When I first heard in The Hollywood Reporter or Variety (or one of the Hollywood industry magazines) that Salma Hayek was going to produce an American version of the Columbian hit, Yo Soy Betty La Fea, I groaned and rolled my eyes.
When would American TV stop taking shows from abroad and mold them into domestic U.S. hits? Sure, sure, I’m a hypocrite — I became a big fan of shows like The Office, based on its U.K. counterpart, but I wanted some original ideas! Didn’t I, as a loyal television watcher for most of my life, deserve this?
I ignored the first season of Ugly Betty. In my world, the show was non-existent and I was happy to watch my usual group of shows; I didn’t have any more room in my viewing schedule anyway.At the beginning of the Fall television year in 2007, I was stuck in front of the TV with nothing to watch.
8 PM and I had scrolled through every channel twice. I didn’t want to watch another formulaic episode of Survivor. So I swallowed my pride and switched over to ABC to finally see what the big deal was all about on Ugly Betty.
I didn’t want to admit it, but I fell in love with the show within the first five minutes. Ugly Betty tells the story of Betty Suarez, a smart, optimistic, and naive young woman who works as the assistant to Daniel Meade, the editor-in-chief of Mode Magazine, a top New York-based fashion magazine. The Mode office is chic and modern, littered with uber-fashionable men and women who scatter across its floors like marbles.
Unfortunately, with her uniquely audacious sense of of style, Betty sticks out like a sore thumb and is constantly the butt of jokes around the office, spear-headed by the mean-spirited and shallow Amanda and Marc.
There is a constant struggle between Daniel’s family and the conniving and manipulative Wilhelmina Slater, Creative Director of the magazine. Daniel, played deftly by Eric Mabius, was portrayed as a immature womanizer in the first season of the show, but as the third season begins, we see a more reflective and serious side. At the end of season two, Daniel found out he had a son living in Paris.
Daniel’s sister, Alexis (was known as Alex before the sex change), played by a surprisingly talented Rebecca Romijn, is a highly bold and competitive woman. Daniel’s mother, Claire Meade, played by the classy soap opera and Law & Order veteran Judith Light, will stop at nothing to protect her children.
Vanessa Williams’ Wilhelmina will do anything to watch the Meade family crumble, and spends her days trying to brainstorm ideas as to how to take over control of Mode with her brown-nosing assistant, Marc. Williams confidently depicts Wilhelmina as a smart, but wicked social climber who began an affair with the patriarch of the Meade
After her failed attempt to marry Bradford and his subsequent death, Wilhelmina pays Mode seamstress Christina McKinney to be her surrogate. By producing Bradford Meade’s heir, Wilhelmina believes she will finally rule the Mode empire.
At the heart of Ugly Betty is the beautiful and talented America Ferrera (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).
Ferrera brings charisma and honesty into the role of Betty and makes her character believable. Betty’s support group includes her dad Ignacio (Tony Plana), her older sister Hilda (in
the first season, Betty struggles with her ensuing love for accountant Henry, whose girlfriend is supposedly pregnant with his baby.
In season two, Betty’s love life becomes amplified with the introduction of Gio, played by the charming Freddy Rodriguez. Betty is torn between her love for Henry and her friendship with Gio. As season three begins, Betty moves on from Henry and Gio and focuses on becoming independent and a more valuable asset at Mode.
Betty is a character you want to cheer for, fight for, and stand up for. Her innocence jumps out at you and you hope that, despite everything that is going against her, Betty will triumph in the end.
Ugly Betty is an endearing show that manages to encompass comedy, drama, romance, and suspense into a one-hour show. The characters are engaging and lovable, even the scary Wilhelmina, which is a credit to the actors for understanding their characters’ personalities and for bravely showcasing their characters’ flaws.
The script is always sharp and moves along fluidly. For an hour of brazen fashion, vicious scheming, and compassionate loyalty that will definitely put a smile on your face, tune into Ugly Betty.
UGLY BETTY, Thursday nights on ABC at 8 PM
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