ABC Studios // 2008 // 1032 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 22nd, 2009
Start spreading the news.
"How crazy is that?"
It's a new year for Betty Suarez (America Ferrera, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). She informs her sister Hilda (Ana Ortiz, Labor Pains), nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato, Chappelle's Show), and father Ignacio (Tony Plana, 24) of her three resolutions for the next year. First, she's planning to work harder than ever at Mode, the fashion magazine currently run by the icy Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams, Hoodlum). She has hopes that her efforts will eventually earn her a promotion. Second, she vows that she is going to forget about romantic relationships and focus exclusively on her own personal goals for the time being. Third, she's planning to live in her own apartment in the heart of New York City. All three of these goals are going to be a bit more difficult than she imagines. It's going to be a wild and crazy season of twists and turns.
All 24 third-season episodes are spread across six discs.
* The Manhattan Project
* Filing for the Enemy
* Crimes of Fashion
* Betty Suarez Land
* Granny Pants
* Ugly Berry
* Tornado Girl
* When Betty Met Yeti
* Bad Amanda
* Dress for Success
* Sisters on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
* Kissed Off
* The Courtship of Betty's Father
* There's No Place Like Mode
* Things Fall Apart
* Sugar Daddy
* A Mother of a Problem
* The Sex Issue
* Rabbit Test
* The Born Identity
* In the Stars
* The Fall Issue
Has Ugly Betty run out of steam? When the program began, it won near-universal accolades from critics for its energy, originality, and refreshing point-of-view. It began as a satirical take on the telenovela format, cheerfully skewering the preposterous and over-the-top storylines of such programs. Unfortunately, as time has gone by, Ugly Betty has seemed less and less a satire and increasingly a genuinely ludicrous program. The wacky fever pitch has begun to wear thin, and the program shows no real signs of evolving in any positive way in this third season.
Part of the problem is that America Ferrera's Betty doesn't particularly seem to be the relatable "normal girl" anymore. In season two, Betty had two hunky guys pining after her (a cliffhanger plotline resolved in some 15 seconds during the nonchalant season premiere of the third season), while this season begins with guest star Lindsay Lohan admitting that she is totally jealous of Betty's beauty, happiness, and success. This began as the story of a perfectly ordinary, non-supermodel girl who managed to succeed through her own intelligence and hard work, but it has become more and more of a nonsensical fantasy as time has passed. Am I saying that Betty should not be permitted to have wild success? No, but I do fear that Ugly Betty is really beginning to lose touch with the way the world works. Problems are solved too easily, potentially devastating setbacks are swept aside with little trouble, and reality is typically sacrificed for the sake of soapy sensationalism.
Maybe it's just the fact that I watched the third season in one short chunk of time. This is not a show that watches well in marathon viewings. The super-bright color scheme, catty dialogue loaded with hit-and-miss snark, cutesy score, fast-moving silly subplots, and over-the-top performances can be engaging in small doses, but I have to admit that this season of Ugly Betty began to wear on my nerves pretty quickly. I can certainly see how some would feel that the show is a breath of fresh air on network television, but to me it feels more like a show desperately, unsuccessfully attempting to convince me that it is a breath of fresh air on network television. There is a distinct whiff of hypocrisy on numerous occasions. How can a show that inserts frequent gratuitous shots of women in ridiculously skimpy outfits complain about the exploitation of women as sex objects? If one were cynical, one could suggest that setting the program in the world of fashion is an attempt to compensate for the fact that the lead actress isn't used as eye candy.
Speaking of eye candy, the transfer is certainly superb. This is a very bright and colorful show that really pops off the screen on DVD. The colors are rich, bold and well-balanced. Blacks are nice and deep, the level of detail is exceptional and flesh tones are warm and accurate. The audio is quite solid as well. Dialogue, music and the surprisingly busy sound design are well-balanced and clean. This is a very professional release in the technical department. As far as extras go, you get an audio commentary on the season finale, a pop-up video commentary, a featurette spotlighting the program's locations, deleted scenes, some bloopers, and a whole bunch of "Mode After Hours" webisodes.
Despite the fact that she gets stuck with some rather unfortunate subplots throughout the season, America Ferrera remains an excellent young actress who does an impressive job of attempting to carry the program through some of the rougher patches. The show also continues to deserve acknowledgment for being one of the more socially progressive programs on network television, offering positive portrayals and significant roles for minorities, gays, and transgendered individuals. This is far and away one of the most genuinely diverse casts on television, which is something to admire. There are far too many programs out there that only seem interested in being just diverse enough to prevent being persecuted by special interest groups. And you know, for all of the problems mentioned in this review, there are still those occasional touching moments that demonstrate just how good Ugly Betty can be when it chooses to. It's just a shame that they're so few and far between.
Fans of the show should be pleased with this solid DVD release, but if you're on the fence about continuing to watch the show or checking it out for the first time, I'm sorry to report that there's more negative than positive in this disappointing season.
Guilty of slipping into conventionality.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1032 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site