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Ugly Betty on DVD: Season 1 • Season 2

"Ugly Betty" The Complete First Season - The Bettyfied Edition DVD Review

Buy Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season - The Bettyfied Edition from Amazon.com Ugly Betty: Season One (2006-07)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Silvio Horta

Repeat Directors: James Hayman, Tricia Brock, Jeffrey Melman, Lev L. Spiro

Regular Cast: America Ferrera (Betty Suarez), Eric Mabius (Daniel Meade), Vanessa Williams (Wilhelmina Slater), Alan Dale (Bradford Meade), Tony Plana (Ignacio Suarez), Ana Ortiz (Hilda Suarez), Ashley Jensen (Christina McKinney), Becki Newton (Amanda Tanen), Mark Indelicato (Justin Suarez), Michael Urie (Marc St. James), Kevin Sussman (Walter)

Recurring Characters: Rebecca Romijn (Alexis Meade), Christopher Gorham (Henry Grubstick), Judith Light (Claire Meade), Salma Hayek (Sofia Reyes), Kevin Alejandro (Santos)

Notable Guest Stars: Rhys Coiro (Vincent Bianchi), Brett Cullen (Ted LeBeau), Martha Stewart (Herself), Octavia Spencer (Constance Grady), Lucy Liu (Grace Chin), Jerry O'Connell (Joel), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Dr. Farkas), Patti LuPone (Mrs. Weiner), Leslie Jordan (Quincy Combs), Mykel Shannon Jenkins (Tavares), Rita Moreno (Aunt Mirta), Justina Machado (Clara), Kristin Chenoweth (Diane)

Running Time: 992 Minutes (23 episodes) / Rating: TV-14
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: August 21, 2007
Season 1 Airdates: September 28, 2006 – May 17, 2007
Six single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $59.99
Eight-sided fold-out Digipak with Cardboard Slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

It has become a popular practice for American networks to take hit foreign television programs and remake them for the domestic market. Most of these re-packagings are situation comedies and rarely have the American versions caught on with audiences the way the original had overseas. ABC's one-hour dramedy "Ugly Betty" is an exception to both cases. Not only was it not based on a sitcom (the source material was the Colombian soap opera "Yo Soy Betty, La Fea"), but it quickly found an audience that continued to grow each week. The show was originally slated to air on Friday night, or what is presently known as a death trap in the TV world.
Perhaps by providence, "Ugly Betty" was moved to Thursdays, thus ensuring it'd receive a wider audience. Not even a mediocre show can stay afloat with merely a good timeslot, but then, "Ugly Betty" is no mediocre show.

"Betty" tells the story of Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), a 22-year old girl with lots to offer: brains, responsibility, a sense of humor, and heart. The problem is that she's not particularly easy on the eyes. She's always known this, but never has it been more glaring than when she starts to work as a secretary at Mode, a chic fashion magazine. Personal assistant Marc St. James (Michael Urie) and receptionist Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton) are unabashedly blunt with their thoughts on their co-worker's appearance. Betty isn't the only one with issues to face, though. Her boss, Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), has just recently become the editor-in-chief of the magazine after the death of his brother Alex. Daniel struggles to prove himself capable to his father Bradford (Alan Dale), who always considered Alex to be the more dependable of the two. Creative director Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams) is determined to take Daniel's position as editor-in-chief, and frequently meets with a mysterious masked woman in plotting to bring Daniel down.

As you can imagine, "Ugly Betty" juggles many storylines. Not only are there usually about three distinct plot threads per episode, but the series directly continues storylines previously left open in true serial format. It's easy for such a busy show to become either too muddled with plotlines or too rushed by giving said stories the short thrift. "Ugly Betty," though, avoids both shortcomings. It's careful to give each character arc the time and effort it needs, and it does so with wit and charm. Every episode is filled with hilarious one-liners that are given the perfect comedic timing by the actors. Everyone involved almost miraculously manages to make characters that should be off-putting caricatures into endearing and well-rounded individuals. The humor presented has a level of class that never, not even at its most absurd, resorts to potty or lowbrow humor. Slapstick is used, but in small enough doses that it never grows tiring, and more often than not, it's usually pretty inspired.

Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) can be a sweet and easy-going girl, but not when her bunny’s been held hostage. Daniel (Eric Mabius) comes to work with a fake tan that makes Ron Weasley’s hair look blonde.

What people remember most about television shows are the scripts and the acting. To be honest, that's often all there is to comment on since technical elements tend to be workmanlike. "Ugly Betty" provides a loud exception to this stereotype. The cinematography is just as quirky as the characters being filmed, weaving in, out, and around the sets and actors fluidly. The sets, filled with stylized geographic shapes, frame the actors nicely,
making this feel more like a film than a one-hour drama. The visual style exhibits neither the flat lighting of most comedies nor the overly desaturated look of most dramas. The colors are wild in an almost Technicolor extravaganza way. This is most certainly the type of show that would catch one's eye when channel-surfing through endless dull hues.

The show does so much significantly right, that its sole flaw is forgivable: the storylines and plot twists tend to reveal the show's soap opera roots. While a few of these twists are presented with tongues firmly in cheeks, many (especially in the show's season finale) are presented seriously. "Ugly Betty" was never meant to be a naturalistic show grounded in reality, but it deals with many common issues and themes, and in a potent way, at that. That makes the more outrageous storylines (which mostly stem from the Bradford, Wilhelmina, and Claire sides of the story) seem like a different show. It doesn't help that those melodramatic aspects are chock full of coincidences (although admittedly never to the extreme extent of something like Crash).

"Ugly Betty" is creative and original enough to have a few soap opera-like twists forgiven. It presents eye candy rarely found on live-action television and a diverse roster of characters that keep the show fresh and engaging. This series won the Golden Globe award for Best Comedy Series, and its star (America Ferrera) won for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. Both awards were certainly deserved. The series rests firmly on the shoulders of its leading actress, and were it not for Ferrera's earnest and heartfelt portrayal of Betty, the show would fail regardless of the talents of its supporting cast. While most comedies use their first season to test the waters and find their voice, this show retains a surprisingly high level of consistency and quality. The humor and format of the pilot is exactly the same as later episodes, the only difference being character development. Shows that hit so many high notes are a rare breed, but if they were all like this, none would be special. That's just what "Ugly Betty" is: a special blend of comedy and drama that respects its audience and takes them on nutty-but-heartfelt ride.

Episode synopses follow. If you are unfamiliar with the show and don't wish to learn anything that could ever be deemed a spoiler, you may want to the Video & Audio section on the next page. The ten standpoint episodes of this season are marked with a star ().

Betty Suarez makes her now-famous first entrance into Mode's halls. Betty and Hilda (Ana Ortiz) share a moment in reminiscing about their mother.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (42:58) (Originally aired September 28, 2006)
Betty Suarez is hired as the personal secretary for Daniel Meade, editor of popular fashion magazine Mode. She very quickly finds, however, that her new workplace is a completely different world from her hometown of Queens, and that she was only hired so that Daniel for once wouldn't shirk his duties to fool around with a secretary. On top of all this, Daniel tries to force her to quit by increasing the amount (and absurdities) of her workload.

2. Queens for a Day (42:53) (Originally aired October 12, 2006)
When photographer Vincent Bianchi (guest star Rhys Coiro) is reluctant to shoot for Mode, Betty uses her Queens connections to entice him over the phone. To her horror, he expresses interest in meeting her face to face. Betty seeks the help of her sister Hilda to get a Queens-style makeover.

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Meanwhile, Daniel's father Bradford searches for the car in which former editor-in-chief Fay Sommers crashed in. (Note that this episode was switched with the following one by ABC. The DVD restores both episodes to their original production order.)

3. The Box and the Bunny (43:13) (Originally aired October 5, 2006)
Betty is given the task of guarding Mode's sacred proof, otherwise known as The Book. Unfortunately, she ends up misplacing it, and Wilhelmina attempts to use this to bring Daniel down. Bradford continues to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding Fey Sommers' death.

4. Swag (43:14) (Originally aired January 4, 2007)
Christina announces she's cleaning "the closet," the area where Mode's clothing and accessories are stored. Employees go into hysterics over who will receive each item. Daniel runs into trouble when his credit card is cut off, proving to be a hindrance in arranging a dinner with Japanese designer Oshi. Betty's father Ignacio also faces challenges when his HMO suspends his insurance. (Note: this was the eleventh episode to air. Because of conflicts with plot points so late in the season, bookending scenes of Betty telling Christina about the events were added. The bookends don't show up here, but scenes that were removed to make room for them do, as originally intended.)

Marc (Michael Urie) in his astoundingly accurate Halloween costume (for which Wilhelmina gives him a raise). Thirty seconds alone in an elevator with Daniel, and Sofia (Salma Hayek) has already got him under her thumb.

Disc 2

5. Fey's Sleigh Ride (43:08) (Originally aired October 19, 2006)
Betty, Amanda, and Marc attend a social gathering, where they're each charmed by a suave guest there. Mode's Christmas layout is then copied by a competing magazine, and the trio realizes that each spilled details about the concept. Wilhelmina interrogates each employee about the incident, and reluctantly works with Daniel to get a new layout designed in time. Betty's nephew Justin watches all this from the sidelines as he spends the day there for his class project.

6. The Lyin', the Watch, and the Wardrobe (43:00) (Originally aired October 26, 2006)
Told that Mode is having its employees dress up for Halloween, Betty shows up to work in a butterfly costume. She and accountant Henry develop a crush for each other. Betty has little time to dwell on this, however, for Daniel realizes he left his watch at the home of a woman he slept with.
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The problem is, he can't remember which one. Wilhelmina, meanwhile, is horrified to find that she can't fit into a designer gown and desperately seeks Christina's help.

7. Trust, Lust, and Must (Originally aired November 2, 2006) (43:02)
Ignacio needs $20,000 or else he'll be deported to Mexico, so Betty and Hilda sell Herbalux products all around the Mode building in an effort to raise money. Daniel is fascinated by the mysterious Sofia (guest star Salma Hayek) he meets in an elevator and asks Betty to find out about her. Wilhelmina deals with the pressure of having her headstrong daughter back home.

8. After Hours (Originally aired November 9, 2006) (43:06)
Betty is assigned to review a new hotel, but her boyfriend Walter keeps intruding on the experience. Sofia and her colleagues temporarily move into the Mode building much to Daniel's dismay. Wilhelmina adapts to Ted LeBeau's (guest star Brett Cullen) western ways in order to convince him to advertise his store in the magazine.

Amanda (Becki Newton) and Marc play dress up at Mode on Thanksgiving Day, but not even that's enough to distract Amanda from the loneliness she feels. Daniel watches as Justin (Mark Indelicato) puts up a Christmas tree ornament, something he himself likely never did in his esteemed home.

Disc 3

9. Four Thanksgivings and a Funeral (42:11) (Originally aired November 16, 2006)
Finding it to tough to juggle work and her home life, Betty leaves Hilda to cook the Thanksgiving dinner. Daniel shows up at his parents' country club in hopes of seeing Sofia there. Wilhelmina has trouble with her Thanksgiving turkey, and seeks Martha Stewart for help. Amanda and Marc spend the holiday at the empty office in their own special way. Back at the Suarez residence, Justin's father Santos shows up.

10. Lose the Boss? (43:05) (Originally aired November 23, 2006)
Daniel wakes up in Betty's home with an extreme hangover. Unfit to work, he has Betty fill in for him at Mode. Betty struggles under the pressure of having to organize a photo shoot. Daniel bonds with the Suarez family, but Santos has trouble bonding with Justin.
Wilhelmina and Marc find themselves lost in New York with no money, no phone, and no transportation.

11. Fake Plastic Snow (43:00) (Originally aired November 30, 2006)
Betty plans the Mode Christmas party, but Amanda keeps trying to upstage her to take her job and get closer to Daniel. Growing more and more attracted to Henry, Betty finds herself becoming more distant towards Walter. Daniel realizes Sofia means more to him than any of his past flings. Marc believes Wilhelmina's trying to kill him.

12. Sofia's Choice (Originally aired January 11, 2007) (42:51)
Betty starts her first day at Sofia's MYW Magazine and is surprised at how much warmer and more inviting it is than Mode. Daniel plans on asking Sofia to marry him, but when Betty realizes Sofia's intentions, she tries to stop Daniel. Ignacio deals with an uptight immigration caseworker named Constance (guest star Octavia Spencer).

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Continue to Page 2 >>

Page 1: Show Discussion, Discs 1-3
Page 2: Discs 4-6, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed August 22, 2007.