"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.
The third season picks up where the second season left. The most important change being Betty’s move into her own apartment after being faced with two love choices at the end of season two. The apartment adds a new layer to “Ugly Betty” that is a welcomed change and furthers her development as a character. And having Amanda (Becki Newton) eventually move in with her adds an extra layer of fun, as well. Betty does have a new love interest, Matt (Daniel Eric Gold), while Daniel continues to adjust to the news that he’s a father. Back at Mode, Wilamenia is editor-in-chief and the offices have changed from her icy influence - and Mode’s very existence is in jeopardy.
Increasingly, the most entertaining thing about “Ugly Betty” are the supporting players. Michael Urie as Marc and Becki Newton and Amanda continue to shine here in their roles as Betty’s not-so-sweet co-workers. The first episode alone shows how funny they can be when Betty comes back to work. Of course, this is in part due to the writing that feels sharper and funnier this season. Another interesting addition to season three was Lindsay Lohan in a fun, four episode guest performance as Kimmie.
While there are some episodes that don’t add much to the series, they continue to bring the level of humor that fans of the series have come to expect. Though still not a huge fan of the series, one thing I’ve found impressive is how the show manages to take itself seriously without becoming too serious. Season three sees a lot of the same, but the few changes it does make are welcomed.
Although 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 Tony Plana, Rebecca Romijn, and Eric Mabius 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. With more scheming, fashion, wit, romantic interests and realizations, season three is worth looking into for the show's fans.
42. 3- 1 25 Sep 08 The Manhattan Project
43. 3- 2 2 Oct 08 Filing for the Enemy
44. 3- 3 9 Oct 08 Crimes of Fashion
45. 3- 4 16 Oct 08 Betty Suarez Land
46. 3- 5 23 Oct 08 Granny Pants
47. 3- 6 30 Oct 08 Ugly Berry
48. 3- 7 6 Nov 08 Crush'd
49. 3- 8 13 Nov 08 Tornado Girl
50. 3- 9 20 Nov 08 When Betty Met YETI
51. 3-10 4 Dec 08 Bad Amanda
52. 3-11 8 Jan 09 Dress For Success
53. 3-12 22 Jan 09 Sisters on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
54. 3-13 5 Feb 09 Kissed Off
55. 3-14 12 Feb 09 The Courtship of Betty's Father
56. 3-15 19 Feb 09 There's No Place Like Mode
57. 3-16 26 Feb 09 Things Fall Apart
58. 3-17 5 Mar 09 Sugar Daddy
59. 3-18 12 Mar 09 A Mother of a Problem
60. 3-19 19 Mar 09 The Sex Issue
61. 3-20 30 Apr 09 Rabbit Test
62. 3-21 7 May 09 The Born Identity
63. 3-22 14 May 09 In the Stars
64. 3-23 21 May 09 Curveball
65. 3-24 21 May 09 The Fall Issue
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: “Look Who Keeps Popping Up” has a lot going on, but in a good way. As you’re watching “The Sex Issue” episode, Michael Urie and Becki Newton provide a commentary on the left hand side of the screen so you not only see the show, but their reactions. Also, throughout the commentary, there are pop ups that further explain or comment on something mentioned. Additionally, included in this feature are inserted interviews with other cast members that have to do with the specific scenes within the episode. While it may sound like a lot going on, it works. It’s a nice twist on the usual commentary that can become tiresome after awhile, plus Urie and Newton offer a lively and entertaining chat. Definitely worth a look for fans.
“Coming Home to New York City” - this is a thirteen minute look at the decision to move the series filming location from Hollywood to New York City where the show is set. With cast, producers, writers and designers responses to the decision, this feature is a nice look that not only gives insight to the importance of location but also give new meaning to “set in New York” and the limitless possibilities the move opened up for the show. One of the more interesting parts of this feature is the realization of how much had to be moved like specific costumes, sets and props.
“Mode After Hours - Webisodes” There are eight webisodes featuring Marc and Amanda (Michael Urie & Becki Newton). Webisodes included in the season three DVD set are: “I Spy”, “Prank Calls”, “Gwadalaharahh”, “Friend-iversary Vlog”, “Bowling for Cliff”, “Slumber Party Secrets”, “Sommer’s Séance”, “Trapped in the Elevator”. In keeping with the humor of the show, these webisodes are quick paced and fun.
“Betty Bloops” These bloopers do have a few funny moments that made me laugh, still at nine minutes it started to run a bit long.
“Deleted Scenes” As far as deleted scenes go, these are pretty entertaining and while not necessary to the show, they’re worth a look for fans of the series.
“Audio Commentary” for “Crush’d” with executive Producers/Writers Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally and Co-Executive Producer/Director Victor Nelli Jr. This is a interesting and entertaining commentary that not only offers some insight about the show, but about the move to New York as well as things they hoped to achieve in the episode. Worth a listen.
Also included is an “Ugly Betty Starter Kit” that helps sum up the show and the characters for those who either haven’t seen the show or are looking for a brief recap before starting this new season.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Ugly Betty" does see some improvements in the third season, which sees the characters develop further and the writing getting sharper and funnier. The DVD set offers very good audio/video quality, along with a nice assortment of extras. Recommended for fans.