Sunday, April 29, 2007

"I loved my prom. And nine months later I had a beautiful reminder of it.": Ugly Betty

Hooray for Ugly Betty!

A recent Entertainment Weekly review of the show (which also reviewed Grey's Anatomy and Lost in some sort of ABC show clearinghouse) was hard on it, claiming the show wasn't original enough (and then compared the show unfavorably to Desperate Housewives, no less). Aside from the fact that I find originality rather overrated, I think that this reading of the show is all wrong. Ugly Betty is a pastiche -- it's trying to find emotional truth by camping up some of the staples of the primetime soap and the telenovela. As I remarked a few weeks ago, it's the show Desperate Housewives claimed to be back in its first season but could never quite live up to being.

Now, granted, Ugly Betty doesn't work every week. And when it misses its mark, it's really, wincingly painful, just because camp is inherently painful unless it's played with a deft enough touch. But the show works because it's centered on America Ferrera's performance, easily the show's least campy element, even when she's draped in a Guadalajara poncho or something. Her work allows the rest of the show to spin off into wackiness.

Anyway, those thoughts were in my mind as I watched this week's episode, which wrapped up the scandal where Daniel slept with a teenager rather perfunctorily (turned out it was blackmail and she was 20 -- a bit too easy of a solution for me, but there you go). But it also spun the various plates and plots around well enough to be an entertaining episode of the show (though David whined to me after he finished watching, "When are they going to be done with this immigration plotline?!").

Betty's fear of going in to work was well-done, particularly the weird Salem witch trials/Universal horror riff that closed the first act. Even if it felt a bit abrupt, I'm glad that she had reconciled with Daniel, Henry and Christina by the end of the episode so we didn't have to spend the rest of sweeps wondering when, exactly, she would get back together with her friends. Bonus points for giving us more Jayma Mays, too!

I'm not horribly engaged by the relationship between the eldest Meade and Wilhelmina, but it occupied minimal time in this episode, so I'll let it slide, especially as he claimed he would never leave his wife (this means more Judith Light for me!). The romantic relationship between Betty's sister and her baby daddy was better done, especially as it had a genuinely sweet proposal at its center. As far as Betty's dad going to Mexico, well. . .can we be done with the immigration plotline? It was fun and innovative at first. Not so much anymore.

Finally, we had the story of Alexis losing her girl virginity to a guy. At first, the storyline seemed sweet, but then it turned a bit too depressing for me, largely because it turned out this was another guy using her for some reason. Look, I know that she's the world's most well-known transsexual at this point, but she's also really hot. SOMEbody would legitimately want to sleep with her. For reals.

Anyway, a good "welcome to sweeps!" episode. Let's hope the last three re-attain the goofy delights of some of the season's earlier episodes.

1 comment:

David Sims said...

I agree that they were totally mean to make that hot Brazillian from The Class sleep with Alexis for blackmailing purposes. Can't shy ol' Alexis catch a break?

Also, while the Big Meade sleeping with Wilhelmina plot is fairly boring, Alan Dale needs to do SOMETHING on this show. He can be quite funny, and he's being woefully underused.