Thursday, January 18, 2007

"It's our secret bird code!": Ugly Betty

If you plan on watching last night's Ugly Betty later, stay clear. There's a massive, show-ruining spoiler contained herein, involving the true motives and nature of Rebecca Romijn's character. Click away! Click away!

Look. I think it's great that there's a transgendered regular on a network TV show, even if said character is, ostensibly, evil. There are more lesbians and gays on TV now, but the B&T of the LGBT community get left out all too often. So, hey, bully for Betty, which I THINK is the first primetime show to have a transgendered regular.

That said.

LOOK AT REBECCA ROMIJN! I know that her character comes from a ridiculously rich family, but isn't that setting the bar a little high for transgendered men who just wanna be girls?

I realize I'm treating this a little lightly, but it's interesting that a potentially historic plot point has essentially been thrown in at the last minute (and, honestly, I half expect Jamie Weinman to come in and inform me of how wrong I am about the historicness of this).

To be perfectly honest, though, this is the first soap opera plot machination that has completely worked on Betty. It was so bizarre and over-the-top that it managed to loop back around to tie in with the show's weirdly sweet worldview (I know that sounds disingenuous for a evil transgendered woman plot, but. . .hey. . .). What's more, the preparations for Romijn's character to return gave everyone something to do, including the wonderfully goofy Becki Newton (who plays Amanda). Newton didn't impress me in the first few episodes, but she's really grown into a joy to watch as the season has gone on. She's that rare thing -- a truly attractive person who can play funny and hurt. Newton really sells you on the idea that Amanda feels underappreciated (even with those looks!) and unloved, and that makes her character a bit of a loose cannon.

It helps that the show gave us some winning moments between Betty (America Fererra, fresh off her Golden Globe win) and her boss (Eric Mabius, who somehow has channeled his sliminess into warmth). The two went on what would have amounted to a "date" with anyone else, but the gap between Betty and Daniel is still great enough to not be crossable. And in the American version, that gap is far less about looks and more about class and geography. The river that separates their two worlds might as well be the Grand Canyon.

I was tempted to put Ugly Betty on my top ten list last year, but I didn't. The show was too hit-and-miss. To be honest, though, it picked up in the last few of 2006, and it's willingness to expose new layers of its characters means that even though it fights against a weird, warped soap subplot, it'll still be worth watching.

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