After going astray last season, Ugly Betty returns to its down-to-Earth roots
When it first debuted in 2006, ABC’s Ugly Betty quickly earned raves for its character-driven fish-out-of-water comedy and its novel emphasis on inner beauty. But last season, the show’s creators were roundly chastised for far-fetched plotlines (including the other Meade heir, Rebecca Romijn, as the trans-gendered Alexis) and tepid love triangles. The show’s soul – embodied in the not-quite-lovely (at least on the outside) title character – was drifting further and further out of focus.
Could it have been a case of the terrible twos? This season, Betty has returned to her tangled roots – literally and figuratively. The ugly is back – note a return to her effortlessly comedic wardrobe choices – but so too is Betty’s family-focus and work ethic. Although still very much the odd-girl-out, she’s grown more comfortable at Mode and is ready to take on increasing responsibility. And while she’s itching to leave the nest – even going so far as to rent a Manhattan pad of her own – domestic dramas bring her back into the family fold. But the show has also managed to maintain that signature acerbic-yet-understated wit. The viciously delicious pairing of Becki Newton and Michael Urie is particularly memorable, as is Vanessa Williams Devil Wears Prada-esque take on the sinister-yet-funny Wilhelmina Slater.
Maybe it’s that I’ve worked at a magazine or maybe it’s that I’ve been the only brown girl-sans-couture at said magazine. Whatever it is, I’ve always been able to relate to Betty’s on-the-fringe status. While she’s the outsider, she’s also the everygirl in an industry where not too many of us make it up the ladder. Her struggles ring true – and they’re very relatable, whether one works in the magazine biz or at the local Barnes & Noble. So let’s hope Betty’s return to form – and focus – remains a priority for the producers as they head into season four. And if my own experience at magazines is any indication, this year Betty’s real struggle for growth and success begins. I, for one, will be rooting for her.