"Ugly Betty" has quickly become one of ABC's biggest hits after its debut season. The series, which is an adaptation of the Colombian series "Betty La Fea", stars America Ferarra as Betty Suarez, a young woman who's kind and pleasant, but who lacks social skills and a fashion sense (and sports braces and glasses), but tries her best and means well.
Betty has always been a big fan of Mode magazine, but when she approaches - Daniel (Eric Mabius) - asking for a job, she's quickly dismissed, as he can't see where a girl who looks like she does would fit in at a high-end fashion mag. Yet, Daniel's father is watching from the wings and when Daniel is given the editor-in-chief job at the magazine, his father places Betty as Daniel's assistant in order to take his focus away from bedding another secretary.
Daniel is initally unpleased at having to take Betty on as his assistant, but after trying to run her out of the job a few times, he gradually warms up to her and starts to appreciate her for the good-hearted, hardworking person she is. However, the rest of the office doesn't exactly see things the same way: another worker, Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton), who wanted to be Daniel's assistant doesn't exactly take kindly to the newcomer who took the spot she thought was hers.
Elsewhere, one of the magazine's directors, Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams, vamping it up) isn't very pleased to find out that Daniel got the editor-in-chief job instead of her and plots to overthrow him. Wilhemina also has back-up: a strange, evil-sounding woman who sits in a dimly-lit center. Who she is is just one of the mysteries of "Betty", which is a bright, fizzy mix of soap opera and lightweight comedy. The show does manage the difficult task of blending a lot of different tones reasonably well.
When Betty isn't in the offices of Mode, the show focuses on her home life in Queens as she tries to help out her father, Ignacio (Tony Plana), older sister Hilda (Ana Ortiz) and Hilda's fashion-fascinated son, Justin (Mark Indelicato). While some of the show's performances are a bit much, the majority of the efforts by the cast are quite good, especially the talented Ferarra, who I've enjoyed ever since her debut in "Real Women Have Curves". While the series throws the kind-hearted Betty into a few too many cringe-worthy moments where you almost have to look away because you can't bear to see her walk rather blindly into a social situation she won't win, Fererra makes the character confident and resourceful - she picks herself up after every stumble and presses forward.
"Betty" is definitely fizzy and over-the-top at times, although there are moments when things go a little far. Williams goes over-the-top in her Cruella DeVille-like performance and while it's clear she's having a good time with the role, there are moments when her effort gets a little too campy/corny. The show's garish color palette and visual design also seems like a bit much; while I certainly don't have any experience with fashion, I have to imagine that the offices of an elite fashion mag look more like the sleek offices of "The Devil Wears Prada" than the bubbly offices of "Betty". I guess this goes along with the show's feel, but it's something I couldn't get past.
Overall, I didn't think "Ugly Betty" was without a few issues, but the series manages to be fun and entertaining.
1. 101 28 Sep 06 Pilot
2. 102 5 Oct 06 The Box and the Bunny
3. 103 12 Oct 06 Queens for a Day
4. 105 19 Oct 06 Fey's Sleigh Ride
5. 106 26 Oct 06 The Lyin', the Watch and the Wardrobe
6. 107 2 Nov 06 Trust, Lust and Must
7. 108 9 Nov 06 After Hours
8. 109 16 Nov 06 Four Thanksgivings and a Funeral
9. 110 23 Nov 06 Lose the Boss?
10. 111 30 Nov 06 Fake Plastic Snow
11. 104 4 Jan 07 Swag
12. 112 11 Jan 07 Sofia's Choice
13. 113 18 Jan 07 In or Out
14. 114 1 Feb 07 I'm Coming Out
15. 115 8 Feb 07 Brothers
16. 116 15 Feb 07 Derailed
17. 117 15 Mar 07 Icing on the Cake
VIDEO: "Ugly Betty" is presented by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is generally very good, with images that remain mostly crisp and clear. The presentation did show a few minor traces of artifacting and shimmer, but the majority of the presentation appeared clean. Colors looked bright and vibrant, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Ugly Betty" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's sound design is reasonably lively for a TV series, with the surrounds kicking in some music and slight ambience. The majority of the audio is spread across the front soundstage, and sounds crisp and clean.
EXTRAS: Silvio Horta, Richard Shepard, and Teri Weinberg offer a commentary for the Pilot episode; Becki Newton and Michael Urie participate in a track for "Fey's Sleigh Ride"; Salma Hayek and Eric Mabius step up to chat about "Sofia's Choice" and Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie talk about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We also get the "Becoming Ugly", "A La Mode" and "Green is the New Black" featurettes, as well as deleted scenes and a few minutes of bloopers.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I didn't think "Ugly Betty" was without a few issues, but the series manages to be fun and entertaining. The DVD presentation offered fine audio/video quality and a very nice selection of extra features. Recommended for fans; those new to the series should try a rental first.