Monday, October 2, 2006


As was the case with 'Heroes', the third time was the charm for getting the chance to see 'Ugly Betty'. Having missed both the Thursday (because of 'My Name Is Earl' and 'The Office') and Friday ('Doctor Who') broadcasts, I caught it on SoapNet Saturday afternoon.

Man! I love this network synergy!

I'm not sure if the experiment will continue, as is the case with 'Heroes' getting a second shot on Sci-Fi Channel. But I hope it does, because my first option will remain the NBC sitcoms.

Not that 'Ugly Betty' needs me in any way but to say what a good show it is. Its debut came thisclose to matching the numbers posted by 'Survivor' on CBS. And my viewing choices came in third.

About two weeks ago I was convinced that ABC had made a mistake in its scheduling strategy by moving 'Ugly Betty' from the Friday graveyard to the highly competitive Thursday night. My mistake was looking at 'Ugly Betty' from my perspective. I'm certainly not in any of its target audiences and because I usually take a Toby-centric view of the world, I made the assumption that everybody would be watching 'Earl' and 'The Office'.

Besides the fact that I just wanted to sample the show, I wanted to catch it for Ashley Jensen, who won my heart as Maggie Jacobs in 'Extras'. Thankfully, as Christina she's one of the good guys in 'Ugly Betty', an ally for Betty Suarez at Mode magazine.

And there are plenty of others in the cast of interest - Tony Plana, whom I first noticed in 'Bakersfield, PD', as Betty's father; Ana Ortiz from last summer's Iraq drama, 'Over There', as her sister; and Eric Mabius as Betty's skirt-chasing boss. Even Vanessa Williams and her sycophantic aide Marc are fun to watch despite being a bit cartoonish.

The scene stealer though will be Mark Indelicato as Betty's nephew who is a fashionista in training. ("I don't want to eat flan; I'll get fat.") EW magazine already aimed their gaydar at his character.

But of course the one to watch is America Ferrara as Betty Suarez. Her combination of determination, optimism, and even the bouts of pathos make it impossible not to. (Her ghastly personal fashion sense and that overload of dental grillwork are factors as well!)

When I mentioned the pathos, I didn't mean that Betty should be pitied. You can tell from the strength of her spirit that no matter what might befall her, Betty will ultimately triumph.

There are also a couple of mystery subplots going on so that it won't always be Betty vs. the Mode medusas (Modeusa?), which could become tiresome fast.

It also looks as though the show will be a great showcase for cameos. The pilot had two - Gina Gershon as a cosmetics queen client, and Salma Hayek as the maid in a telenovela that Betty's father likes to watch. This was a recurring bit throughout the hour and it may show up again in future episodes, perhaps with other Latino stars in typical telenovela roles.

After only one episode broadcast so far, 'Ugly Betty' will wind up the season as one of the best new shows of this TV season.

As for the Toobworld notes.....

Mode is a magazine published by Meade Publications. When Betty went for her job interview, she had her sights on working at just about any other magazine published by the corporation than Mode.

So if there are other magazines being published by Meade Publications, perhaps we'll see copies of them around the office. This way, we could possibly get subtle links to other TV shows in which magazines played a role.

Blush was the magazine around which the comedy of 'Just Shoot Me' took place, and I think it would be likely they'd have copies of the competition around the office. And if there's any one magazine from the world of TV that I would wish Meade Publications would claim as one of their own, it would be Manhattan Magazine.

That's the publication for which Sarah Jane Smith was working when she first met the Doctor on 'Doctor Who'!

Another competitor for Meade Publications would be the Glenn Howard empire from 'The Name Of The Game'. Perhaps it might get mentioned someday in the show.

Various fictional cosmetics lines and fashion houses from the past could also be revived and reused in the show in a similar... um, fashion.

Here's a future casting suggestion for exec producer Salma Hayek (as if she's ever going to take my suggestions!): should they ever need to hire family members for the character of Christina, then Lynn Redgrave should be at the top of the list.

When Christina introduced Betty to two other average-looking women who worked for the magazine at lunch, a Zonk was used to describe the quartet:

Marc: It's a bizarre version of Sex and the City.

But to avoid the Zonking, I'm going to assume that within the framework of the TV Universe Marc was referring to the book by Candace Bushnell, rather than the TV show. 'Sex And The City' as a TV show takes place in the same universe as 'Ugly Betty'.


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