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''Ugly Betty'': Betty fakes a relationship

On ”Ugly Betty,” our heroine invites her orthodontist to Charlie’s birthday party; plus, Claire decides to turn herself in for the murder

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America Ferrera, Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
09/28/06
performer:
America Ferrera, Eric Mabius, Ana Ortiz, Vanessa Williams
Producer:
Salma Hayek
broadcaster:
ABC
genre:
Comedy, Drama

”Ugly Betty”: Betty fakes a relationship

You’d think an episode titled ”Icing on the Cake” would be sweet and totally Betty-licious. Coated in wonderful Betty one-liners. Whipped up with delicate Betty care. And smoothed over with a perfect Betty glaze. Just the way fans ordered it. But that’s not how our dessert was served up tonight. There was something actually ugly — okay, maybe just unattractive — about this episode of Betty, don’t you think, TV Watchers?

But I suppose television shows evolve, they move on, they weather rough patches. Characters grow, story lines mature, not-so-great episodes do happen. And it seems that — at 17 episodes into its freshman season — Betty is kind of at that point. Hopefully it’s just a phase. Or maybe my three weeks away from Betty’s wacky world got me tripped up, or I’m just too exhausted from a busy week. Now, I’m not saying this was a terrible episode. I’ll forever have the Betty love. But ”Icing on the Cake” just didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. Claire’s story line remains contrived and off-kilter, the Henry-Betty thing only festers and frustrates, showstoppers Amanda and Marc had pointless, meandering contributions, Willy wasn’t bitchy enough, and Justin was barely there at all.

And then there’s Constance. I hate her. If there’s one story line that could be axed immediately, it’s hers and Ignacio’s (or should I call him ”Nacho”?). I think it may be her eyes that pain me most. I’ve never seen someone’s eyeballs bug that far out of their head. If producers hired her to be scary (and I guess crazy usually does imply a degree of scariness), they achieved their goal. But as for annoying? They hit that nail on the head, too. Oh, sure, she’s got some clever and funny lines here and there. ”You know what, to hell with Beyoncé — do me like Mariah” [insert awful impression of a Mariah squeal here]. And ”So what’s with you and the skinny blond bitch?” But even in these cases, I’m more amused by her sassed-out delivery than by whatever her character is actually contributing to the wacky situations.

As for Claire Meade’s subplot, it doesn’t feel real. Could we get a little more backstory? I’d appreciate a few flashbacks that show me what exactly she means when she says Bradford and Fey ”flaunted” their affair in front of her. Where there throw-downs at society parties? Did Claire find them doing the nasty at the office? Give me some damn motivation! I honestly want to empathize with Claire — and maybe I’ve cut her slack up to now because I really like Judith Light as an actress — but this storyline is dragging.

Back at Mode (most of the episode wasn’t even set there — maybe that’s the problem!), the awards for Most Underused Talent go to Marc and Amanda. Amanda’s dealings with her sausage-casing dress and Marc’s little bit of spying for Willy just weren’t satisfying. Did they do anything for you besides elicit a few chuckles? Amanda was like a lost ship in the night. Besides talking to Marc a bit and then Christina in the bathroom, did she interact with any of the other characters? Give her something real to do, I say! How does a hot young thing like her never find a new romance?

And as for Marc, yes, the one line where he sing-songily yelled, ”Yummy!” was funny, especially after Willy snapped back, ”Too gay!” But overall? Underused! Fortunately, judging from the previews (Betty poses as his girlfriend!), it looks like he’s starring next week, so maybe that’ll satisfy me.

Thinking about Marc and Amanda made me realize that I relish watching this show for the supporting cast. Of course, America Ferrera is amazing — beautiful, talented, and perfect as the show’s besieged heroine. But I want more Becki Newton, Ana Ortiz, Mark Indelicato, Michael Urie, and Ashley Jensen! As for Rebecca Romijn, she doesn’t quite match the campiness of the others, so the less of her, the better.

I want to talk about one more unsatisfying story line before I go into what I do like (because there were lots of good things about this week!): Henry and Betty’s situation. First off, why is Charlie always just ”popping up” around the Meade Publications office? Did I miss the episode where she got a job there? At this point, I’m ready to see Henry just stay with boring Charlie and then have an affair with Betty. I mean, Betty in an affair? It’d be classic — she wouldn’t know how to handle herself. But every time Henry and Betty get remotely close, it’s irritatingly botched somehow. Let ’em go for it, for chrissakes! This is supposed to be over-the-top!

All right, on to what I loved about last night. First, Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Gabe, the orthodontist. I saw this talented, funny actor in the Broadway production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and he was spectacular. Gabe and Betty were cute and had hints of what Henry and Betty used to have. Keep him!

Second, the opening shot of the night was classic. A close-up of Betty’s face, centering on her shiny braces? And then a harsh cut to the Ugly Betty title. That kind of in-your-face comedy gets me every time.

And third, still loving the Marc-Willy banter. Whoever cast these two together deserves a gold star and a raise. Willy, referring to a dress she couldn’t use: ”Sharon Stone wore it to the Globes.” Marc: ”Oh please, she’s over 40 — it’s not like anyone was even looking.” [He realizes Willy is over 40 and is staring him down.] ”But isn’t she aging well? There is nothing more admirable than a handsome woman.” Willy: ”Stop stressing, Marc, you’ll lose even more hair.”

But what do you think, TV Watchers? I didn’t do my usual list of one-liners — which ones stood out for you? Are you enjoying the Grace-Daniel pairing? And how the heck could Marc’s mom not know he’s gay? (Guess we’ll find out next week!)