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An Advance Look at the "Ugly Betty" Season Premiere

I'll admit that, while I fell under the pratfall-laden charms of Ugly Betty last season, I had grown a little tired of the series' forced sentimentality by the time the season finale had rolled around last May. Or, to be more precise, of the sullen mawkishness Ugly Betty seemed to employ more often then not in lieu of the over-the-top comedy the series claims to be.

So, it was with a certain curiosity that I sat down recently to watch an advance screener of Betty's season premiere ("How Betty Got Her Grieve Back"), which kicks off tonight on ABC. Would the maudlin tone of last season's finale continue over into this season? Or would it actually be a bright, shiny new start for Betty Suarez and Co? Let's find out.

What did I like? The telenovela-influenced dream sequence that opens tonight's season premiere, complete with attempted murder, jilted lovers, and one hell of an outfit was the perfect way to begin the new season, tongue-in-cheek and campy as hell (hola, Senor Grubstick). What else? Wilhelmina's morning greeting to Marc and Amanda (seriously, this one made me laugh out loud); farmer's market blueberries in the Hamptons; a grooming session by Marc of one Bradford Meade; and... Fat Amanda.

When we last saw bitchy waif Amanda last season, she had learned the decades-old secret of her parentage: she was actually the daughter of Fey Sommers, a discovery that has caused Amanda to seek out the comfort of junk food and completely balloon. I thought that the reveal of Amanda's connection to Fey (one guess who that makes the father) was the sort of deliciously soapy twist that Ugly Betty needs: campy, comical, and, well, just plain fun. If it were up to me, Marc and Amanda would be in nearly every scene. It doesn't have to be all doom and gloom all the time...

Which brings me to what I didn't like about the season opener: a series of depressingly downbeat and saccharine storylines. There's a resolution to the cliffhanger in May's finale that had Hilda's fiance Santos get shot as a bystander in a botched robbery that's both sappy and emotionally manipulative the worst possible way. Ignacio is still stuck in Mexico, a holdover of a storyline that I had hoped would have gone far, far away during the haitus (no luck that the season premiere is set three weeks after the finale), while the producers don't really seem sure what to do with Christina. Remember Alexis and Daniel's car accident? Well, it's safe to say that both of the Meade children make it out of that smashed car alive, but we're forced to sit through several scenes of Daniel staring at Alexis' hospital room in an inadequate attempt to give his character some emotional depth (we get it: he feels guilty!). I will say, however, that there is a very interesting twist at the end of the episode involving Alexis. (Sorry, my lips are sealed!)

I'm definitely curious to see what your reactions will be to the second season of Ugly Betty, a series that's definitely trying a little too hard to have equal parts of prettiness and ugliness. I don't need pratfalls all the time, but let's be honest: I'd rather watch Ugly Betty: The Comedy than Ugly Betty: The Melodrama. What do you think?

Next week on Ugly Betty ("Family Affair"): Betty finds herself in a dilemma when Wilhelmina's new bodyguard (guest star Rick Fox) is getting a little too friendly with his employer and faces a new situation with Henry; Amanda receives her inheritance; and Hilda comes to terms with recent events.

Comments

It's really too bad that the show gets so melodramatic (and not in a funny telenovela way but in a we're-a-comedy-trying-to-be-a-drama sort of way). Betty is at its best when it goes for the laughs. And, seeing as how they insist on defining the show as a comedy (for the Emmys, Golden Globes, etc.) shouldn't it aim to be funny? That doesn't mean that it can't have heart but killing off Santos as his son simultaneously "dies" during his West Side Story production? Blech! If the show continues in that direction I don't think I can watch it anymore.
Anonymous said…
I've missed Marc and Amanda. They are my favorite thing about the show!
ARM said…
I've just watched the season premiere. It was a bit slow at parts, and some of the writing seemed a little rough, but the thing that got me was how they dealt with Santos' death.

I lost my father in the "Off-season" unexpectedly, so that part of the storyline really affected me emotionally. I was so happy when Santos wasn't dead, and at the end, I was really angry that he was. And while yes, this can seem emotionally manipulative, if you have lost someone close to you, there does come that moment where you really know they are gone. And as PAINFUL as watching the show was (causing me to cry over my own loss again) I have to say that in terms of visually showing an audience what loss actually is - it isn't just the physical person, it is also letting go of all of your hopes and dreams bound up with them - it was spot-on. I actually thought it was fairly honest, and while it was extremely painful, I can admire a show for making me laugh one minute (Marc getting beaten up dressed as Wilhelmina), literally cry the next, and when Henry gets off the bus, really hopeful. It wasn't perfect, but it still beats the hell out of Dancing with the Stars.
Anonymous said…
As one who really disliked the season finale, I approached the premiere w/a little hesitation. I have to say that Papa Suarez story aside (and, I agree - the daniel moping) I was pretty pleased. I, too, like it more when it tends towards the funny/broad, but I have to say - I realy liked (and also hated) the Santos/Hilda story.

Yes, it was totally manipulative, and yes, I guessed it about halfway through (Went from being so happy he was alive to starting to realize that something wasn't quite right), but I thought the reveal/end moment was raw and great and Ana Ortiz acted the hell out of it. I echo a lot of what Amy said in terms of being a very visceral depiction of grief, denial, loss, etc. I thought it was human and grounded.

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