By Lauren Linhard
ArtsPost staff writer
Betty’s braces are coming off! Sadly, we won’t be around to see her continue climbing the editorial ranks of Mode minus the orthodontia. In January ABC announced that this fourth season of “Ugly Betty” would be the last.
The new and final episodes began airing March 10th. “We’ve mutually come to the difficult decision to make this ‘Ugly Betty’s’ final season,” said ABC chief Steve McPherson in a statement. “We want to allow the show ample time to write a satisfying conclusion.”
When “Ugly Betty” began in 2006, audiences were introduced to Betty Suarez, a curvy vivacious woman from Queens determined to enter the magazine world. Though lacking the fashion sense that New York City is known for, Betty is hired on the staff of Mode magazine, one of the top fashion magazines. She is placed as the assistant to Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), the editor-in-chief and famed womanizer. Obviously the odd one out, Betty navigates her way through sassy fashionistas, impossible assignments, corrupt supervisors and huge plot twists.
Even at first glance this Thursday night comedy seems special. In a society obsessed with beauty, plastic surgery and dieting it’s refreshing to find a character that doesn’t fit the “Gossip Girl” body type. Betty is a real Latino woman, proud of both her body and her heritage. However, rather than focus on body type, the show uses Betty’s lack of fashion sense to emphasize the difference between her and her co-workers. This is one of the first television series to take a genuine, though often comical look, at the hardships women face in the fashion world.
America Ferrera, the young Latina woman who plays Betty, brings spunk and exuberance to the role. Ferrera, known for her role as Carmen in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, brings passion and a loving nature to “Ugly Betty”. She wears Betty’s braces with pride and rocks the quirky wardrobe. Ferrera went on to earn Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG awards for her performance as Betty. She seems to love the character of Betty just as much as the viewers do.
“I never really pictured myself being on television,” said Ferrera in an interview with Parade Magazine. “I couldn’t imagine a world coming along that would entice me enough to sign away years and years of my life to one character. Then Betty came around.”
Together, Ferrera and Betty created a strong Hispanic role model meant for center screen. “[Betty’s] not a hot-blooded hoochie, or a floor-scrubbing maid, or a drug-pushing member of a gang,” said Chuck Barney of the Contra Costa Times. “And unlike so many of her TV predecessors who share her ethnicity, she’s not relegated to the outer margins of her show.” “Ugly Betty” was based on a Colombian soap opera called “Yo Soy Betty, La Fea” meaning Betty the Ugly, which ran from 1999 to 2001.
Though all of this makes for some excellent TV time, what really drives “Ugly Betty” is the drama drama drama. If there was ever meant to be an evil queen of fashion it would be Wilhelmina Slater (VanessaWilliams), the creative director of Mode. Driven to become the editor- in-chief of her beloved magazine, Wilhemina will do, and has done, almost anything. In season one, you see her plant various pieces of evidence from the Fey Summer murder in Bradford Meade’s office and try to turn Daniel against his father. In season two, she tries to marry Mr. Meade, but when he dies, she steals his sperm in an attempt to have his child. The seasons continue as Wilhemina resorts to every drastic measure possible to achieve her goal.
But the drama doesn’t stop there. We could talk about how Marc (Michael Urie) and Mandy (Becki Newton) are always trying to trip Betty up. Though they do get away with a lot, you just can’t help being amused by the catty duo. We could talk about Daniel’s transgendered brother coming back from the dead to take over Meade Publications. Then there are always the various women who come in and out of Daniels life, continually causing a stir. Not to mention the men in Betty’s life: Henry, Gio, and Matt. All are completely different types, yet all three succeed in winning your heart. Sadly, because of more drama (if you can believe it), none of them stick around.
“Ugly Betty” began strong with a primetime Thursday night slot. After two and a half seasons of strong ratings, viewership began to decrease. When the third season ended and the fourth season rolled around, “Ugly Betty” was placed in the Friday night death slot. Surely, though ratings may have decreased more than preferred, this quality show didn’t deserve such treatment. In January, after ABC announced this to be the final season, ABC placed “Ugly Betty” on Wednesday night in hopes of increasing viewership.