"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.
The first season introduced, Betty, who had always been a big fan of Mode magazine. However, when she approached Daniel (Eric Mabius) asking for a job, she was 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 was 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.
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. In different hands, the show's leaping between comedy, drama and many other elements could be messy.
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). The second season of the series begins shortly after the events of the first season, and opens by throwing the situation into disarray - Daniel and Alexis (Rebecca Romijn) ended last season in a car crash, and while he manages to recover, she doesn't remember aspects of her past. Wilhemina is up to her old ways, trying to get control over Mode while Daniel's out by marrying Bradford (Alan Dale), the father of Daniel and Alexis. Betty also faces difficult choices when it comes to romance, as while Henry (Christopher Gorham) has found out that sometime girlfriend Charlie (Jayma Mayes) is pregnant, Betty and Henry still have feelings for one another.
Overall, the second season is an improvement over the first season, as the plotting becomes more focused and the season's conflicts - mainly, the battle to gain control of the magazine and Betty's romantic decisions, among others - are more compelling and add a bit more urgency and energy to the series that wasn't there in season one. The situation at the magazine also gives Williams extra fuel to take the character further, making her one of TV's most enjoyable villains.
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. The actress offers a more engaging, more confident performance this time around, as Betty continues to develop well as a character. We also get fine supporting efforts from Eric Mabius, Rebecca Romijn, Becky Newton and Christopher Gorham, among others.
"Betty" is definitely fizzy and over-the-top at times, although there are moments when things go a little far. 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 still can't get past.
Overall, "Ugly Betty" does see some improvements in the second season, which sees the characters develop further and the writing getting sharper, funnier and tighter in terms of plots.
24. 2- 1 27 Sep 07 How Betty Got Her Grieve Back
25. 2- 2 4 Oct 07 Family/Affair
26. 2- 3 11 Oct 07 Betty's Wait Problem
27. 2- 4 18 Oct 07 Grin and Bear It
28. 2- 5 25 Oct 07 A League of Their Own
29. 2- 6 1 Nov 07 Something Wicked This Way Comes
30. 2- 7 8 Nov 07 A Nice Day for a Posh Wedding
31. 2- 8 15 Nov 07 I See Me, I.C.U.
32. 2- 9 22 Nov 07 Giving Up the Ghost
33. 2-10 6 Dec 07 Bananas for Betty
34. 2-11 10 Jan 08 Zero Worship
35. 2-12 17 Jan 08 Odor in the Court
36. 2-13 24 Jan 08 A Thousand Words By Friday
37. 2-14 24 Apr 08 Twenty-Four Candles
38. 2-15 1 May 08 Burning Questions
39. 2-16 8 May 08 Betty's Baby Bump
40. 2-17 15 May 08 The Kids Are Alright
41. 2-18 22 May 08 Jump
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: "The Suarez Tour" (a tour of the Suarez house by actor Tony Plana - some interesting minor details are pointed out along the way), "I Love Betty" (a short featurette on Betty's romances), bloopers (5 minutes of some very funny goofs), 16 deleted scenes (no optional commentary), "Wilhemina Slater: Love to Hate Her" (an exploration of Williams's performance and the character), "On Set with the Besties" (Marc and Amanda (Michael Urie and Becki Newton) offer a tour of the Mode sets) and two episodes of the Spanish series, "Las Pasiones de Telenovelas".
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Ugly Betty" does see some improvements in the second season, which sees the characters develop further and the writing getting sharper, funnier and tighter in terms of plots. The DVD set offers very good audio/video quality, along with a nice assortment of minor extras. Recommended for fans.