'Devious Maids': What happens when 'Desperate Housewives' meets telenovela

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The over-the-top soap "Devious Maids," coming to Lifetime Sunday, June 23, reveals messy lives inside spotless homes.

"Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry and Eva Longoria are executive producers, and both shows share a sensibility, and both begin with a violent death.

In this, a maid is raped and murdered. The first two episodes do a great job of establishing the main characters -- five housekeepers and their employers.

The maids are friends and share an easy rapport. A new housekeeper, Marisol ( Ana Ortiz, "Ugly Betty"), enters their Beverly Hills world and tries to befriend them, but it's clear she has an agenda. She's different -- more educated, removed -- and asks too many questions. She also wears red high-heeled wedges to clean.

Inspired by a telenovela, "Devious Maids" has broadly drawn characters, particularly the employers. Evelyn Powell ( Rebecca Wisocky, "American Horror Story"), whose maid was slain, could teach royalty about entitlement.

Susan Lucci plays Genevieve, who is introduced while freaking out under a bed. The soap veteran describes her character to Zap2it as "very romantic, quite vulnerable and is given to very big mood swings and sometimes self-medicates -- as you can see, not very well. She is someone who, over the course of her life, has attracted one rich and powerful man after the other, and now is without a husband and thinking maybe she is losing her mojo, and is maybe a little bit crazy."

In addition to the many ex-husbands, she has two maids, Zoila ( Judy Reyes, "Scrubs") and her daughter, Valentina ( Edy Ganem, "Livin' Loud"). Valentina has her eye on Genevieve's son, Remi ( Drew Van Acker), and Zoila, a wise woman, is trying to reel her in.

"All I thought of was my mom," Reyes says. "My mom was a housekeeper. I don't remember the last time anyone was a maid. My mom has been a housekeeper and a nanny, and her relationship with her daughters reminded me of me and my mom. And she did this for so many years. I am a first generation American."

Reyes, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, and Ortiz, whose father is Puerto Rican, address criticism swirling about the show.

"I know there are a lot of people who are upset that the show is about maids," Ortiz says. "I think it is because, stereotypically, and I know from experience - I have played umpteen maids and 72 hookers and drug dealers' girlfriends, and I get why we don't want to be viewed as maids anymore. That said, most women in my family were housekeepers or nannies. And these are wonderful, amazing, intelligent, funny, sexy, crazy women."

No one could deny that Carmen ( Roselyn Sanchez, "Basic") is anything but those attributes. She is an aspiring singer who takes a job as maid in a pop star's house, hoping he will help her career. It's not going to be that simple.

The final woman of the group, Rosie ( Dania Ramirez, "Premium Rush"), is a widow who left her young son in Mexico. She works for haughty D-list actress Peri ( Mariana Klaveno, "True Blood") and her cuckolded husband, Spence ( Grant Show, "Melrose Place"). Their lives are fodder for digs at the insanity of Hollywood.

Some situations, such as Marisol's, stretch credulity, and some characters, such as Evelyn and her husband, Adrian ( Tom Irwin), are purposely campy, which is why telenovelas are fun.

"If you were a 'Desperate Housewives' fan, this is going to be right up your alley," Ortiz says. " I would love to expand even further to the audience we had for 'Ugly Betty.' I think this has a lot of potential."
Photo/Video credit: Lifetime