Ugly Betty Third Season Preview

6 Oct

Ugly Betty is back and better (or “Betty-er”) than ever.  The Emmy-winning dramedy starring America Ferrera premiered its third season on September 25 with its usual flair for the fabulous.  In the prime slot of Thursdays at 8/7 p.m. on ABC, Ugly Betty faces a lot of competition for viewership but is a more than worthy contender.   This show is wittier than My Name is Earl and more of a nail-biter than Survivor.  It’s also more addictive than Smallville and smarter than Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, although the latter isn’t that difficult to accomplish.

Based on the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea, the American Ugly Betty is just one of over a dozen versions that have been made in countries such as Germany, Israel, Russia, and Vietnam.  In the American version, Betty Suarez (Ferrera) is a socially awkward but kind-hearted fashion faux pas from Queens, New York.  With dreams of becoming a magazine editor, Betty becomes the personal assistant for Daniel Mead (Eric Maibus), playboy editor of the fashion magazine Mode.

Ugly Betty © Copyright 2008 ABC

The catty world of Mode is chock-full of sex, secrets, and scandals.  In the first season, Daniel’s brother Alex, who was thought to have died in a ski accident, returned as Alexis (Rebecca Romijn) to take control of Mead Publications.  Mode’s creative director Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams) was scheming her way to become editor-in-chief of Mode.  In the second season’s finale, Daniel discovered he has a bastard French son.  The scandal pushed him out of Mode and made the devious Wilhelmina editor of the magazine.  Despite all the drama around her and the pressure Betty feels at work to conform to the beauty standard of the fashion industry, our dorky heroine stays true to her bold and quirky self.

Last season’s cliffhanger left fans itching for an answer to the question: Will Betty choose to marry Henry, the lovable accountant, or go to Rome with Gio, the handsome sandwich-maker?

In a shocking turn of events, she chooses neither.  Instead, Betty packs her bags and heads off on a soul-searching trip across the United States.  When she returns to New York, she’s ready to tackle her personal goals for the year: take on more responsibility at work, don’t get involved in any romantic entanglements, and move into her own apartment in the city.   Betty goes back to Mode only to find that ice queen Wilhelmina has taken control of the magazine and Daniel has been relocated to Player, a trashy men’s magazine.  Although Daniel has his hands full with his son, he secretly wants to return to Mode.

Just as Betty moved from Queens to Manhattan in the season premiere, show’s set relocated from Los Angeles to New York.  It isn’t quite clear yet how the move will affect the show, but hopefully shooting on-location will give Ugly Betty a more authentic NYC feel.   With Wilhelmina as editor-in-chief during the season premiere, the Mode set has also been revamped.  Instead of the crisp white and orange theme, the office has replaced the orange for black and chrome, giving an icy appearance reflective of Wilhelmina’s demeanor.

What makes Ugly Betty such a brilliant show is that it challenges the standards society holds to women, evident in fashion magazines or shallow dramas like Gossip Girl.  Betty may not be the “prettiest” girl in the room, but her inner beauty is what makes her successful despite her odd sense of style and clumsiness.

It’s no surprise that Ugly Betty won two Emmys in 2007 for best casting and best actress (Ferrera) in a comedy series.  The cast of Ugly Betty is made up of some of the greatest actors with the best chemistry.   As Betty, Ferrera is bubbly and genuinely honest.  She gives the underdog character the spark that makes you want to root for her and is real enough that you can relate to the problems she faces. Williams, as Wilhelmina, is deliciously wicked and makes an excellent counterpart to Betty’s wholesomeness.

Nearly every character in the show has some kind of sensational storyline, and the soap opera-esque drama keeps fans on the edges of their seats.  It might be difficult for first-time viewers to follow the show when starting in the middle of a season, since there are so many characters and thus so many stories to know.  However, the quips from characters like Marc (Michael Urie), Wilhelmina’s flamboyant assistant, and Amanda (Becki Newton), Mode’s venomous receptionist, will entice Betty virgins to keep watching.  ABC.com and iTunes also offer the free “Ugly Betty Starter Kit,” a short video that recaps the highlights of theseries thus far and is actually quite entertaining, even to die-hard fans of the show.

They say the third time’s the charm, and that can’t be truer than with the third season of Ugly Betty.  Not only does the show have charm, but it also has spunk, scandal, sass, slapstick, and spirit.  Ugly Betty is, to quote one of Marc from the first season, two words: “Fa.  Bu.”

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