On the 28th of September, Ugly Betty will air on ABC, ushering in the new season with a set of out of the ordinary faces. The show has been a long time in coming and, according to previews, has been well worth the wait. Ugly Betty follows the burgeoning career of working class heroine Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), an awkward and less than conventionally attractive secretary who happens to be very good at what she does. She works at an upscale fashion magazine called Mode, where she clashes with waifish models and attractive co-workers, as well as developing an unexpected relationship with the publisher's rakish son Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius). It is a mixture of satire and romantic comedy, but also touches on serious issues facing the characters and the exciting plot twists that telenovelas are known for. We will also get a peak into her home life, featuring her hard working and somewhat eccentric family and friends.
Actress Salma Hayek is the show's producer and has been working for the past two years to bring it to air. With her own company, Ventarosa, and Touchstone Television, she will be taking the beloved telenovela to English speaking audiences for the first time. She will also make guest appearances as an actress on a telenovela that the character's on the show watch. She has championed the show as a chance to put a more positive and realistic role model out there for young women.
Ugly Betty is an adaptation of the hit Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea ('I am Betty, the Ugly One') which has had numerous spin-offs, including an animated version, in its original language. Once on the air, it rocketed to the top of the ratings thanks to its comedic touch and ability to deal with social issues. It still stands as one of the most successful and widely imitated examples of the genre.
This is not the first time that the show has been exported or adapted. In fact, it's been something of a marvel in this respect, appearing successfully in markets as varied as Germany, Russia, Spain, Greece and India. The program's universal appeal seems to reside in its deft mixture of humor, romance and drama, winning more hearts than one might expect from what, superficially, seems to be a variation on the ugly duckling story.
The show encountered a few pebbles in its stroll to primetime. There was controversy over the name, with shifts between Betty the Ugly and Ugly Betty, as well as questions about whether or not the title itself was offensive. (Hayek insists the title is sarcastic and indicative of the show's sensibility and delight in skewering the superficial.) Scheduling also was an issue. Rumors had suggested the show would appear as a daily serial this past summer or would not appear until mid-season next year. However, these plans were waylaid when advanced screenings and rave reviews generated enough excitement to place it in the prestigious 8 p.m. Thursday time slot. Expectation has become so high that the New York Times went so far as suggesting that the show would start a new trend toward ugliness (well, the Hollywood version anyway).
Here at Soaps.com, we are very happy to be adding Ugly Betty to our roster of shows and hope that the world will be an ugly place for a long time to come.
Ugly Betty airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC and its affiliates, including Citytv in Canada. ABC also plans to make episodes available on the web after initial broadcast and will rebroadcast episodes on their Soapnet and ABC Family stations.