Ugly Betty: Season 4
An increasing number of television shoe exhibit great potential yet find themselves cancelled before getting the opportunity to fully explore their potentials. Then there are the fortunate few series that are afford sufficient time to relate the full story ending on a completely satisfactory level. Caught in between these bookend circumstances are the shows that may have received a premature cancellation but were respected enough to allow the writers a chance to wrap things up enough to give the story a realistic conclusion. One popular series that just faced the end of its run was ‘Ugly Betty’. The series received a lot of well deserved acclaim for quality that never wavered over its four year run. The network’s decision to move the series to one of the deadliest on Friday night may have hastened its demise but the writers pretty much wrote themselves into somewhat of a corner. The foundation of the series was Betty (America Ferrera) was bright, energetic and ambitious but since she is not what society currently deems as beautiful the options in her life were artificially hampered. Audiences have always loved an underdog story but in the case of Betty the underdog became the successful alpha. Sure, the writers could have come up with enough ideas to sustain the series a few more seasons but without this central premise too many changes would have to be made; the entire foundation of the series would have to be re-established. As the cover of the final DVD box set states in bold font Betty went from ‘Poncho’ to ‘Honcho’ which pretty much has been covered leaving no place for the initial premise to go. At least this final season was a graceful bow before the end and many of the on-going story lines were given a touch of closure.
‘Ugly Betty’ was not just a series in the United States. It began as a Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea ("I am Betty, the ugly one") reaching around the global with culturally specific variations sported in numerous nations. To bring the version known here to life took the collaborative efforts of Silvio Horta along with actress turned executive producer Salma Hayek. The series wonderfully combated the unhealthy and unrealistic body types pushed by the vast major of TV series not to mention films and the fashion industry in general. This series stood as a beacon to the millions of girls and young women who felt left out because they would never fit into a size two (or below) dress. Choosing Ms Ferrera for the title role was a touch of genius for the producers. I have been a fan of her acting abilities since she first came to the public’s attention in the similarity themed movie; Real Women Have curves;’ an anthem for self acceptance and realistic body image. This young woman’s acting talent and perfect sense of comic timing elevated this series from guilty pleasure to must catch television. Apparently it took a considerable amount of time each shooting day to ‘Bettify’ Ms Ferrera but the efforts of the special effects makeup department gave her a unique, quirky look that suited the kind, loving character to a tee. Of course the greatest irony here is Betty wanted to break into the publishing businesses and was hired to be the gal Friday to a lothario of a boss since she was deemed too unattractive for him to hit on.
Now, four seasons down the road Betty has had her own share of serious relationships and her diligence, hard work and perseverance has paid off. This season opens with Betty as the magazine ‘Mode’s new associate features editor, a position in middle management. Adding to some office politics is the situation created by the rich and handsome Matt Hartley (Daniel Eric Gold) becoming her boss. Previously they were paired together in an in-house training program at Mode and a more than just as bit of a relationship did form going as far as him wanting them to live together. At the start of this season Matt is unduly harsh in his treatment of Betty of Betty because he thinks she is having an affair with her former boss and son of the publisher, Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius). Although he initially was not attracted to Betty has her confidence continued to grow and she learned how to dress for success, he became enamored of her. There is also the matter of Betty’s family. The Suarez’ are proud of their cultural heritage as a Hispanic American living in Queens, New York. She lives there with her widowed father, Ignacio (Tony Plana), chronically underemployed sister, Hilda (Ana Ortiz) and her flamboyant nephew, Justin (Mark Indelicato). They are the usual quirky television family with a Latin flavor well suited to the NYC setting. The Suarez family may bicker a lot but underneath it all there is a lot of love to sustain then. There was a time in the fourth season where the family almost expanded when Betty thought she was pregnant but it turned out to not be so.
Yes, this is definitely a soap opera, considering the series was based on one of the most extreme forms of the genre, the Spanish telenovela. Has become so popular for it’s over the top approach to the melodramas that it has garnered a growing fan base even among audience members who barely understand Spanish. While this series is much more cohesive than its roots there is more than enough of the spirit of pure entertainment that made ‘Betty; a classic. One thing that can be said about ending the series with this season is it never over stayed its welcome; it went out proudly at the top of its game.