“Ugly Betty” — Season 1

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
Aug. 7, 2007

Based on the popular Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea, Ugly Betty is a biting comedy with plenty of heart. There are several ongoing plots, including murder, illegal immigration, infidelity, a vendetta, and death. And yes, this really is a comedy.

Golden Globe winner America Ferrera (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Real Women Have Curves) stars as Betty, a whip-smart assistant at a women’s magazine who is clueless when it comes to fashion. While her size 0 colleagues parade around in haute couture and stiletto heels, Betty shows up for work in her mismatched outfits, complete with thick glasses and awkward braces.

The series, which made its debut during the 2006-2007 season on ABC, could’ve relied on physical humor for laughs. But the sharp writing and likeable cast bring the show to life. There’s a lot going on in the first year.

Besides setting Betty up as Mode magazine’s ugly duckling overachiever, the first few episodes introduce viewers to a superb supporting cast that includes Betty’s frenemies Amanda (Becki Newton) and Marc (Michael Urie), the hysterical duo that aligns themselves to whoever can best advance their careers.

As for Betty’s womanizing boss, Daniel (Eric Mabius), he’s not the brightest bulb in the package. Recalling childhood outings with their mother, he says, “She used to like taking us to clothing museums.” To which his sibling says, “Those were stores! She just called them museums to get us out of school.”

Salma Hayek–one of the show’s producers–guest stars in an arc as a powerful editor who beds Daniel to prove a point. But it’s her unexpected turn as an actress on Ignacio’s favorite soap opera that is the real treat.

About halfway through the 23-episode series, it appears that the writers switched gears with one of their main plots revolving around a possibly undead fashion editor. But in a typical over-the-top Ugly Betty way, they make the plot switch work.

The heart of the show is when Betty returns home from work. She still lives with her father, Ignacio (Tony Plana), older sister Hilda (Ana Ortiz), and nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato). Justin is one of TV’s best kid characters. Not only is he equally adorable and wise, but he is most probably–or will grow up to be–gay. The way his family accepts him for who he is–rather than who they wish he was–is incredibly loving and thoughtful.

Betty also is navigating a love life that she makes more complicated than it has to be. Instead of dumping a boyfriend who cheated on her, she allows her sister to manipulate her into staying with him. When she finally realizes she has strong feelings for Henry (Christopher Gorham), the adorable accountant at work who has a huge crush on her, it may be too late.

The season finale will leaves viewers with several cliffhangers revolving around Ignacio, Justin’s father, and (of course) Betty. For most fans, season 2 can’t come fast enough.

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