"Devious Maids," the new drama from "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry that debuts Sunday on Lifetime, is getting pretty good – but qualified – grades from the critics.
Produced by Cherry with his "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, and based on a hit telenovela, the show focuses on five Latina women who work as maids for the rich and powerful in Beverly Hills. Cherry and Longoria use the Latina characters to explore the socioeconomic divide between rich homeowners and the women who mop their floors.
"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," wrote Emily Yahr in the Washington Post. "The difference with 'Maids,' however, is the underlying class warfare in every scene, which ups the ante on the typical Lifetime drama."
Cherry's knack for creating fun female characters that soar a bit over the top, but not so far over that their problems aren't relatable, is on full display here, wrote Robert Bianco of USA Today.
"These working women are broadly drawn (though less so than their employers), but they're not two-dimensional cartoons," Bianco says. "Each has her flaws and virtues, each is smart in her own way, and each has a distinguishing characteristic. Zoila is world weary, Valentina is romantic, Carmen is ambitious, Rosie is naïve, and Marisol is determined. And while Ortiz drives the main plot in the early going, and does so with great aplomb, the stars are equally appealing."
The portrayal of five Latina maids lends itself to stereotyping, and Slate's June Thomas opines that no matter what his intentions are, Cherry is to a degree guilty. And she writes that the show is filled with "utterly predictable stereotypes -- of Latina maids who are both devious and pure of heart, and of their Caucasian employers, who are all selfish, utterly detestable, entitled snobs.
"Class and race remain tragically underexplored topics on television. They deserve to be treated with a modicum of realism. For all its predictability, the worst sin of 'Devious Maids' is that it repeatedly shows the maids sassing their employers, sharing leisurely lattes in fancy cafes, or gossiping around picnic tables. Just because they work in Beverly Hills doesn't mean they can afford to socialize there, or that they would be made to feel welcome. The fact that Marc Cherry doesn't seem to understand any of that is the most obvious indication that he has no idea what maids' lives are like, devious or otherwise."
David Hinckley of the New York Daily News thinks that Cherry and show deserve the benefit of the doubt, however.
"In the end, 'Maids' has a harder task than 'Housewives' simply because it won't feel quite as fresh," writes Hinckley. "But a Cherry drama rises or falls on the pretty simple test of whether it's fun, and 'Devious Maids' has the right stuff to get to there."