Friday, February 16, 2007

"Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein": Ugly Betty

Sorry that I'm still behind. Expect NBC comedy ruminations (and 24 too) sometime over the weekend. I mean, I can't go without talking about 30 Rock, can I? Hopefully, I'll get around to a big wrap-up sometime on Saturday.

In the meantime, let us sing the praises of Jayma Mays.

Actually, let us now sing the praises of the entire Ugly Betty cast. Next to The Office, this may be the best utilized big cast on network TV. Everybody has their role to play, and they're all encouraged to play around with those parts. America Ferrera is the center of this ensemble, but a group that seemed to have a few weak links when the show began has quickly grown into something almost peerless. I like the show so much not because of the plotting (which can be a little out-of-control) but because the actors are given such fun characters to inhabit and then make the most of inhabiting them. The show's still a pretty loosey-goosey twist on the good old soap opera (with a heavy dose of zaniness to make the medicine go down), but the cast sells it.

What's more, every new addition to the cast, whether major or minor, has integrated as effortlessly as the original cast members have found their characters. Even though they've only been on for a handful of episodes, it's hard to imagine the show without Christopher Gorham's Henry or Rebecca Romijn's Alexis. And the stunt-casting also works. Lucy Liu's not an actress I often like, but the show brought out the best in her, as it did in the oft-bland Jerry O'Connell. Hell, the show even makes the most of Judith Light, an actress a lot of productions have no idea what to do with.

And then there's Jayma Mays. Obviously, the "old girlfriend from back home that comes to foul everything up at the last opportune time" plot isn't exactly a new one, but Betty's such a curiously retro show in plotting regards from time to time that it fits in with the overall tone. And it helps that Mays is the perfect actress to counter Fererra's sweet dorkiness (Mays is even sweeter and occasionally even dorkier). I know it seems that every other blog post here is about Jayma Mays nowadays, but I hope that she and Fererra film some buddy cop movies over the summer hiatus.

I don't have a lot bad to say about Ugly Betty at this point in time. It's hit one of those strides that a show that's confident in what it is and what it has to say tends to hit in its first few seasons (How I Met Your Mother is another show in one of these strides right now). I don't know that it's great television, but it's incredibly good television, and it's nice to have something that's like nothing else out there.

And, I mean, where are you going to get Wolfenstein jokes at 8 p.m. on a Thursday?


David Sims said...

You don't like Lucy Liu? That's too bad.

Jayma Mays blew my MIND in this episode. Like, I love her in everything, but I particularly ADORED her here. I can't really put it into words. She needs some sort of international media series of events created around her. A TV show/movie just isn't good enough anymore.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Despite my feminist criticism leanings, I am mostly threatened by strong women. Dirty little secret.

Also, I'm thinking that every city with more than 100,000 people in the world should be forced to hold something called a "Mays-a-thon" in which said city could best decide how to celebrate the wondrous Jayma Mays. Of course, most cities will resort to fireworks, but some may get more creative, perhaps spelling out her name in a series of towering edifices.

Libby said...

"I don't need to be notified every time one of your whores is on."