Networks sometimes make the strangest decisions. ABC aired any number of dreadful one-hour dramas in the past year and yet passed on the "Devious Maids" pilot back in May 2012, allowing cable outlet Lifetime to snap up the show, premiering it at 10 p.m. Sunday.
Created by "Desperate Housewives" impresario Marc Cherry and executive produced by "Desperate" star Eva Longoria, "Devious Maids" is a sudsy hoot. It's a well-executed soap with a heaping helping of Mr. Cherry's trademark humor, which is on display in the show's opening scene.
"I think what you people do is heroic," wealthy socialite Evelyn Powell (Rebecca Wisocky) tells her maid, Flora (Paula Garces). "You wash clothes you can't afford. You polish silver you will never dine with. ... I am in awe of your determination to succeed in this great country of ours. That said, if you don't stop [sleeping with] my husband, I'm going to have you deported."
It's a fantastically frosty, funny opening to a series that both embraces class warfare stereotypes -- about the maids and their rich employers -- and upends them.
A murder soon follows, and the maids from four neighboring mansions close ranks to protect the reputation of the deceased.
Carmen (Roselyn Sanchez) works in the home of Latin pop star Alejandro Rubio (Matt Cedeno). She's constantly trying to sneak him a CD of her music, but her efforts are thwarted by Russian head housekeeper Odessa (Melinda Page Hamilton).
Rosie (Dania Ramirez, "Heroes") is trying to earn enough money to bring her son to the United States, a goal she gets little help with from her employers, vain movie star Peri (Mariana Klaveno) and her nicer husband, Spence (Grant Show, "Melrose Place").
Zoila (Judy Reyes, "Scrubs") believes in keeping one's personal life separate from one's work life. So she's infuriated when her daughter, Valentina (Edy Ganem), tries to put the moves on Remi (Drew Van Acker), son of their boss, Genevieve Delatour (Susan Lucci, "All My Children").
Into this group of maids comes another housekeeper, Marisol (Ana Ortiz, "Ugly Betty"), who seems to be hiding a secret or two of her own. In Sunday's episode, Marisol is hired by Michael (Brett Cullen, "Lost") and Taylor Stappord (Brianna Brown, "True Blood"), a newly married couple whose lives are often interrupted by Michael's ex-wife (Valerie Mahaffey).
Marisol also does work for Evelyn and Adrian Powell (Tom Irwin, "My So-Called Life"), giving her entree to the home where a maid was murdered.
Like "Desperate Housewives," "Devious Maids" appears to be built on a season-long mystery arc tied to the murder in the opening scenes.
Based on the Mexican telenovela "Ellas son la Alegria del Hogar" ("They Are the Joy of the Household"), "Devious Maids" lacks the novelty that made "Desperate Housewives" noteworthy upon its premiere, but this new series benefits from the ability to start fresh and unencumbered from the tangled web of soapy plots that dragged on "Housewives" as it aged. "Devious Maids" may reach that point, too, but in its early going, it's a fun, summer TV frivolity -- an entertaining enough hour of TV that sneaks in moments of social satire.
'Hemlock Grove' renewed
Netflix renewed its set-in-Western-Pennsylvania-but-mostly-filmed-near-Toronto horror streaming series "Hemlock Grove" for a second season to air in 2014.
"Hemlock Grove" is based on a novel by Western Pennsylvania native Brian McGreevy, who also serves as an executive producer on the series with writing partner Lee Shipman. Season two will have 10 episodes -- down from 13 in season one -- and executive producer Mark Verheiden ("Falling Skies," "Battlestar Galactica") has departed, to be replaced by Charles Eglee ("The Shield," "The Walking Dead") as showrunner.
'Most Likely To ...'
Munhall plays a starring role in next week's "Most Likely To" episode, "Brotherly Love" (9 p.m. Wednesday, Investigation Discovery). The series features re-creations of real-life crime stories involving once-promising high school students. This particular episode covers the story of Roger "Butch" Pratt, who grew up in Munhall before attending Thiel College, at which point, as the show's narrator says, "blind ambition and greed led to a brutal murder" in 1988.
Re-created scenes were filmed near Rockaway, N.J., with Farleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., standing in for Thiel. But producers also shot in Munhall and at Steel Valley High School. The program includes interviews with some of Pratt's friends, including Edward Wehrer, who is now the superintendent of the Steel Valley School District.
Producer hosts WQED show
Angela Santomero, executive producer of PBS's "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" and "Super Why!" and Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues," will host the next three episodes of WQED's "iQ: smartparent," with episode four taping 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday.
"Tune In, Tune Out," the fourth episode in the six-episode education series for parents, will explore evaluating media images and ratings and identifying ways that media can have a positive impact.
To register for a seat in the audience, visit iqsmartparent4.eventbrite.com. "Tune In, Tune Out" will premiere at 8 p.m. Aug. 29.
Rogers dinosaur on the move
With the Fred Rogers Company's move out of the WQED building in Oakland to roomier office space on the South Side, the Fredosaurus Rex dinosaur that had been in front of WQED also has left Oakland.
The building that now houses The Fred Rogers Company on Wharton Street is being renovated and the new owners are considering ways to incorporate the dinosaur in the front, but at the moment the whimsical statue is in storage.
MDA telethon changes
The annual Labor Day weekend Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon will move from WPXI to WTAE this year as ABC has signed on to air the program in a two-hour prime-time block on Sept. 1.
As part of the change in format, the telethon will drop the local cut-ins. In Pittsburgh those local segments featured Bill Cardille as a host for more than four decades.
HBO renewed news magazine "Vice" for a second season to air in 2014. ... CBS has bumped low-rated Tuesday night docuseries "Brooklyn D.A." to 9 p.m. Saturday beginning this weekend. ... After laying off staff and closing offices in Denver and San Francisco last week, "PBS Newshour" this week announced that "PBS Newshour Weekend" will air for 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday beginning Sept. 7 with "PBS Newshour" correspondent Hari Sreenivasan as anchor. ... This week ABC named Dan Abrams a new anchor of "Nightline" as current anchor Terry Moran moves to London to become the network's chief foreign correspondent. ... CNN media reporter and "Reliable Sources" host Howard Kurtz will jump to Fox News Channel with a new weekend show that starts July 1. ... Disney Channel has ordered "Girl Meets World" to series for airing in 2014. It's a spinoff/sequel to 1990s ABC sitcom "Boy Meets World." ... PBS will re-air the 1997 Ken Burns film "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery" at 8 p.m. July 9 and 16 with a preview both nights for Mr. Burns' fall 2014 film, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History." ... At 6 p.m. Sunday Bravo will re-air a 2004 episode of "Inside the Actors Studio" featuring James Gandolfini, who died Wednesday in Rome from an apparent heart attack at age 51. ... The Billy Gardell episode from season two of TBS's "Sullivan & Son," also featuring WDVE-FM's Randy Baumann and Bill Crawford, is slated to air July 18. ... WQED will air three test episodes of a new cooking show, "Sendall Style," starring chef/party planner Bob Sendall of Pittsburgh's All in Good Taste Productions. The first episode airs at 8 p.m. Thursday with another scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 1.
Tuned In online
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Anderson Live," "Farm Kings" and the "Daytime Emmys." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Drop Dead Diva," "Franklin & Bash," "Nurse Jackie," "Copper" and "Crossing Lines." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversation about "Nurse Jackie," "True Blood" and "Falling Skies." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.