Frothy, funny soap scrubs up beautifully
Ugly Betty 7.30pm, Seven
HALFWAY through the first series of Ugly Betty seems a good time to check the temperature of the hit US comedy. For those who haven’t been watching, the story so far is way too labyrinthine to precis here.
It is based on a Colombian soap, or telenovela , called Yo soy Betty, la fea and, briefly, it all began 14 episodes ago as bright Betty Suarez ( America Ferrera) from suburban Queens landed a job at New York’s ultra- glam Mode magazine as assistant to randy Daniel Meade, played by Eric Mabius, scion of the ultra- rich Meade family.
Daniel is affable but spoiled and has trouble keeping his hands off the gorgeous women who surround him every day. Initially she is sent in as a spoiler to stop him bonking his assistants, but soon good, clever Betty wins him over and he becomes something of a new man.
Much of the action revolves around the all- white Mode office and its population of fash- mag slags, as Ab Fab’s Patsy Stone would say.
Then there is the Meade family. Last week Bradford ( Alan Dale) was tossed in jail on suspicion of the murder of his former Mode editor and mistress Fey Sommers.
New York Fashion Week took on a new dimension as son Alex, thought to be dead for the past two years, popped up as gorgeous Alexis ( Rebecca Romijn), regendered and ready for revenge. Phew. This episode is called Brothers and suffice it to say the plot thickens; Betty ends up naked in the spa with Daniel’s alcoholic mother, Claire ( Judith Light).
The show’s other centre of action is Betty’s humble home and normal family in Queens.
Betty even has a love life, although it looks as if her wet boyfriend is finally going to get the flick.
Betty’s writers toss light and dark into a delightful, campy, but not too campy, soap with a serve of satire on the side.
The main characters are brightly etched, including Wilhelmina Slater ( Vanessa Williams), the wannabe editor whose plans are foiled at every turn. All performances are nicely judged, from the silly, such as tag team Marc ( Michael Urie) and Amanda ( Becki Newton) to the straight, Betty’s father Ignacio ( Tony Plana) and wardrobe mistress Christina ( Ashley Jensen).
Betty’s producers ramp up the colour and set design, akin to the heightened reality of CSI: Miami or the beautifully choreographed Nip/ Tuck. Naturally, this hyper- realism is more obvious the bigger and better your television screen.
Ugly Betty began well and is getting better as it goes along. As the character who holds together the crazy world of Ugly Betty, Ferrara well deserves her best actress Golden Globe. Betty may be a little challenged in the eyebrow region, but nobody else on our screens can do inner beauty like she does.
Delightful: Actor America Ferrera offers a beautifully realised performance