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Ugly Betty Season 1 Review

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Shouldn’t it be Cosmetically Challenged Betty?

★★★★

By now we've Bbecome used to American small-screen imports taking over our viewing lives, with the likes of The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under and Desperate Housewives being afforded the same kind of respect as the biggest Hollywood releases.

Ugly Betty, however, seems a more unlikely prospect: the story of a buck-toothed, bespectacled girl (brilliantly played by Real Women Have Curves star America Ferrera) whose frumpy appearance is at odds with the fashion plates she works with at Vogue-esque publication Mode. It seems on the surface to be just another excuse for a parade of beautiful people being shallow.

But there’s a lot more to Ugly Betty than meets the eye. Ferrera’s fish-out-of-water antics in the early episodes (the one in which her colleagues attempt to ‘torture’ her favourite toy bunny is a particular corker) might give the impression that this is high comedy, but scratch below the surface and there’s a lot more going on - be it the mystery of the apparently dead Mode editor, through to Betty’s personal problems and her father’s illegal citizenship. And the shocking, tragic ending of the first series further proves that this isn’t the lightweight comedy it might originally have appeared to be.

Yes, the clothes are pretty, but the spot-on characterisation and the clever script matter more here: Betty’s relationship with her philandering editor Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), jolly colleague-with-a-secret Christina (Extras’ Ashley Jensen) and rival magazine editor Sofia (Salma Hayek -
yup, that Salma Hayek, who produces
the series) are a joy, while others are so gleefully horrific (witness Vanessa Williams’ Wilhelmina for example) that you can’t help but be hooked. Friday nights just won’t be the same until the second season arrives.