Ugly Betty: Season 1
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (26th September 2007).
The Show

I love this show. Not only do they mention Guadalajara, but it's also actually pretty good. From first to last episode, it grips your head and your heart. The setup is pretty simple: Betty (America Ferrera), who wants a job in publishing, ends up getting a job at a fashion magazine as the assistant editor-in-chief for a womanising playboy, whose father hired Betty only because he didn't want his son to mess around with his assistant.

The list of characters that come and go through the season is too big to mention here, but at the centre of everything is Betty Suarez. She lives with her father Ignacio (Tony Plana), her sister Hilda (Ana Ortiz) and her nephew, Justin (Mark Indelicato). She has a couple of love interests, Walter (Kevin Sussman) and Henry (Christopher Gorham). She works with Daniel Meade, her boss, Wilhemina Slater (Vanessa Willams), the scheming creative direcctor, Marc (Michael Urie), Wihemina's assistant and Amanda (Becki Newton), Mode's smarmy receptionist. Betty's best friend is Christina, who works at the clothing depot for Mode magazine. This is Betty's world and it revolves around her.

The show has plenty of quirky characters to keep things light. The scheming Amanda and Marc go through is really funny and always serves to give the show some nice comedic points. Ignacio's case worker is a great example of this. She's just this side of over-the-top and even with all her craziness the end of character arc is pretty touching. Indeed, in the entire season, the more dramatic moments, the show still finds some bits of levity. By the same token, the moments of greatest comedy still manage to have a lining of meaning and drama. In the end, the show is extremely touching and you care for everybody. The good ones, the bad ones; you end up caring about each and every one of them, which doesn't happen too often. Every character has their ups and downs, and you follow along with a giggle or a tear.

So many things happen in each episode, but they're never scattered. There's a definite focus in every episode, but subplots and tangents always have a point. The juxtaposition of the low-income Suarez family with the high-end world of modeling makes for some very interesting satire. The world of fashion, upper-classes and even government get their due here, and it's all hilarious. There is so much scheming and so many lies, and secrets, it's fascinating to see who comes out and who gets affected. The first third of the season focuses more on the satire, with the rest of the episodes shifting to Betty's life and her relationships, though there are always some little jabs sprinkled through the season.

I love the continuity in the show. For starters, the seasons has some great guest stars: Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu and Rebecca Romijn. These are not only guest stars for a single episode, they're complete arcs that have some nice developments. There are also some very nice little lines ('You are an attractive, strong, confident businesswoman', 'That doesn't mean I like you') said that really made you appreciate the thought that went into the series.

I'm trying to think of a standout episode that represents the show perfectly, but there are far too many episodes that are quite enjoyable. I suppose 'Fake Plastic Snow' and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' are two of the more memorable episodes for me, but the entire season is just stunning.

A big plus for me for the enjoyment of this show is the quirky humour. For example, they use 'Eye of the Tiger' over Hilda's beauty school final exam. Every episode has some great dialogue as well, and I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, as a great start, comes from 'Queens for a Day', the season's second episode. It was a great indicator of things to come. Walter tries to get Betty back after dumping her for the local hussy. Betty speaks first:
'We're not even dating anymore.'
'And whose fault is that?'
'Well, you're the one who dumped me for Gina.'
'For just two days! And it takes longer than that to digest corn.'

With that, I'll leave you with the disc breakdowns.

disc 1:
1. Pilot (42:58)
Betty gets a new job in publishing, as an assistant to the editor-in-chief of Mode magazine. Daniel's photographer friend, who's not impressed with Better after she inadvertently insults him, convinces Daniel to try to get her to quit.

2. Queens for a Day (42:53)
The first issue of Mode with Daniel as its editor hits the stands. Daniel wants to change the magazine, and Betty learns that a famous photography who hates Meade Publishing lives about 4 blocks from her home. She obviously tries to convince him to shoot for Mode. Also, a very interesting plot twist is introduced.

3. The Box and the Bunny (43:13)
After Daniel leaves his office quickly without taking 'The Book' - the final version of the magazine before it goes to print - Betty takes it home with her for safekeeping. Well, as luck would have it, it gets stolen.

4. Swag (43:14)
Betty gets her first paycheck and realises she needs more - aka Swag - to help her out. Luckily, her friend Christina can help her out with that. At the same time, Daniel has to entertain a Japanese fashion designer. The problem is that Daniel's father wants to teach him about fiscal responsibility, and has cut his expense account. The satirising of fashion designers in this episode is absolutely hilarious.

disc 2:
5. Fey's Sleigh Ride (43:08)
After a party, Mode's Christmas layout is stolen by another magazine, and the whole team needs to think of something new very quickly. This episode has a very sweet and touching moment.

6. The Lyin', the Watch and the Wardrobe (43:00)
A lot more information about the twist from 'Queens for a Day' comes out, when Daniel visits his mother Claire (Judith Light), who's in rehab. At the same time, Betty has to find a watch Daniel forgot at a girl's house. The problem is, he doesn't remember which girl.

7. Trust, Lust and Must (43:02)
After the ending of the previous show, the Suarez family goes to see a lawyer. Because of that, Betty tries to make more money. On his side, Daniel wants to find out who the hot girl from the 27th floor is (it's Salma Hayek). On her side, Wilhemina has to deal with her rebel daughter. There's a lot going on in this episode.

8. After Hours (43:07)
Sophia Reyes (Salma Hayek) insults Daniel's misuse of Betty's intelligence, and so he sends her away for the weekend to write an article for Mode. Daniel tries to woo Sophia and Wilhemina tries to get a new advertising account for Mode. On the family side, the problem with the father tries to get resolution. The ending is a really good one.

disc 3:
9. Four Thanksgivings and a Funeral (42:11)
This is the Thanksgiving episode. Betty's father is having legal problems, her sister may have hired a shady lawyer and it's up to her to fix everything. Wilhemina has to spend Thnksgiving with her daughter, Neko, and gets help from Martha Stewart. Daniel, on the other hand, has trouble deciding on a plaid or purple shirt.

10. Lose the Boss? (43:05)
It's the day after Thanksgiving and there's a star's baby that needs to be put in a magazine. Things get hectic as Daniel is nursing a hangover and Betty has to handle everything from a photographer with crazy ideas about snapping the baby to Sofia, who's always asking about Daniel. The ending is not so nice here.

11. Fake Plastic Snow (43:00)
Hilda gets in trouble with the annoying neighbour. Also, things get serious between Sofia and Daniel, for Daniel, anyway. Betty is also distressed after having a dream about kissing someone that's not Walter. This is an incredible episode and by the end, you really realize how amazing this show is.

12. Sofia's Choice (42:51)
Betty starts working at MYW, and learns that, perhaps, Sofia isn't much of a better boss than Daniel. This episode confirms an inkling I had back from 'Four Thanksgivings and a Funeral'. Again, I love the ending here, especially in the elevator.

disc 4:
13. In or Out (42:38)
After the debacle of the previous episode, Betty has to pick up the pieces. She gets her old job back, though she has to share assistant duties with Amanda. Meanwhile, the machinations of the Mystery Woman get closer to their ultimate goal. The ending here is really weird.

14. I'm Coming Out (43:00)
During Fashion Week, Hilda gets a job at Mode, much to Betty's dismay. Ignacio's case worker seems to fall for him, much to the his dismay. Daniel gets a huge bomb dropped on him, and that's putting it mildly.

15. Brothers (42:29)
With the events of the previous episode, the company is turned completely upside down. The Meade family has issues to work out and Betty has to take care of Claire Meade. Claire, then, goes missing. A very, very interesting confession comes around in the last 5 seconds of the episode.

16. Derailed (43:02)
The confession from the last episode sends waves through this episode. Betty makes a new friend. Daniel has to find a lawyer, who ends up being Lucy Liu.

disc 5:
17. Icing on the Cake (43:04)
Legalities start for the Meade family, while Betty has to deal with Henry and Charlie. Ignacio's case worker starts to get intense.

18. Don't Ask, Don't Tell (43:01)
This is another terrific episode. Daniel and Alexis fight over control of Mode, and Betty and Marc pretend to be going out to pacify Marc's visiting mother.

19. Punch Out (41:57)
Christina invites Betty to a party at an exclusive club. Betty wants to have a Meade-free night. If you've seen the rest of the series, you know how successful this endeavour will be. Many Meade family secrets come out, as well.

20. Petra-Gate (43:05)
The ending of the previous episode provides the spark for this episode. Betty's life is getting a little overwhelming, and she doesn't know what to do. Her boss wants her to help him with his problem, Henry wants her to talk to her about their sort-of relationship, and Christina wants to talk to her about what she did. At the same time, even!

disc 6:
21. Secretaries Day (42:17)
For Secretaries Day, the Mode team goes to the Middle Ages restaurant, where Betty rides a mechanical bull to try to win money because her family needs it. Things between Betty, Henry and Charlie get weird.

22. A Tree Grows in Guadalajara (42:54)
The Suarez family goes to Mexico until Ignacio gets his Visa. There, Hilda prepares for her wedding and Betty tries to learn about her mother's side of the family. Betty then goes on a journey of self-discovery. Back in New York, Wilhemina goes forward, full-force, with her plan.

23. East Side Story (42:28)
The season finale! It's an incredible episode. At the end of the episode, some people are happier than others, but it's an incredible ending to an amazing season.

Video

1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a tremendous picture. Colours are very bright and accurate, just about popping off the screen. The design of the show is very eccentric and the DVD replicates that perfectly. The print is free of any specks and scratches and looks very clean. The only real problem is that some shots look a bit soft. By the same token, some shots look absolutely amazing, with a very nice amount of detail. There's also some noise in some shots, but it's never very bad. I was quite impressed with the picture quality.

Audio

There are a couple of tracks to choose from: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround dub. The show is actually wonderfully active, filled with music and the hustle and bustle of the office. The dialogue is always clear and centered, and you can hear all the snippy lines. The music and other effects are mixed in very well, with a very good range. Everybody will be quite happy with the sound.
English HoH, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Extras

Buena Vista was very nice with this set. On disc one, you'll find a silly Start-up Trailer for a TV on DVD ad (1:41).

That's not important, though. What's important are the Four audio commentaries. The first is on 'Pilot' by creator/executive producer Silvio Horta, director Richard Shepard and co-executive producer Teri Weinberg. This trio has some fun recalling this episode. They talk about the creation and the recruiting of the various talents, including Mr. Horta and Mr. Shepard. You get to learn about how they got Betty's glasses and some of the more surprising shots they got through on TV. They also talk about the locations they used in Manhattan. The second is on 'Fey's Sleigh Ride' on disc two with actors Becki Newton and Michael Urie, and it's a lot of fun. These two have a lot of fun talking about their episode, but they don't give too many details. They joke a lot and tell you little factoids about the actors and shoot, but it's not as informative as the other ones. There are a few laugh-out-loud bits, as in the explanation of the hiss moment that was cut out.

On disc three, you have the third commentary on 'Sofia's Choice with executive producer/actress Salma Hayek and actor Eric Mabius. These two are a bit more subdued than the pair in the 'Fey's Sleigh Ride' track. They do give out a few nice bits of information, but they're silent for nice parts of the track, which isn't so good. The last track is on disc five on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' with actors Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie. This is an okay track. There are some gaps of silence, but the pair do talk about the actors and the show. They try to add to the episode, but mostly end up pointing out what's happening and joking about various things.

On disc six, you'll find all of the video-based extras. Though there aren't any commentaries, there are a few nice featurettes. The first is Becoming Ugly (12:14), which is a nice making-of. The producers talk about how they brought the show from Columbia to the US, and how they got Betty. The stars talk about their characters and their evolution in the season. It's a fun making-of, with some nice funny bits.

Green is the New Black (5:44) is a featurette about the effects work on the show. One of the actors says the green screen in the show is pretty good, but I have to disagree with that thought. It's pretty recognizable. In any case, this featurette talks about the green screen they used in the show. Some effects guys talk about what they do and how they did it. It's interesting to see just how much work went into some shots.

The last featurette is A La Mode (6:55) and I particularly enjoyed this featurette. The designers and other crew members talk about the design of the show. They talk about the Mode offices and how they came up with that. They also talk about the Suarez house and how it differs in cinematography and esthetics from the offices. It's pretty informative and interesting. It's about 7 minutes long.

Next up are a massive bunch of Deleted Scenes. Unfortunately, they don't group this by episode, or even indicate in which episode they're found. On the bright side, there are plenty of scenes to make anybody happy. There are 27 scenes in total, adding up to 20 minutes and 50 seconds. They seem to be pretty much spread out throughout the season, with a small lean towards the first half. The scenes are a lot of fun, and they add some running gags, or complete jokes that are already in the season. 'Hip & Cool' adds to something that will be seen later and 'Elevator Attack' finishes a joke, for example. A few scenes should have been left in the show, but overall leaving them out doesn’t change too much. For information purposes, the scenes are: 'Daniel's Legacy' (1:39), 'Vidas de Fuego' (0:24), which is a clip for the telenovela the Suarez family watches (pretty funny stuff), 'Assistants' Club' (0:21), 'Bitchin' & Twitchin'' (0:17), a nice joke, 'Amnesty' (0:26), 'Hip & Cool' (0:47), 'Write It Like Betty' (1:23), 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?' (1:12), which is a small extension, 'It Will Be Ok' (0:39), 'Face Gear' (0:31), 'Very Long Legs' (0:15), 'Maybe Just a Scarf?' (1:09), 'Check' (0:40), 'Perfect Fit' (0:48), 'Too Late' (0:22), 'Muttering Marc' (0:34), 'Perfect Boyfriend' (1:32), 'Elevator Attack' (0:13), 'Nice Catch, Hilda' (0:40), 'Fashion Television' (2:45), a pretty big extension, 'Drama' (1:03), which is another clip from the telenovela, 'Marc's Crush' (0:12), 'Afternoon Off' (0:41), 'Betty & Claire' (0:25), 'Couture' (0:31), 'Marc Likes' (0:19) and 'Help Me' (0:51).

Finally, there's Ugly Bloopers (3:45), which is a fun reel. This is way too short. There are tons of bits of America Ferrera messing up her lines or just cracking up for no reason. For this show, the light tone definitely originates on set.

A few Sneak Peeks finish everyhing: 'Meet the Robinsons', 'Brothers and Sisters: First Season', 'Soapnet', 'Grey's Anatomy: Third Season', 'Enchanted', 'What About Brian?: First and Second Seasons', 'Ugly Betty: New Season Preview' and 'Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season' get trailers.

Packaging

Buena Vista put this set in a 4-tier, 6-disc digipak.

Overall

The Show: A- Video: A- Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B+

 


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