Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season – DVD Review


Available at Amazon.com

Creators:

Fernando Gaitán
Silvo Horta

Cast:

America Ferrera ………. Betty Suarez
Eric Mabius ………. Daniel Meade
Rebecca Romijn ………. Alexis Meade
Vanessa L. Williams ………. Wilhelmina Slater
Becki Newton ………. Amanda Tanen
Ana Ortiz ………. Hilda Suarez
Ashley Jensen ………. Christina McKinney
Tony Plana ………. Ignacio Suarez
Michael Urie ………. Marc St. James
Mark Indelicato ………. Justin Suarez
Alan Dale ………. Bradford Meade

The Show

These days most new shows on network television are not given much time to gain an audience. About half will not be given a chance to shine due to poor ratings. Then, half of the remaining half will only last one shortened season. What this means is that there are usually only a handful of shows that do become surprise hits and are given a chance. Probably the biggest surprise hit from this past year was a show called Ugly Betty on ABC. Not only was it one of the most watched new shows last season, it also was critically acclaimed. But the question is why was it embraced by critics and viewers alike?

Ugly Betty follows the life of the unsophisticated but good-natured Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), and her job at the ultra-chic New York City fashion magazine MODE. Betty’s status as a “fish out of water” drives much of the plot. The series is an adaptation of the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea (“I am Betty, the ugly one”),[1] also simply known as “Betty la fea” (“Ugly Betty”) written by Fernando Gaitán. The American version of the show is given a New York City setting by creator/developer Silvio Horta and co-producers Salma Hayek and Ben Silverman.

During the first season, most of the storylines revolved around Betty trying to balance her work, home and romantic life, her sister’s attempt to join her in selling door-to-door products, and her newfound talent as a beautician and her father’s health and immigration problems. As Betty and her boss, Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), quickly become the success story of the fashion industry, they also must deal with how they got there and how it has affected their working relationship. At work the two find themselves dealing with Creative Director Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams), who wanted the Editor-In-Chief position, while Betty found herself dealing with Marc St. James (Michael Urie), Wilhelmina’s assistant/henchman and receptionist Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton), who wanted Betty’s job in large part, initially, because of her attraction to Daniel. The only friends that Betty trusts at MODE are seamstress Christina McKinney (Ashley Jenson) and accountant Henry Grubstick (Christopher Gorham), to whom Betty is smitten.

While the plot and premise of this show is rather unique for American television, it’s the cast that really shines and made it such a success for season one. This is largely due to America Ferrera in the lead role; she plays Betty perfectly. Others have noticed as well as she has been nominated for the Best Actress Emmy Award. In real life, America is rather beautiful. On the show they try and make Betty ugly on the outside with thick-framed eyeglasses and a large and prominent set of dental braces. She is also lacking in social skills, self-confidence, fashion sense, and aesthetic polish. But Betty has a heart of gold and America Ferrera really brings that out in Betty. From top to the bottom, the supporting characters around Betty are great. Whether it be her family at home or her co-workers, everyone portrays their characters near flawlessly. Salma Hayek even appears on the show as Sofia Reyes in an Emmy-nominated guest role.

Return to the story and premise. Ugly Betty does borrow some from the film The Devil Wears Prada, but this show is really not about the fashion world as much as a story of girl that proves that what you look like on the outside doesn’t mean nearly as much as how you are on the inside. Just like Betty, you really can’t judge this show by its cover. Ugly Betty has a heart that you can’t look past. This show proves that being ugly can actually be a beautiful thing.

Episodes:

Disc One:

Episode 1 – Pilot (I Am Not Going To Sell Herbalux)
Betty has always dreamed of working in the publishing world, but it seems as though there’s no place for the non-thin and non-beautiful in the business. People already have their minds set in the idea that beautiful women are only the thin and perfect! Betty really wants a job in that wonderful, yet cruel, world. But can she really find a place in it?

Episode 2 – The Box and the Bunny
Betty loses a book, which is the complete new edition of the magazine and is containing un-retouched photos of a popular actress. She has to find the book before the photos get out to the rest of the press. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina plots to use the snafu to bring Daniel down and Bradford Meade secretively inquires about Fey Sommers’ final effects.

Episode 3 – Queens for a Day
Betty uses her Queens connections to lure big time photographer Vincent Bianchi to shoot for the magazine. When Bianchi insists that Betty meet him at a posh restaurant, she gets a makeover but things don’t quite turn out as planned. In the mean time, Bradford tries to get his hands on Fey Sommers’ death car and Wilhelmina primps for a big date.

Episode 4 – Fey’s Sleigh Ride
After MODE is forced to abandon its big Christmas photo shoot because another magazine has copied the idea, Betty forms an uneasy alliance with Marc and Amanda. The three fear they may have leaked the idea to someone at the rival mag. Meanwhile, Daniel and Wilhelmina reluctantly work together to come up with a new photo spread as Mode’s deadline looms, and Betty’s nephew, Justin, is oblivious to the turmoil as he spends a day at the magazine for a class project.

Disc Two:

Episode 5 – The Lyin’, the Watch, and the Wardrobe
It’s Halloween and Betty is in for a series of frightful experiences, ranging from showing up dressed for the Mode costume contest until she learns that there isn’t one, to dealing with her growing attraction to Henry, and tracking down a watch Daniel left at one of his many girlfriends’ apartments, but can’t remember which one. Meanwhile, Daniel pays a visit to his mom in rehab, and Wilhelmina is horrified to learn that she can’t fit into a designer gown.

Episode 6 – Trust, Lust, and Must
Wilhelmina deals with the strong character of her daughter while Betty and Hilda try to gather $20,000 to save their father from deportation.

Episode 7 – After Hours
Betty takes a break from her escalating family troubles when she’s assigned to review a posh new hotel. Meanwhile, Daniel is dismayed when Sofia Reyes and her team take up residence in the Mode conference room, and Wilhelmina goes a little bit country to woo a mega rich Texan to advertise his stores in Mode.

Episode 8 – Four Thanksgivings and a Funeral
To his dismay, Daniel must attend his family’s Thanksgiving gathering at the Country Club. Meanwhile, Amanda and Marc create their own gathering at Mode and there is also a dinner at Betty’s house where Santos, Justin’s father, is in attendance. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina also hosts a Thanksgiving dinner as well, but her feast doesn’t look as good as it does in magazine pictures.

Disc Three:

Episode 9 – Lose the Boss
Betty is left alone during an important photo shoot during which the photographer, Bruno, has come up with questionable concepts. Meanwhile, Daniel wants people to believe he is a family man, Mr. Green interrogates a mortician about the remains of a client and Ignacio gets in trouble with Immigration and Customs.

Episode 10 – Fake Plastic Snow
While everyone at Mode is celebrating Christmas, Betty is questioning her relationship with Walter and the feelings she has for Henry. Meanwhile, Daniel is sure of his love for Sofia, and Amanda, in order to get Betty’s position, is planning a perfect Mode holiday party that fills the office with Styrofoam snow and holiday wishes.

Episode 11 – Swag
Christina’s swag lottery, with the MODE closet clothes and accessories, creates a feeding frenzy among the office fashionistas, while Betty wears herself out helping Daniel who had his credit card cut off, because of a $20,000 expense report that Betty filled and who was rejected, making it impossible for him to wine and dine an important Japanese designer, Oshi.

Episode 12 – Sofia’s Choice
Betty meets a look-a-like — Ruthie, an editorial assistant at MYW Magazine who dresses and looks like her. Meanwhile, Daniel is in for a surprising revelation from Sofia that leaves everyone stunned.

Disc Four:

Episode 13 – In or Out
While Daniel is still suffering from his break up with Sofia, Betty is doing her best to get him back to work and over Sofia. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina decides who will continue to work at Mode once her ambitions to be named Editor-in-Chief are realized.

Episode 14 – I’m Coming Out
Betty has her job cut out for her getting prepared for Mode’s huge event during New York City’s Fashion Week. Meanwhile, Marc and Amanda can’t delay getting their hands on something everybody desires, Christina wishes to create her mark in the design world and Daniel calls for Hilda to grant her sister a hand.

Episode 15 – Brothers
Alexis’ shocking announcement causes great commotion at both Mode and the Meade home. Betty tries to maintain the peace and order at Mode, however, she is about to face her own personal turmoil when Henry asks her out on a date and Walter tells her he’s got a big surprise in store. Meanwhile, Whilhelmina plots her next move to conquer Mode and Justin gets sent home from school for fighting.

Episode 16 – Derailed
Daniel reconnects with Grace Chin, a girl he once stood up for a date in college, and who is now New York City’s top lawyer. Meanwhile, Betty befriends Charlie, an out-of-towner she meets at the Mode cafeteria, whom she later discovers to be Henry’s girlfriend.

Disc Five:

Episode 17 – Icing on the Cake
Daniel keeps secret from Alexis the fact that he is the one who hired Grace to defend their father, something which Wilhelmina uses to bring the siblings apart. Meanwhile, when invited by Henry to Charlie’s birthday party, a desperate Betty asks Dr. Farkas, her orthodontist, to be her date. Finally, Amanda catches the eye of an unusual designer who claims that she is his muse.

Episode 18 – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Betty is in for some wild drama when Marc’s mother stops by, given that the latter doesn’t seem to know that her son is gay and Betty acts as his girlfriend to help him keep his secret. Meanwhile, Daniel and Alexis are forced to work together when Claire names them both co-editors-in-chief.

Episode 19 – Punch Out
The Meades are in for some troubling times when a tell-all writer in possession of Fey Sommer’s diaries starts stalking the family. Meanwhile, Betty has a hard time getting Daniel focused on his work now that he has reverted back to his old ways with women. Finally, Wilhelmina and Alexis both try desperately to get a hold of Fey’s diaries, but each with her own intentions.

Episode 20 – Petra-Gate
After seeing her working relationship with Daniel, her close friendship with Christina, and her chance to date Henry all fall apart, Betty is left with no choice but to turn her back on all three. Meanwhile, romance is in the air: At MODE, Alexis catches the attention of a guy and he asks her out; Amanda flirts with a designer who she believes is gay; and Wilhelmina finds her latest advances very tiring. Over at the Suarez’s, Santos gives Hilda a little surprise.

Disc Six:

Episode 21 – Secretaries’ Day
Betty struggles with a dilemma as she attempts to bail her family out of a financial crisis while juggling with the task of planning MODE’s big assistants week at a medieval-themed restaurant…where Amanda’s past ties to the establishment has a link and could come back to haunt her in a surprising way. On the romantic front involving the Meade siblings, Betty tries to give Daniel advice about his endless sexual addiction, while Alexis ponders about whether she should start taking up Rodrigo’s offer. Meanwhile, Hilda prepares for her first exam to determine her future at cosmetology school as Wilhelmina prepares for her future plans to take over MODE as she makes even bolder moves for domination behind the scenes.

Episode 22 – A Tree Grows in Guadalajara
The Suarez family travel to Mexico in a effort to help Ignacio obtain a US Visa and find out more about their true family roots, especially Ignacio’s real identity.

Episode 23 – East Side Story
Betty and Henry’s romance heats up. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina makes great strides in her ambitious power play, as Daniel descends further in a downward spiral. The Suarez family trip to Mexico takes a dangerous turn, with old ghosts creating new problems. Explosive secrets will be revealed, and everything will be tied together by a beloved Broadway musical.

The Video:

The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is enhanced for 16X9 TVs. Transfer is good with minimal distortion. There are no problems as far as grain or pixelation. Pretty much on par with other new shows released on DVD these days.

The Audio:

The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in English and Spanish as well. Again, it’s pretty standard quality for a TV show. The dialogue comes out crisp and clear.

The Extras:

Audio Commentaries
There are 4 full-length audio commentaries from the cast and crew on select episodes. Silvo Horta (creator/executive producer), Richard Shepard (director), and Teri Weinberg (co-executive producer) comment on the “Pilot” episode. Becki Newton (actress) and Michael Urie (actor) provide commentary on the “Fey’s Sleigh Ride” episode. Salma Hayek (executive producer/actress) and Eric Mabius (actor) comment on “Sofia’s Choice.” Vanessa Williams (actress) and Michael Urie (actor) comment on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” episode.

“Becoming Ugly” Featurette
This is the “behind-the-scenes” featurette. It last 12 minutes and talks about how the show came to be and the production behind it. Despite the length of the feature, it is pretty interesting and informative.

“A La Mode” Featurette
This is a six minute featurette that goes a little more in-depth on fashion, decor, and overall sets of the workplace of MODE Magazine. Some more pretty interesting stuff.

“Green is the New Black” Featurette
This is a five minute featurette that talks about how they take the “green scene” and use it to provide all of the backgrounds and settings used in the show. Interesting in that it looks like the whole show was show on location in New York City, but that’s not the case at all.

Deleted Scenes
There are about twenty minutes of deleted scenes here. That’s actually quite a lot, but really there is not much here that you will miss. Probably Ugly Betty aficionados will be intrigued, but this is pretty much a one viewing only affair.

Ugly Bloopers
This is about four minutes of bloopers. The usual screw-ups and stuff are here. This is funnier than you might expect. Then again, the title of the extra contains the word “blooper” so you can expect a chuckle or two.

THE INSIDE PULSE

This show is not for everyone, but it is a quality show. It is centered on the world of fashion, so fans of fashion will no doubt like this show. But really this show is about the interesting character of Betty, and how she balances her personal and professional lives, along with the relationships with everyone involved in her life. It’s worth at least a rental to see why so many people have fallen in love with Betty.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

8
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

7
OVERALL
7.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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