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September 29, 2006

Ugly is only skin deep

But this new sitcom goes deeper. Coming on the heels of The Devil Wears Prada, ABC's Ugly Betty has already shown some promise of success. But unlike the chic makeover Anne Hathaway undergoes in Prada (and the Princess Diaries series), the point would be defeated if title actress America Ferrara underwent the same -- although the actress is, actually, unconventionally beautiful, which, I think, is more beautiful than standard (read: unremarkable and unnoticeable) beauty: Think Uma Thurman and Cate Blanchett.

America is best known for her roles in Real Women Have Curves and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (a chick flick, yes, but aside from that, alongside Amber Tamblyn of Joan of Arcadia and Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls, and some blonde actress I had not seen before, America definitely stole the show and proved herself a more interesting and skilled actress, I thought). Tom Shales gushes a bit over the show, calling it "the best new show of the year and a great big blast of happiness," but after Uglybetty_1 watching it last night, I hope it does develop and continue. It was clearly a "morality tale" type of show, but it didn't beat you over the head too much with the time-worn and -proven adage about beauty being skin-deep and inner beauty being infinitely more valuable. It teetered almost too close to being sappy in some scenes, but overall it's presenting a view of ourselves that we need to see -- about our society's shallow notions of beauty, consumption, and class (i.e., societal class, not taste, but then again, that too).

A discussion of class came up in a conversation between Betty and her boss, who was trying to get her to come back to the thankless job. (Of course, she will! Otherwise the sitcom's over!) Betty told him about having "real problems," like trying to get an HMO to cover your widower father's pills or desperately looking for any job in order to help pay the rent in their humble abode in Queens. But in an interesting turn, her boss discusses his own problems, like living up to the high standards set by his brother -- who had recently and tragically died -- and overcoming his father's low expectations of him as the "lesser" son. Everyone has problems, he says. They may be different in type, but they're problems. (Even a bed-hopping playboy can be human.) That conversation, the good overall premise of the show, and the acting capability of America Ferrara, makes me hopeful that this show will continue, and continue to get better (come on, screenwriters! keep bringing substance).

To any bloggers/readers who watched last night, what do you think of Ugly Betty?

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Robert E McIntyre

I enjoyed the program. I also hope the direction of the show will tackle reality more than the usual drivle. Here is hoping the writers take a good start and go up, not down!

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