Monday, July 1, 2013

Devious Maids

Devious Maids
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe

Devious Maids is a show about the maids who work for the wealthiest and most powerful families in Beverly Hills.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The fans of Desperate Housewives who have been looking for a show to replace it might not find it in Devious Maids. ABC has been trying hard to find a suitable replacement. They tried with GCB and they ordered Mistresses. They ordered a pilot called Devious Maids, which came from the creator of Desperate Housewives, Marc Cherry. The premise was simple: follow the tone and satiric bend of Desperate Housewives but to follow the lives of the maids of these families. This adds a level of class warfare that would help separate out this new show from Cherry's original show. It makes sense that they would try to recapture Desperate Housewives' magic by turning to the man who had captured it in the first place. The problem is inherent in that only the first season of Desperate Housewives had the magic and energy that made it such a hit show. Everything after that was merely trying to recapture it. Marc Cherry had been trying for seven seasons to get back to that but he kept failing. It doesn't come as a surprise that Devious Maids doesn't really succeed. It makes the winks, it has some fun, and it comes close to imitating the first season but it's not able to actually recreate the magic. ABC decided to drop the pilot and it should have been the end of it. Only the producers weren't content to let this show die. They shopped it around to different networks and they found a network who would love to carry the next Desperate Housewives. Lifetime bought the license rights and their hoping that the fans of Desperate Housewives will tune in and be hooked. I can't say if they will but I can say that there's a reason that ABC passed on this project and it's because it's doubtful. Devious Maids has the tone, it has the satiric tone, and it's entertaining at times. It's just an imitation of Desperate Housewives. This is a discarded copy that should have stayed that way. Devious Maids can be fun but it's too uneven to properly work.

The plot of the episode is largely split between the families and their maids. There is the new maid who is investigating the murder of a woman after her son was accused for committing the crime. There is the maid who is trying to stop her daughter from sleeping with her boss' son. There is the maid who is having to raise another person's baby while her own son remains in Mexico. There is the maid who is trying to become famous by using her job to gain access to someone who could take her to stardom. The wealthy families are all portrayed as materialistic and selfish which basically makes them all blend together. The only ones who stand out are such caricatures as they belong in a bad Oscar Wilde play. The maids have more substance but even they are largely stereotypes. The plots are okay but none of them are terribly interesting. We don't really know the accused son so we have no reason to want him to be free. That's the cost of having to keep the new maid's real purpose in Beverly Hills a secret. The young maid who is trying to sleep with the boss' son and her mother being an obstacle just seems so trite. The stakes are too undefined to really care. The one seeking stardom doesn't completely work because we never actually hear one of her songs nor do we have a reason to care. The only one that has any real emotional weight is the son one and it's the one plot I could really get behind. It not only plays between the classes but it also brings up a major immigration issue. It's the only one that actually feels relevant. The pilot is setting up the different stories for the rest of the season but only one was remotely compelling. The viewers aren't really going to have a reason to come back despite that cliff-hanger because the pilot never hooks you.

The main maid is Marisol. She's a college graduate who starts working for the Stappord family. She's different from the other maids which gets the attention of Adrian Powell, who legitimately states that she's not a maid and he intends to find out what she's doing there. I'm sorry, but what? She's not pretending to be a maid without an actual employer. She's actually working as one. It was a silly line that was meant to be vaguely threatening to Mairsol's mission but it came across as stupid. Marisol is a bland protagonist as there is little that makes her interesting as a person. She gives good advice, she works hard, but she never really impresses. Her kicking out the ex-wife of Michael Stappord is supposed to be a big moment for the character but it all felt so vanilla. As for her mission? I have no idea why the pilot kept it a secret until the final scene. It was kind-of obvious she was investigating the murder for some reason and it's not a big surprise when the current accused killer is her son. The pilot should have bent time getting us to care about her mission rather than trying to get us to care about the second most bland character on the show.

The most bland character on the show has to go to Ziola Diaz. I like Judy Reyes on Scrubs but she seems wasted on Devious Maids. She's basically a sarcastic Carla who is trying to ensure her daughter,Valentina, isn't sleeping with the boss' son. Valentina doesn't have much of a personality beyond her looks and desire to sleep with the son. The two female characters simply aren't very strongly written or defined. The maid whose trying to be famous is Carmen and she believes she can use her looks to get ahead. When her employer's manager keeps her from showcasing her music to her employer, she does everything she can to get her out of the way. The impression she gives is she's willing to do anything to get what she wants but that's not really a character. Here's where her music could have helped develop her but we never get a sense of why music matters to her beyond her desire to be famous. If we don't don't why it matters to her, why should it matter to the audience? The final main character is Rosie. Her plot might have depth but the character is just as undefined as the other female protagonist. You would think that a show about four devious maids would have actual strong characters cleaning up the houses of the wealthy but they're all too defined by their plot to really have their own personalities.

The show has four maids but there's four different families. They all kind-of blend together because their not really that different from each other. They are materialistic and selfish. None of them feel like their actual human beings. There's really only one character, Spence Westmore, who actually seems to treat the maids like decent human beings but his presence is very limited in the pilot. The rest of the characters don't stand out except for two. Evelyn Powell and Adrian Powell are such caricatures that they actually feel like they belong on a different, more fun show. It's true their dialogue is written like a bad impression of Oscar Wilde but it is also the one where Marc Cherry clearly has the most fun. It shows. If the series revolved around the two of them, I would probably watch. It's too bad this show isn't called “Devious Wife and Husband” but “Devious Maids”. You know, I get the sense that Devious Maids is trying to make a comment about the class differences between the wealthy and the poor. Only this never works. The poor are to bland and boring. The rich are stereotypes who love their personal possessions. You could make a good satire out of stereotypes but it never works on this show because it's basically just saying “wealthy people suck, poor people are bland” If that's the real sentiment that Marc Cherry is trying to get across, can I please have the millions that he made from Desperate Housewives? Pretty please?

There's no getting away from it: Devious Maids simply doesn't work. The plots are largely weak with little reason to care about most of them. There is only one with any real emotional weight before it. The four “devious” maids are all bland and forgettable. The wealthy families largely blend in together except for the Powell family-they feel like they're on a more fun show. It tries to capture the magic of Desperate Housewives but it fails. Desperate Housewives had energy, it had some pretty good plots that said something, it had magic. It had strong characters in the pilot. Devious Maids are missing all the essential ingredients from Marc Cherry's previous show.

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