By Jack Rico
Cable network Lifetime is offering a pre-linear sneak peek of its ‘Devious Maids‘ pilot in English and Spanish tonight, June 9th, 2 weeks before its on air premiere. I review the show from a Hispanic perspective and let you now if you should make it a part of your weekly TV viewing.
The 1-4-0: ‘Devious Maids’ is worth a watch for at least the first 2 episodes, but it’s definitely not must see TV the way “Desperate Housewives was season 1.
The Gist: We follow five Latina maids with ambition and dreams of their own while working for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills.
The Highlights: Seeing that many Latinas as the stars of on an English language television show is definitely a sight to behold, whether they are maids or not. It’s actually the first show to ever have five Latina leads in television. What is great to see is the evolution of the extraneous maid role: it has gone from invisible to front and center. In addition, Latino stories on anglo television are hard to come by. I am glad to see Marc Cherry putting the weight of his creative strength into a bilingual narrative, albeit, with a flair for the sensational and colorful.
The Lowlights: The acting as a whole is a problem. It is subpar compared to most dramas on television right now. Judy Reyes is by far the best actress of the cast with Edy Ganem’s striking allure a surprising treat, but muting their efforts is Cherry’s framing of the ‘Maids’ universe – a platitudinous, kitschy one with a twisted appeal. You could say Cherry and producers are aiming for “train wreck television with empathy and heart.” You can ascertain the traces of tackiness through the musical score filled with clichéd Mexican guitar strings and tango violins.
Will Latino viewers watch?: My premonition is that they will, but mostly to see how the “gringos” are portraying the Latino culture. They might ask, “Have they gotten us right? Are we presented in a cool light as to brag or boast to our non Hispanic friends?”. Amongst them will obviously be the real Latina maids of America, which I personally don’t think will be fans of the show because it is a heightened, unrealistic depiction of what really goes on at their employers home. Then the Mexicans who saw the original novela, Televisa’s “Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar,” in Mexico, who will be curious to see the remake. But if any of them feel even moderately offended in any way, they’ll leave and most likely never come back. The failure will be two fold – one for Lifetime having a flop and the other in setting back Hispanic themed shows because the show wasn’t popular enough.
Stereotype controversy: Much of the controversy behind it has circled around the stereotyping of Latinos. I’m not sure the accusations are precise. If I were to stereotype my own culture, I would never begin by classing them as maids. To be frank, the Hispanic culture is too diversely fragmented to put labels on them. The issue I have is mostly personal. We as a community are grappling to elude subservient roles in media. By constantly being portrayed in that light on film and television, other less educated individuals will think we’re okay with it and we’re not. I don’t like to see Latinos in deferential roles, period, even if they are the principal protagonists.