STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MSRP: $59.99
RUNNING TIME: 992 Minutes
• Becoming Ugly
• A La Mode
• Green is the New Black
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary

The Pitch

It’s like The Devil Wears Prada, but 24 hours long and in telenovela form!

The Humans

America Ferrera, Eric Mabius, Alan Dale, Ashley Jensen, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz

Don Ameche’s Ugly Betty cameo was poorly received by younger viewers.

The Nutshell

Betty Suarez, a plucky, naive, good natured, unfashionable Latina, lands a job as the assistant to the newly installed editor of "Mode," a major fashion publication.  Her sweet nature makes her an outcast amongst the back-stabbing, throat-gagging, coke-snorting, image-obsessed denizens of New York high couture.  With an illegal immigrant father, an overbearing, insecure sister, a horribly stereotypically gay nephew, and a legion of other stock characters at her side, will she find success at "Mode magazine," or will she end up as the nacho girl at the local Mexican restaurant?

In the original version of Mary Shelly’s famous novel, Frankenstein’s monster hid from the angry villagers in a gay disco.

The Lowdown

Let’s get this out of the way:  Ugly Betty is bad TV. There’s no way around it. It’s predictable, silly, and derivative, and I can think of dozens of better ways to spend your free time, such as:

1) Paint by numbers (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  It’s very cathartic).

2) Listening to whale sounds

3) Replying to obvious shills on message boards

After watching the first few episodes, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to finish all twenty four episodes. Betty‘s drama is so over-the-top that it’s nearly impossible to take seriously, and the characters in her universe are uniformly ridiculous. Hilda, Betty’s sister, is a stereotypical "OH NO YOU DI-UHNN!" Latina firebrand, her coworkers are slutty, shallow, and cheap, and her gay nephew wore a sailor costume to middle school for Halloween (and no, he wasn’t beaten to death). They’re all poorly written. The show became so predictable that I was able to identify critical plot points eons before their eventual reveal. The boss is going to sleep with such-and-such; So-and-so is going to get their comeuppance; what’s-her-face is going to end up with Syphilis.  It’s a by-the-numbers affair, and, yes, I’m aware of how many dashes these last two sentences contain. Ignore-them.

It was two weeks before Christmas, and it was time for Santa’s annual colon cleanse.

However, I’m not as down on Betty as I might seem. Sure, I don’t think I’d say I like the show, or that I’ll watch it after I’m done writing this review, but there’s a great sense of playfulness that saturates Ugly Betty, and the show really profits from it. Betty was modeled after the Colombian telenovela "Yo Soy Betty, La Fea," which speaks volumes about its American incarnation; it isn’t really a comedy (which is great, since Betty isn’t very funny), but a homage to the hyperdramatic, colorful, broadly-drawn strokes of the Latin telenovela. The show often features Betty’s father Ignacio, played with mucho talento by Tony Plana, watching these cheaply-filmed-yet-wildly-popular telenovelas on Telemundo, and it’s not by accident. Betty might not be good TV, but it’s filled with insane plot twists involving transsexuals, heart-smashing romance, and life-or-death drama that can only be properly delivered in telenovela form. In other words, it’s a well produced soap opera with some really fun moments, and should be avoided lest you become ensnared in its soap-operatic web.

Case in point: I’m cooking dinner, and I see my wife watching Ugly Betty (It has a very distinct color palette, so it’s easy to identify from across the house. Just look for a salsa-colored glow from the living room). I groan disapprovingly and continue cooking. I hear one of Betty’s characters utter the phrase "It’s my baby," and I put down my tenderizing mallet and yell, "It’s whose baby?  IT’S WHOSE BABY?  WHOSE BABY IS IT?  WHAT BABY?!?!?" 

I’m not proud of it. It turned out to be Henry’s baby. Devastating!

In an effort to increase product awareness and reduce childhood obesity, Pfizer marketed "Lumpy- the Drug Pinata!" to its Mexican customers.

Yeah, yeah, let the hate mail flow. I’d never recommend the show to your average CHUD reader, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little bit smitten with it. It’s well acted on all sides; America Ferrera is very charming as Betty, Vanessa Williams is wonderfully slimy as Wilhelmina, and the rest of the crew does great work as Betty‘s supporting cast, although I still feel like the gay characters are way too stereotypical. They’re just poorly written, and too often go for the easy jokes. 

The one thing that consistently bugged me about Betty was mostly structural: Why in the hell would this chubby, fashion-phobic, family-loving, unsuperficial girl want anything to do with the world of high fashion? The nearly Christ-like punishment she takes from her coworkers is completely unreal. While she would probably make less money as a nacho girl at the local restaurant, her life would undoubtedly be less upsetting. I understand that Betty is a "situation dramedy" and that some things must just be blindly accepted, but Betty’s "situation" gnaws at my soul, as I wish she’d just go back to school and become a teacher or something.

Yes, Betty‘s a rip off of The Devil Wears Prada and nearly every other "stranger in a strange workplace" comedy. No, it isn’t very funny. Yes, "Believe in yourself" is a shallow theme that’s been done thousands of times to death, and others have done it better.  Yes, it kind of sucks. But it’s the epitome of harmless, cheerful fun that the golden age of television used to be known for.

And with that, my testes just shrank 18%.

The Package

It’s a sublimely well-produced set. We get multiple behind-the-scenes documentaries, including "Becoming Ugly", "A La Mode", and "Green is the New Black", as well as deleted scenes and audio commentary. The 5.1 track is luscious, and the picture is luminescent.  It’s all pretty much transcendent.

Vanessa’s ROADKILL!!! home furnishings collection was a big hit in Fife, Alabama.

6.6 out of 10