me to believe she’s some sort of undercover cop or relative of Flora.

You don’t need to know much else in the way of plot; the story is the least offensive element here. The show exists exclusively to bash the rich — it doesn’t even attempt to hide it. The writers set up scenes with the sole purpose of making the wealthy look stupid and cruel. I enjoy those scenes more than I should. They push their theme of class warfare by adding a Romeo and Juliet subplot between Valentina and her boss’s hunky, frat-boy son. Zoila vehemently opposes her decision in men, stating “Rich boys never fall in love with the help. Trust me.” I’m with Zoila, purely because watching Valentina flirt is painful. It’s not subtle, cute, or fun — and flirting should be at least two out of three of those.

It’s important to note my use of the phrase “class warfare” because they take precautions against the real, frightening world of racism: they added a Latin pop star as one of the home owners. But, in case that wasn’t enough, the writers have stripped any use of Spanish from the actual dialog (because subtitles are so hard for some people). Instead, every single maid speaks perfect English, as if it were the official language of Central America.

Devious Maids often uses shallow characters, but, when it comes to the showing the 1%, uses even more shallow caricatures. At it’s best, the dialog is a guilty pleasure, that let’s the audience laugh at those caricatures. I genuinely hope the murder provides an active dramatic setting, and not just a backdrop to an otherwise useless series.

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