Sunday , December 10 2023
A great balance between comedic soap opera and poignant family drama.

DVD Review: Ugly Betty – The Complete First Season

Based on Yo soy Betty, la fea, a Colombian soap opera, Ugly Betty is a whimsical series about Betty Suarez, a sweet, young Hispanic woman from Queens trying to make it in the cutthroat world of high fashion magazine publishing. The show strikes a great balance between comedic soap opera and poignant family drama, which is executed to perfection by a brilliant cast.

As the series opens, Betty gets a job as the Assistant to the Editor-in Chief of MODE. Her boss is the newly installed Daniel Meade, son of publishing magnate Bradford Meade. With the position opening up after the death of Fey Sommers, Daniel was given the job in an attempt to get him to grow up, but his addictions get in the way, an unfortunate trait he inherited from his mother. Obstacles also appear in the form of two people who want to run MODE: the conniving Wilhelmina Slater, who felt she deserved to take over for Sommers, and Alexis Meade, formerly known as Daniel's brother, Alex.

As outlandish as the situations get, there are very touching moments as well. Betty is treated cruelly when she first arrives at MODE because she doesn't fit the stereotypical look. However, her intellect and perseverance shine through and she quickly becomes a valuable asset. Home life is tough as well. Betty's mother passed away before the series began, and her father would be dead also if he was the same Ignacio Suarez that matched his Social Security number.

The entire cast and writing staff deserve much kudos for the characters. Even though some are exaggerated, they remain consistent and believable. Two standouts are America Ferrera, who shines as Betty, seamlessly switching from touching moment to physical comedy, and Vanessa Williams, who has never been better as the bitter and bitchy Wilhelmina Slater. Even the small roles are given to talented actors. Gina Gershon is hysterical in the recurring role of make-up mogul Fabia, although it's astounding her character can talk with all the face work she has had. Other guest stars include Patti LuPone, Rita Moreno, and Lucy Liu.

The extras include commentary tracks by creator/executive producer Silvio Horta, director Richard Shepard, and executive producer Teri Weinberg; actors Michael Urie and Becki Newton, who play Marc St. James and Amanda Tanen, two MODE staff members who love being bad; actress/executive producer Salma Hayek and actor Eric Maibus, who as Sofia Reyes and Daniel Meade are rival editors who fall in love. The excitement and pleasure of working on the show is palpable from all involved.

Other features include "Becoming Ugly," an overall look at the show, "A La MODE" presents the style of the show from sets to wardrobe, and "Green Is The New Black" will be enjoyed by technical geeks as they show how they recreate New York on the stages of Los Angeles with green screen technology.

The episodes on DVD are presented slightly different from the way they aired. According to Wikipedia,

"Swag" is listed as episode 4, without the scenes of Betty talking to Christina in a flashback. "Swag" was originally scheduled to be aired as the 4th episode, but was moved to 11th by the network. The change resulted in a number of continuity problems, which were "fixed" by making most of the episode a flashback and adding scenes with Betty telling Christina the bulk of the story. Also, "The Box and The Bunny," which is the second episode is listed as the third episode, having swapped places with "Queens for a Day."

This season of Ugly Betty was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Television Series and America Ferrera won Best Performance By An Actress In A Television Series. Both are well deserved, and this DVD set will allow you understand why members of the Hollywood Foreign Press and fans across the country think so highly of the series.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Founder and Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at

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