The First Season
Ugly Betty is a television comedy/drama that airs on ABC. It was produced by Salma Hayek, Silvio Horta, Ben Silverman, Jose Tamez, James Hayman, and Marco Pennette. The show was adapted from the Colombian mini-series "Yo Soy Betty La Fea". The series is about a plain-old girl who is thrust into the glamorous fashion world and the drama that trails her life and co-workers. It was highly successful during its freshmen season (2006-2007) and nominated eleven times in the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards.
The primary character is Betty Saurez (America Ferrera). Betty is a normal girl from Queens who aspires to be in the fashion business. In the beginning of the series, she is trying to get a job at a fashion magazine. The problem is that no one will even consider her for a job, which is mostly due to the fact she doesn't physically fit in with the beautiful people. Her life is changed when Bradford Meade (Alan Dale) makes his playboy son Daniel (Eric Mabius) hire her as his assistant. Daniel was recently inducted as editor-in-chief of "Mode" magazine, Meade Publications' flagship. Bradford hopes that Daniel's work at Mode will prepare him to take over the company. Unfortunately Daniel's frat-boy behavior prevents him from focusing on the job. Betty is hired as his assistant, because she is the one girl in New York City he won't jump in the sack with.
When Betty first comes to Mode, Daniel does everything in his power to get rid of her by embarrassing and demeaning her. He soon learns that despite Betty's looks, she is very capable, intelligent, determined, and an invaluable asset to the company. She plays a vital role in Daniel succeeding as editor-in-chief. Her unique and real outlook on life saves the day on more than one occasion. Challenging Daniel and Betty is Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams). Wilhelmina is the creative director, who believes should have been given the position of editor-in-chief. She works with a mysterious woman to dethrone Bradford and Daniel and take over the company.
Others in the office include Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton), the Mode receptionist who has an eye of Betty's job and Daniel's pants, Marc St. James (Michael Urie), Wilhelmina's assistant who does all of her dirty work, and Christina McKinney (Ashley Jensen), the Scottish seamstress who is Betty's one friend in the company. These characters are not as developed as the other main characters, but they still bring quite a lot to the table in drama and comedy.
Outside of the office, there are several key characters from Betty's home life. They include Ignacio (Tony Plana), Betty's father who has a shady past and several secrets he hopes are never revealed, Hilda (Ana Ortiz), Betty's older protective sister who sells weight-loss supplements, and Justin (Mark Indelicato), Hilda's son who is very "different" than other boys and loves fashion just as much as his aunt Betty.
The show's supporting characters include Walter (Kevin Sussman), Betty's boyfriend and serious love interest who cheated on her, Henry Grubstick (Christopher Gorham), a Mode accountant who develops strong chemistry with Betty, Sofia Reyes (Salma Hayek), a new editor-in-chief at Meade Publications who is a love interest for Daniel, and Claire Meade (Judith Light), Daniel's mother who is a drunk and a key to the season's biggest story arc.
In Ugly Betty's first season, there are several storylines that drive it. Even the slightest developments are key and play into a soap opera-worthy story. In the spirit of spoilers, I won't provide any key details about the advancements. Instead, I will simply say it is juicy and full of melodrama, you can expect all sorts of backstabbing, relationships, villainous scheming, heart-warming moments, and a lot of laughs. The plotlines take some pretty over-the-top directions. Despite, it feels very mature and the over-the-top attitude is a subtext covered by rich dialogue, witty humor, and dynamic characters.
The writing is done very well and manages to intertwine the storylines to focus on the big picture and character development. This comment is especially worth noting because of the large ensemble cast and the different directions it takes the show. In other words, there is a lot going on, but it is handled and presented in an engaging and entertaining manner that is easy to follow.
Yet for all of Ugly Betty's strengths, what really keeps the show afloat is Betty. While this character is an imperfect match to the world of high fashion, she is a great fit for this television show. Most of the people working at Mode are overly superficial and fake. Betty, on the other hand, is sincere and real. She is a strong heroine, despite the fact she is constantly tormented and teased by her attractive peers. Her outlandish personality brings something special to everyone at Mode. She is the real strength that drives this show.
As an overall series, Ugly Betty does very well with its first season. It offers a very fun show with likeable characters, engaging over-the-top drama that feels mature, intricate storylines, and a large ensemble cast whose development is handled well throughout the season one episodes. In the end, Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season is one of those television shows you do not want to miss out on.
SPOILER WARNING: Click here to skip the episode guide
1. Pilot: In the superficial world of high fashion, image is everything. Styles come and go, and the only constants are the superthin beauties who wear them. How can an ordinary girl - a slightly plump plain-Jane from Queens - possibly fit in?
2. The Box and The Bunny: Betty unwittingly loses "the book," a proof of the entire magazine, complete with un-retouched photos of a popular actress (guest star Sarah Jones) who looks less than lovely without a little computer magic. If the photos get out, it could create huge embarrassment for Mode. Wilhelmina plots to use the snafu to bring Daniel down. Meanwhile, Bradford Meade secretively inquires about Fey Sommer's final effects.
3. Queens for a Day: Betty uses her Queens connections to lure big time photographer (and former Queens boy) Vincent Bianchi (guest star Rhys Coiro) to shoot for Mode. But when Bianchi insists that Betty meet at a posh restaurant, she feels pressured to get a makeover... only things don't quite turn out as planned. Meanwhile Wilhelmina primps for a big date, and Bradford tries to get his hands on Fey Sommers' "death car."
4. Fey's Sleigh Ride: When 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 (guest star Nicholas Gonzalez, "The OC") during happy hour... and that their jobs will be history if anyone finds out. 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.
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 . . . only to learn there isn't one, to dealing with her growing attraction to Henry (guest star Christopher Gorham, "Jake 2.0") -- while a jealous Walter fumes -- and, worst of all, tracking down a watch Daniel left at one of his many girlfriends' apartments (he just can't remember which one). Meanwhile, Daniel pays a visit to his mom (guest star Judith Light, "Who's the Boss?") in rehab, and Wilhelmina is horrified to learn that she can't fit into a designer gown.
6. Trust, Lust and Must: Daniel falls in instant lust with a mysterious beauty he sees in the Mode lobby (guest star Salma Hayek) and asks for Betty's help in finding out the lady's identity. Meanwhile, Betty and Hilda scramble to raise cash when they get some unexpected news, and Wilhelmina must deal with an unexpected house guest - her daughter (guest star Jowharah Jones as Nico).
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 (guest star Salma Hayek) and her team take up residence in the Mode conference room, and Wilhelmina goes a little bit country to woo a mega rich Texan (guest star Brett Cullen) to advertise his stores in Mode.
8. Four Thanksgiving and a Funeral: It's Thanksgiving Day, and everyone at Mode celebrates in their own special way. Betty is torn between work and home; Daniel attends his parents' brunch in hopes of seeing Sofia (guest star Salma Hayek); Marc and Amanda camp out at the Mode offices, and Wilhelmina attempts something she's never done before - cooking a turkey.
9. Lose the Boss: The day after Thanksgiving is no holiday for Betty, who struggles to pull together a last-minute Mode photo shoot with a famous couple and their baby, while a dejected Daniel recuperates from a hangover -- and Sofia Reyes' rejection -- at the Suarez house. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina and Marc go to greet the celebs at the airport and find themselves stranded in a dicey part of town with no money, and Bradford Meade takes a little trip of his own.
10. Fake Plastic Show: It's Christmastime at Mode, as Betty questions her relationship with Walter and her feelings for Henry, the accountant. Daniel, on the other hand, is sure of his love for Sofia (Salma Hayek), despite her doubt, and Marc frantically tries to win over Wilhelmina in fear of losing his life. Meanwhile Amanda vies for Betty's position as Daniel's new assistant by planning and executing a perfect Mode holiday party that fills the office with Styrofoam snow and holiday wishes.
11. Swag: When Christine announces she's getting ready to clean out "the closet," Mode's repository of high fashion clothes and accessories, the assistants whip themselves into a frenzy over who will get the cast-off swag. But Betty is too busy to even think about this perk: A $20,000 expense report she filed for Daniel has been rejected and his credit card cut off, making it impossible for him to wine and dine an important Japanese designer, Oshi (guest star Kurando Mitsutake). Meanwhile, her dad's HMO has suspended his insurance.
12. Sofia's Choice: Just as Daniel gets the strength to pop the question to Sofia (guest star Salma Hayek), Betty discovers evidence that casts doubt on Sofia's intentions. Meanwhile, Mode staffers are shocked to see a kinder, gentler Wilhelmina, who is being romanced big time by her wealthy Texan (Brett Cullen reprising his role as Ted), and Ignacio finds it very difficult to bond with his immigration caseworker.
13. In or Out: With Daniel suffering from a broken heart inflicted by Sofia, Betty is determined to get him back to work and over his sadness by setting him up on a date with a supermodel - solidifying their kinship in the process. In Daniel's absence, Wilhelmina decides who will continue to work at Mode once her ambitions to be named editor-in-chief are realized. Among those who stand to lose their jobs are Christina and Amanda. Meanwhile, Hilda finds herself unemployed after Herbalux is recalled. In her quest to find work, she goes into business selling cupcakes, but quickly finds herself in over her head when she's unable to meet the demand for the baked goods... not to mention she's spending more than she's making from her new venture. And in a stunning conclusion, the woman behind the mask is revealed.
14. I'm Coming Out: It's Fashion Week in New York and Betty is hustling to ensure "Mode's" runway show goes off without a hitch. To Betty's dismay, Daniel offers Hilda a job helping out with the show. Wilhelmina is introduced to a new "cosmetic technique," as Christina prepares for the debut of her very own designs. Marc and Amanda resume their scheming ways in a mission to steal what will be the season's hottest fashion item. Meanwhile, Daniel is moved by his father's decision to hand over the reigns of Meade Publications, when a visit from an old friend coaxes him into his old ways. But nothing can prepare them for the frenzy that ensues when the "Mode" show is abruptly halted by a shocking revelation.
15. Brothers: The masked woman's shocking announcement leaves Mode in chaos and the dysfunctional Meades at each other's throats. Meanwhile, Betty tries to keep the peace and Wilhelmina plots her next move. Betty is in for even more turmoil in her love life, as Henry asks her out while Walter tells her he's got a big surprise in store. Back at home, Hilda is miffed when Santos gets involved after Justin is sent home from school for fighting.
16. Derailed: Family matters force Daniel to reconnect with Grace Chin (guest star Lucy Liu in the first of a two-episode arc), a girl he once stood up for a date in college. She's now known as "The Chin," NYC's most powerful lawyer. Meanwhile, Betty makes a new friend, Charlie (guest star Jayma Mays), a likable out-of-towner she meets in the Mode cafeteria, only to find out Charlie is Henry's girlfriend. And a blizzard descends on the city and derails plans, as Christina, trapped in the office with Marc, struggles to put together a gown for Sarah Jessica Parker; Wilhelmina and Alexis get stranded in a sports bar; and Hilda, Santos and Justin get stuck on the subway on the way to see Justin's favorite musical, "Hairspray."
17. Icing on the Cake: Betty impulsively asks her orthodontist, Dr. Farkas, to be her date when Henry insists she come to Charlie's birthday party. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina tries to drive a wedge between Daniel and Alexis when Daniel hides the fact that he's the one who hired Grace Chin to defend their dad -- whom Alexis wants to fry -- and Amanda catches the eye of a very unusual designer who declares she's his "muse."
18. Don't Ask Don't Tell: Marc, promising to help Betty with inside info for Daniel, convinces her to pretend to be his "girlfriend" when his suspicious mom, Mrs. Weiner (Tony winner Patti LuPone), arrives in town. Things go from bad to worse when Mrs. Weiner invites herself to dinner at the Suarez home and Betty's whole family has to play along with the charade. Meanwhile, Daniel and Alexis struggle to work together after their mom - who actually owns Mode - names them co-editors-in-chief of the magazine.
19. Punch Out: Betty frantically tries to keep Daniel focused on work as he reverts to his old hard-partying ways, including romancing a multitude of stunning models. Things go from bad to worse when a tell-all writer (Emmy winner Leslie Jordan, "Will & Grace," "Boston Legal") in possession of Fey Sommer's diaries starts stalking the Meades. Another Suarez, Ignacio, feels the heat when Immigration caseworker Constance (guest star Octavia Spencer) pressures him to make their relationship a romantic one, and Wilhelmina and Alexis both try to get their hands on Fey's diaries -- but for different reasons.
20. Petra-Gate: Betty, fed up with Daniel, Christina and Henry and how they've all disappointed her, does her best to avoid all three. Meanwhile, love's all around at Mode, as Alexis gets asked out on her first date as a woman; Amanda begins a flirtation with a designer (guest star Mykel Shannon Jenkins) who she assumes is gay; Wilhelmina struggles to deal with the tireless advances of her latest conquest, and Hilda gets a surprise from Santos (guest star Kevin Alejandro). Meanwhile, Daniel goes it alone in dealing with the aftermath of his one-time hook-up with Petra.
21. Secretaries Day: Betty struggles to come up with the cash to solve the latest Suarez family dilemma, all while planning Mode's big assistants week bash at a medieval themed restaurant, a place with an unlikely link to Amanda's past. Meanwhile, Daniel tries to heed Betty's advice about his sexual addiction issues; Alexis considers Rodrigo's offer (guest star Cristian de la Fuente); Hilda faces a tough cosmetology school exam, and Wilhelmina becomes even bolder in her plans for total Mode domination.
22. A Tree Grows in Gaudalajara: Betty and her family go to Guadalajara to solve Ignacio's immigration problems, and Betty questions her Aunt Mirta (Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award winner Rita Moreno) and cousin Clara (guest star Justina Machado, "Six Feet Under") about her late mother. Meanwhile, Alexis gets a visit from Jordan (guest star Rebecca Gayheart, "Vanished," "Nip/Tuck"), the woman she dated before her "death" and operation; Marc is jealous when Amanda seemingly has a new best gay friend in Tavares (guest star Mykel Shannon Jenkins), and Wilhelmina gives the new man in her life a makeover.
23. East Side Story: Betty and Henry's romance heats up. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina makes great strides in her ambitious power play, and Daniel descends further in a downward spiral. The Suarez family trip to Mexico takes a dangerous turn, as old ghosts create new problems. Explosive secrets will be revealed, and everything will be tied together by a beloved Broadway musical.
The video in this release is given in anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color format. The picture quality is quite good. It suffers from a slight grain, but detail remains to be sharp and clear. However, there are some occasional moments when the picture suffers compression artifacts. This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Needless to say, the show should look good on bigger television sets.
The audio in this release is given in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. There is also a dubbed track in Spanish 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. Overall, the sound quality is very good, providing an audible and clean audio track. The majority of activity is in the forward channels, but there is decent use of the surround sound capability. Music and sound effects sound very rich and vibrant.
There are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. There is also support for closed captioning.
Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season - The Bettyfied Edition comes with several extras to keep you busy after completion of the first season episodes. There are audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and a bloopers reel. I was especially happy with the audio commentaries. Here is a breakdown of the extras:
- Audio Commentaries: There are four audio commentaries included for episodes "Pilot" with Silvio Horta, Richard Shepard, and Teri Weinberg, "Fey's Sleigh Ride" with Becki Newton and Michael Urie, "Sofia's Choice" with Salma Hayek, Eric Mabius, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie.
- Becoming Ugly (12:14):
The history of how Ugly Betty came to life is discussed by Ben Silverman, Teri Weinberg, Silvio Horta, America Ferrara, Becki Newton, Ashley Jensen, Eric Mabius, Ana Ortiz, Tony Plana, Mark Indelicato, Rebecca Romijn, Vanessa Williams, Michael Urie, Judith Light, Alan Dale, and Christopher Gorham. Specifically, they discuss the initial concept for the show, thoughts about the show and characters, the cast, its underlying message, and other related aspects.
- Green is the New Black (5:44): In this featurette, cast and crew talk about the usage of the green screen. Digital effects are used frequently in backdrops to recreate New York (as the show is capture in Los Angeles). Individuals such as Jim Hayman, Victor Scalise, Michael Urie, Mark Worthington, Ross Berryman, Michael Spiller, and Eric Mabius talk about the role of green screen in the show, challenges, and the freedom it offers.
- A La Mode (6:55): This featurette is all about Ugly Betty in regards of the show's style. It stars crew and cast members who provide insight about the Ugly Betty sets, costumes, directing/camera styles, and other related concepts. The individuals who appear in the featurette include Jim Hayman, Mark Worthington, Ross Berryman, Michael Spiller, Michael Urie, Eduardo Castro, Becki Newton, and Rebecca Romijn.
- Deleted Scenes: There are twenty-four deleted and alternative scenes with a total runtime of 20:50. The scenes are entitled "Daniel's Legacy", "Vidas De Fuego", "Assistants' Club", "Bitchin' & Twitchin'", "Amnesty", "Hip & Cool", "Write It Like Betty", "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner", "It Will Be OK", "Face Gear", "Very Long Legs", "Maybe Just A Scarf?", "Check", "Perfect Fit", "Too Late", "Muttering Marc", "Perfect Boyfriend", "Elevator Attack", "Nice Catch, Hilda", "Fashion Television", "Drama", "Marc's Crush", "Betty & Claire", "Couture", "Marc Likes", and "Help Me".
- Ugly Bloopers (3:45): This bloopers reel runs under four minutes and has a montage of goofs caught on tape. It is worth a few quick laughs.
Ugly Betty is a fun comedy/drama about a not-so-fashionable-looking, normal twenty-something who gets a break in the high-paced world of fashion. It is her dream, which many try to squash. Despite, she overcomes many hurdles and becomes an integral part of the fashion magazine Mode. The show incorporates a large ensemble cast, with a soap opera mentality that is salted with rich dialogue, stellar performances, and topnotch writing. In the end, Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season makes for a really fun watch. The show has many great qualities that keep the content fresh and exciting. After watching just one episode, you will be hooked and rooting for Betty.