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'Orphan Black,' 'Devious Maids' return

Clone drama has Tatiana Maslany working as hard as ever, while Ana Ortiz is no longer even pretending to be the help on “Maids.”

Tatiana Maslany, as Sarah, pins Tatiana Maslany, as Rachel, in BBC America's clone drama "Orphan Black."
Tatiana Maslany, as Sarah, pins Tatiana Maslany, as Rachel, in BBC America's clone drama "Orphan Black."Read more / File Photo

* ORPHAN BLACK. 9 p.m. Saturday, BBC America.

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

THINK HOW MUCH easier it would be for Hollywood if someone cloned Tatiana Maslany.

BBC America's Peabody Award-winning "Orphan Black," which returns for a second season tomorrow, not only has more fully developed female characters than many TV dramas - it has Maslany playing most of them.

Which is easy to forget when two or more of the clones are gathered, because whatever their identical natures, they are, as played by Maslany, entirely separate human beings.

I hope she's paid accordingly.

I came late to "Orphan Black." Maybe the gloom of the pilot turned me off at a time when nearly every screener that crossed my desk seemed to be steeped in darkness, and the story of a grifter who assumes the identity of a woman who'd just thrown herself in front of a train seemed unlikely to subtract from the misery.

Maybe I'd just reached my sci-fi limit that month.

But though I had to be bullied into giving it the second chance that led to an obsessive few days of binge-viewing (other latecomers can find it on Amazon Instant Video), I'm here now.

I don't want to spoil the new episodes, but "Orphan Black" will continue to be more than just a cool acting exercise for Maslany. And while Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Rachel and whoever shows up next looking a bit like Maslany are the main attractions, they're not the only reason to watch

There's Maria Doyle Kennedy ("The Tudors"), who plays Mrs. S, the foster mother of the grifter Sarah and her foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and the woman who's been raising Sarah's daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler). Mrs. S is fierce.

I've grown very fond of Felix, whose growing friendship with my favorite clone, the soccer mom Alison, is a bright spot in what's still a pretty dark show.

I'm still not sure how much I buy of the overarching conspiracy that will have Sarah on the run from more than one set of bad guys - the action in "Orphan Black" doesn't leave a lot of time for overthinking these things - but for those up for a serious bioethics discussion, the openings are there.

Strip out the just barely science-fiction elements, and "Orphan Black" still has plenty to say about the struggle between nature and nurture, and about the many ways that human beings can be bound by more than DNA.

Ortiz moving on up

University of the Arts grad Ana Ortiz has a cool new 'do to go with her character Marisol's new status as Lifetime's "Devious Maids" returns Sunday.

The Season 2 premiere was directed by executive producer Eva Longoria and written by her old "Desperate Housewives" boss Marc Cherry, who developed the show from a Mexican telenovela.

Instead of masquerading as a housekeeper - as Marisol did last season to discover who'd framed her son for murder - she's now engaged, and living with her intended (Mark Deklin) in his Beverly Hills mansion.

"I'm sort of walking into a very close relationship [between] my fiance and his maid," Ortiz said in an interview in January. The maid (Joanna P. Adler) is loyal to her former mistress, who died. (No, she wasn't named Rebecca, but Daphne du Maurier fans will nod knowingly.)

"She's sort of my nemesis this year," said the actress of Adler's character.

Marisol is "wanting to be a friend to this woman . . . but this woman's having none of it and is trying to sabotage" the engagement.

As for the hair, which is shorter, "I just wanted something different," but she thinks it works for her character, too, she said.

This season, "I get to be a little bit of a glamour puss, which is something I never get to play. I always sort of play these working-class characters," as she did on "Ugly Betty," "and so for me to be on the other side of that is really exciting, and really fun."

Ortiz, whose father is former City Councilman Angel Ortiz, said she'd like to see Marisol become "more fashion-forward . . . I want her to have more of a New York vibe, amongst all these Beverly Hills women."

So she's still an outsider?

"I think so, and I think that's right for her."

'The Writers' Room'

If last night's "Scandal" season finale left you feeling bereft, Jim Rash ("Community") has a treat for you.

Rash, who's also an Oscar-winning screenwriter ("The Descendants"), hosts "The Writers' Room," and tonight's Season 2 premiere (9 p.m., Sundance TV) features the writers of "Scandal," along with star Kerry Washington, who learns at least one thing even she didn't know about her character, Olivia Pope.