If you have a sense of humor, a soul and a good eye for color, I strongly suggest you watch Ugly Betty.My boyfriend and I watched the entire first season on DVD this past week and fell in love. What looks at first glance like a prime-time telenovela made us laugh and even cry.
Okay, three times, but stop bugging me about it.
Why is this show so great? Let me count the ways:
- An UGLY main character! Okay, she’s not exactly hideous and America Ferrera, the actress who plays her so deftly, is actually kind of cute. But they give her bushy eyebrows, mismatched, ill-fitting clothes, hair that would make most of us shave it all off and start over, and the cheerful self-confidence to not give a shit when everyone keeps on telling her she looks awful. I will say this: the minute they give her a makeover, I stop watching the show.
- Great acting. Vanessa Williams, America Ferrera, and Octavia Spencer (who plays Betty’s father’s immigration caseworker, Constance) were the easy standouts, but the entire cast is pretty damn talented as far as I’m concerned. Vanessa plays a cunt like nobody’s business! Well, a cunt with heart.
- Color, color, color. I haven’t seen such vivid sets like this since The Incredible Shrinking Woman. It’s a 42 minute feast for the eyes (don’t worry – your retina gets a break during the commercials).
- Camp. The show isn’t dripping with it like a John Waters movie, but there are clever, subtle instances of it for fans of the camp out there. Leslie Jordan (Beverley Leslie from Will & Grace) and the inimitable Alec Mapa make great cameos. And Gina Gershon as Fabia (a parody of Donatella Versace) is absolutely delicious.
- It’s boundary-breaking. I love the fact that there are several interracial relationships that occur naturally and aren’t PC-ified to the point of making me vomit. I adore that one of the main characters is a transsexual (played by the gorgeous and surprisingly talented Rebecca Romijn). And I love that Betty’s 12-year-old nephew is a screaming sissy and no one in the family seems to give a shit.
- Main characters who are Mexican. …who aren’t vilified for being Mexican. And they’re genuinely good people. If you’re sick to death of the racist overtones of the recent immigration “debate”, then this will be refreshing.
- It’s set in New York. J’adore New York. Even if it’s filmed in LA and all the backdrops are greenscreened in, I don’t care. Scenes of New York put me in a damn good mood.
- You get to love and hate the villains. Although the basic setup of goodies & baddies is as simplistic as you might imagine, you occasionally feel for the people who have a lot of fun at poor Betty’s expense. Partly because they succumb to the same human frailties that most of do. But also because plucky Betty brushes off their insults without a scratch.
- Some hot Latin papis! Kevin Alejandro? Well, hello there! Cristian de la Fuente? Verrrrry pleased to make your acquaintance! Bailey Chase? Well, not technically Latin, but he still speaks Spanish in my fantasies. Durrrrty Spanish.
- Those sweet tearjerkers. Three scenes made my boyfriend and me reach for the Kleenex. (SPOILERS) When Santos proposed to Hilda. When Ignacio said his final farewell to Constance, the deranged caseworker. And when Hilda’s fantasy came to an end (in the first episode of the 2nd season). If you didn’t cry during these scenes, I’d have to seriously question if you have a soul.
Bonus! If you’re a loser like me and don’t even have a television, you can watch full episodes at abc.com. The quality is excellent and you actually have fewer commercials to deal with than if you were to watch it on TV.
I do think the original Betty La Fea succeeded in making the lead character far more hideous-looking. I had a good chuckle at this picture: