'Devious Maids' star clean up on Lifetime

Posted: June 21, 2013

* DEVIOUS MAIDS. 10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime.

* DROP DEAD DIVA. 9 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime.

* CROSSING LINES. 9 p.m. Sunday, NBC10.

IT MAY BE summer, but television doesn't want to see you break that Sunday night habit.

"Game of Thrones" is on hiatus, somewhere beyond the Wall, and after this weekend AMC's "Mad Men" goes away until next year, leaving viewers to argue about whatever it was they just saw and to ponder, I don't know, the Deeper Meaning of Bob Benson.

Maybe your aching head needs a break? Enter Lifetime, which isn't just bringing back a show it earlier canceled - giving new meaning to the title "Drop Dead Diva" - but has a brand-new series from "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry, who's sharing producing duties with his former star, Eva Longoria.

If only they'd thought to make her one of the bosses in the show, too.

Because it didn't strike me how groundbreaking - by Hollywood standards, anyway - "Desperate Housewives" was until "Devious Maids" came along, with its five Latina leads, and cast all five as the help.

And to think I once took for granted that Gabrielle Solis (Longoria) of "Desperate" employed a maid, instead of being one.

She wasn't exactly an ideal boss, adding surrogacy to the list of duties performed by the undocumented immigrant from China portrayed by Gwendoline Yeo. But, then, neither is any of the employers on "Devious Maids," who range from mildly clueless to quite possibly homicidal.

The show's based on a telenovela, "Ellas son . . . La Alegría del Hogar," and while the maids may be devious, they're not stupid. Or as cartoonish as some of their bosses.

University of the Arts grad Ana Ortiz ("Ugly Betty") and Judy Reyes ("Scrubs") probably scored the best of the "Maids" roles, with Ortiz portraying a house cleaner with a hidden agenda and Reyes playing a housekeeper worried about her daughter (Edy Ganem), who works with her and is crushing on the cute son (Drew Van Acker) of their ditzy employer (Susan Lucci).

Dania Ramirez is a sad-eyed nanny who's left her own child behind while she cares for a baby whose mother wants little to do with him. Roselyn Sanchez plays a fiercely ambitious maid trying to get a leg up in the music business by working for a music star named Alejandro (Matt Cedeno), who's so far the only Latino represented on the "upstairs" side of the show.

"Devious Maids" was originally developed for ABC, which ultimately passed. An entertaining romp with strong performances, it seems a good fit for Lifetime. And a giant step up in class from "The Client List."

I thought I'd made my peace with the demise of "Drop Dead Diva," which may be the silliest show I've loved since, well, "The Love Boat." But it did leave its fans in a scary place at the end of Season 4, and I'm happy to see it back, and clearing up some of the confusion.

It seems unlikely that a show about an aspiring model named Deb who dies in a car accident and comes back in the body of a plus-sized lawyer named Jane (Brooke Elliott), acquiring a guardian angel in the process, is going to add a lot of new viewers in its fifth season. But you never know.

Ben Feldman, the guy who played Fred, Jane's first guardian angel, left to take a job on "Mad Men," where he was nominated for an Emmy. So anything's possible.

'Crossing Lines'

Also new Sunday: NBC's "Crossing Lines," a "global crime drama" from "Criminal Minds" producer Edward Allen Bernero that stars William Fichtner ("Prison Break") as an ex-New York cop, retired on disability and living in Europe, who reluctantly joins a multinational unit that in Sunday's two-hour premiere is tracking a serial killer across Europe.

(You knew there'd be a serial killer, right?)

Global cooperation's at least as important in the TV business these days as in police work and "Crossing Lines" feels like a show made for an international market, with a couple of familiar faces and accents (Fichtner's and Donald Sutherland's) so U.S. viewers won't be too confused.

The cops, led by Marc Lavoine ("The Good Thief"), are an interesting mix, and the scenery's great. If only the crime itself didn't seem so drearily familiar.

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

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