We watch... so you don't have to.

Fall '06: "Ugly Betty"

Ugly Betty is an English-language telenovela, based on a show that, I'm told, was a big hit in Colombia. It's nice to see that the US Entertainment Conglomerate is expanding its list of countries to "borrow" from -- British sitcoms and Japanese horror films can only go so far.

When most people hear the word "telenovela", if they think anything beyond "huh?", they think of Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons. Producer Salma Hayek appears to be trying to change that by creating a smart show about characters that are either very likable or cartoonishly hatable. On the other hand, Ms. Hayek also stars in a show-within-a-show that's as stereotypical as possible (and also looks like a lot of fun), so it's possible that her goal is less "educate the public" than "make an entertaining television show". That's always nice. Perhaps Aaron Sorkin could take a few notes.

The premise of the show is that you've got this girl named Betty, who's ugly. She's not actually ugly, if you ask me; she's just got outlandishly unflattering hair, glasses, and braces. Sure, she's a little heavier than the other people on the show (who all appear to be models), but you wouldn't gasp in horror if you passed her on the street or anything. The other characters on the show, however, would. I assume this is because they all live in Perfect Model World, but I still got kind of tired of the constant shock that he would ever stoop to talk to someone who looks like that. Especially because Betty is cheerful, efficient, and smart. I admit the appeal of a show like The Office, but sometimes I like to see a show about people who are good at their jobs and appear to be actually good people. And if there are cartoon villains with entertainingly toadying assistants, so much the better.

Oh! I forgot to mention that there is a wide variety of unconvincing accents on display, which I always enjoy. I was particularly fond of Gina Gershon pretending to be Donatella Versace.


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