Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season

Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season

"It’s like a gay version of Star Trek,” says titular Betty’s older sister Hilda when she first encounters the offices of Mode, the fashion magazine where her sister works. And that statement holds considerable truth when attempting to summarise hit series Ugly Betty’s first season. One part serial drama based in mythology, one part hysterical campfest and one part gay aesthetic showcase, Betty is unlike anything else on television. And while sometimes it goes a bit too far in its seemingly intentional over-the-top-ness, Betty is also one of the best new shows to come along this past year. America Ferrera brings incomparable heart and soul to her role as Betty Suarez, the fashion-impaired assistant to Mode (think Vogue) Editor-In-Chief Daniel (Eric Mabius). The initial "fish out of water” plot develops into a multi-layered ensemble piece with story directions going every which way possible. In brief summary: Daniel’s status as the head of Mode is threatened by the season-long plotting from Vanessa William’s villainous Wilhelmina Slater and a mysterious woman on the phone (whose identity is discovered mid-season, adding Rebecca Romijn to the cast). And Betty must deal with the multiple dramas of her lower-class family, from dad Ignacio’s legal troubles to sister Hilda’s romantic life to effeminate nephew Justin’s attempts to get close to Betty’s work world. The cast is nearly perfect, with over a dozen regular characters each bringing something different to a pile undeniably held together by Ferrera, although Becki Newton and Michael Urie as Betty’s bitchy fellow assistants are notable riots. And though the plotlines occasionally tire, the first season set is easily addictive and incredibly fun. The extras are run-of-the-mill, though the commentaries are insightful and entertaining (in one we learn that Williams inscribed Wilhelmina’s best line, "Did you just gesture at me when you said ‘Kwanza?,’” on coffee mugs for the cast), and the blooper reel makes Ferrera somehow more adorable. But the strengths of this first set come from Betty’s heart and unique charm, which make it a worthy addition to any TV-on-DVD collection. (Buena Vista)