Friday, February 02, 2007

"You will be my seeing-eye gay.": Ugly Betty

I don't normally like guest stars who are famous, but not so famous that they're instantly recognizable so one of the characters has to say, "Hey! You're (name)! I love your work!" But I just want to say that Katharine McPhee has a very real screen presence, and she managed to gloss over most of the awkwardness in the one scene featuring her. Also, she remains really, really, really, really, really hot. This helps.

Anyway, Ugly Betty veers closer and closer every week to becoming dangerously overstuffed, but the more crap they throw on screen, the better the show gets (and if next week's preview with the "stop hitting yourself!" gag is any indication, things are only going to get better). It's a weird mix of silly, soapy and dramatic that works completely because you a.) buy Betty Suarez and b.) buy the relationships between the characters. Amanda and Mark's relationship isn't anything that could be that over-the-top in real life, but it feels grounded in something real, so you go with it. Similarly, as long as Betty's home life makes some sort of logical sense, we'll go with the rest of the show.

That said, Katharine McPhee! And Tim Gunn!

But by far the best thing about the episode was the way it sort of spun out of control when Alexis revealed her secret to her brother. The shattering wine glass and the dizzying plot complications and the end cliffhanger all contributed to something that went so far over-the-top it somehow became compelling television. I find it easy to forget why people watch soapy melodramas, but Ugly Betty reminds me week after week that there's a lot of fun to be had in a perfectly deployed plot twist that sends the world of the show spinning off of its axis and into the sun.

As I said, in the first half of the season, I wasn't sure if this show could sustain itself, but the addition of Rebecca Romijn has been just what it needed -- her character prods everyone into new situations, and the whole thing goes nuts.

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