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Left With Mixed Feelings Over 'Devious Maids'

I have mixed feelings about the new Lifetime show "Devious Maids." On the one hand, it’s got a nighttime soap feel with beautiful people, produced by “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry and one of the show’s stars, Eva Longoria—both of whom have produced great TV in the past. But on the other hand, the show is about Latina maids. The only other more polarizing profession they could have chosen would have been gardener.

For many Latinos, the show doesn't have a chance just because of the subject matter. I personally had a hard time thinking that Eva Longoria, a champion for Latino causes and advocate for social change, would produce anything that would degrade Latinos.

With those mixed feelings I watched a screener for the show before the premiere on Sunday—and honestly, my feelings are still mixed. The show is about five Latina maids who work in Beverly Hills. The pilot opens with another maid being accused of seducing her employer’s husband. The maid is then murdered after it’s found out that she was actually raped by the husband.

The couple is just one of the caricatures of rich white people in the show. He’s powerful and lecherous, while she’s racist and classist. There’s also the spoiled actress, the crazy older ex-wife (and of course the hot, young, second wife), and the pool-boy-chasing divorcee (played by soap opera queen, Susan Lucci). It has all the makings of any primetime drama or soap opera.

The show is based on a popular Mexican telenovela “Ellas son ... la alegria del hogar.” One glaring difference that has been pointed out in many of the opinions criticizing the show is that the telenovela is about Latino maids and employers. Only one of the employers on "Devious Maids" is Latino. The show does star a cast of Latinas, which you can’t find anywhere else, but they are in the underclass of characters—where it can be argued Hollywood wants to keep them.

In a red carpet interview (see below), Eva Longoria said that she hopes that Latinos give the show a chance. The show not only employs five Latina actresses in lead roles, but also employs Latino writers and crew. Plus, she said, the female leads are not shown in a bad light; the maids “are the moral compass” of the show. This is true…sort of. One of the maids, Rosie, played by Dania Ramirez, came to Los Angeles to support her young child after her husband dies. In a touching scene, Rosie tells her employer that she misses her son and she just wants to bring him here to be with her and give him a better life. That scene made me cry, but others made me cringe.

I love these actresses and I love the idea of a show with all Latina leads. But I don’t like that they are maids and there are no other professional Latino characters on the show as far as the first episode indicates. We want our kids to believe that they can be anything, but the only show on TV with an all-Latino lead cast is about maids. Part of me wonders if TV executives will think a show with an all-Latino lead cast won’t ever work if the show fails to take off in ratings. I wish the show was about something else but it’s not.

Judy Reyes, one of the show’s co-stars, said that she had issues with the show’s content at first but decided she wanted to tell the story of women who work in other people’s houses. “Why is it when you do see a maid on TV,” she asked, “they’re only opening the door?”

Hopefully this show won’t shut the door for more Latino programming.

You can watch the "Devious Maids" pilot online here.

Did you see the show's premiere? What do you think about it?

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