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.
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
family, Bradford. 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