Judge Clark Douglas' review starts pretty well but becomes terrible by the time it concludes.
Our reviews of Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season (published September 5th, 2007), Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season (published September 17th, 2008), and Ugly Betty: The Complete Third Season (published September 22nd, 2009) are also available.
From Poncho to Honcho.
"Okay, that may have been a mistake."
Facts of the Case
It seems that the many long hours of hard work and perseverance are really starting to pay off for Betty Suarez (America Ferrera, Our Family Wedding). Betty has finally received the much-coveted assistant editor position at Mode Magazine, which comes with a sizable expense account and all kinds of delightful perks. However, the job also comes with a lot of new pressures and responsibilities, and Betty quickly starts to feel as if she may be in over her head. Will she be able to handle her new job or will she succumb to the overpowering stresses that are starting to surround her?
The 20 fourth-season episodes of Ugly Betty are spread across four discs:
I take no pleasure in saying this, but I'm glad Ugly Betty is gone. What began as one of television's most critically-acclaimed and original programs slowly transformed into a hollow parody of itself, and this fourth and final season is arguably a demonstration of the program at its very worst. All of the show's ever-increasing problems are on full display, while the virtues seem fewer and farther between. A hastily-assembled conclusion makes an attempt to set things right and conclude the whole series in a reasonably satisfying manner, but this feels like too little, too late. Frankly, only the similar four-season rise and fall of Heroes (which premiered the same year as Ugly Betty to equal critical acclaim) can compare to the level of disconnect between Ugly Betty's sensational start and its spectacularly misguided later years.
I realize that the show still has its fans, but then so do many bad television shows. Personally, I've grown tired of the way the show has forgotten its roots as a telenova satire and embraced its new identity as a campy melodrama that we're meant to accept at face value. I've also grown tired of the program's many contradictions and hypocrisies: of the way the show spends so much time satirizing the fashion industry while simultaneously glorifying some of that industry's most shallow aspects, of the way it treats certain characters as serious dramatic figures and others as living cartoons, of the way it has completely lost its sense of tone and particularly of the way it proposes to be about inner beauty but insists on leading its central character to complete outer beauty by the series finale (only then do we get the cutesy title card change informing us that the show is now simply Betty rather than Ugly Betty).
The series has always had a lot of positive messages at its core, even when it's hit some genuinely awful moments. One of the most consistent messages has been that inner beauty is what matters, despite the emphasis the world may place on outer beauty. That's why I'm so hesitant about the physical changes made to Betty in this final season. It seems to me this is a contradiction to the very essence of the show and perhaps a discouragement to some its viewers. There are plenty of girls out there who will never match the standard definition of physical beauty, no matter how hard they try or how much work they put into it. The point Ugly Betty has always made is that such things simply aren't important. Though its unintended, the final season cynically suggests that yes, you really need to look good or there will always be an "ugly" adjective in front of your name.
Yes, the fourth season still has plenty of positive messages to offer. Yes, America Ferrera still owns the role of Betty and makes the character as lovably appealing as ever. Yes, there are still moments that are smile-inducing and even laugh-inducing. Even so, this final season is a messy pile of overwrought melodrama, uninspired plot machinations and tedious attempts at slapstick humor. When the writing is this bad, the show's colorful, chipper, hyperactive tendencies cease to become charming and instead prove endlessly irritating.
As usual, the show receives a very solid DVD transfer. Ugly Betty has always been a good-looking show, and that's the case once again in this final season. The image just pops off the screen; even the more mundane sets seem to have more color than usual this time around. Detail is strong and blacks are reasonably deep; it's as stellar standard-def transfer as one could hope for. Audio is solid as well, with the slightly overcooked soundtrack coming through with clarity and strength. Extras are a bit more limited than usual this time around: you get a brief primer on what's happened in the series thus far, an audio commentary on "All the World's a Stage" with Michael Urie and Mark Indelicato, some deleted scenes, some bloopers, a collection of "Mode After Hours" vignettes (15 minutes total), and a brief featurette entitled "Betty Goes Bahamas" (8 minutes) which is entirely disposable.
It was nice knowing you, Ugly Betty. It's too bad our relationship took such a sour turn and ended as a pale imitation of what it once was. Rest in peace.
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