From Sí to Shining Sí

Ugly? Not really. Fun? You bet your ass.

I can’t put it any more simply: I love Ugly Betty. Congratulations to América Ferrera for winning the best actress Golden Globe for a TV show comedy!

Forget all the feel-good nonsense about ugly vs. pretty and our culture’s insistent, insidious focus on glamour over substance. I mean, sure, give Jason Mraz a gold star for his earnest, cutsie ditty about “beauty in ugly.” He really gets it, right? Right. Of course, all that stuff is true. And obvious. Get her some lighter eyewear, lose the braces and cut that hair back, and she’s not really ugly. It’s marketing. It collapses on itself. And the conceit is so manufactured, I take it for granted. So leave it for the American Studies majors to digest in their pop culture theses.

What’s the really important impact of this show? It’s fun. And it’s about bloody time someone besides Marc Cherry is doing something to save TV from itself.

There’s a mystery woman in a veil obscured in darkness, marital infidelity, flashbacks to a fiery death, shadiness at the top of a publishing corporation, interoffice romance and intrigue, a plot to undermine a reluctant hero … and all kinds of standouts making the cliché not only bearable — but brilliant.

Vanessa Williams is at the best I’ve seen her. I loathed her “Save the Best for Last” days. But now, her high-camp evil set to medium-low burn is almost enough to make Glenn Close curse her own career as cheap and worthless. (Almost. No one can touch Glenn Close.) Eric Mabius: just plain yummy as a player with a heart of gold. A little rough around the edges, I think — but I hope I look half as good with crow’s feet (which, the way things are going, can’t be more than a couple more years off). We love cutie Michael Urie, whose Marc St. James is so gay it hurts. And welcome to America, Ashley Jensen! (She plays the so-Scottish-I-can-barely-understand-her-despite-years-of-watching-Eastenders seamstress and Betty confidante, and you should see her as the hapless Maggie in the HBO/BBC series Extras.)

And THANK GOD for the return of Judith Light! What a triumph! Good-bye, “Who’s the Boss” — hello, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”! Her resurrection of the lanky, wise-cracking, self-absorbed, argumentative, alcoholic blonde archetype warms my superficial gay heart. She is Patsy Stone with Long Island Lockjaw.

Plus, Betty lives in a sound-stage replica of my neighborhood. Always a good sign.


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the untallied hours

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