Saturday, June 10, 2006

Betty La Fea Mas Bella Update V

Since "La Fea Mas Bella" has been pretty faithful so far to its prototype, "Betty La Fea," we've just finally rounded into the main plotline. For those of you who have been watching, or plan to, I won't go into specifics, but it won't be a shock to find out that the "boy meets girl, uh, ugly girl" part is over and he's into the "boy falls for fea" stage, with "boy loses fea" coming up fast. We still have "boy gets fea" (only this is Ugly Duckling meets Cinderella, remember, so the "fea" part no longer applies). I didn't give anything away here since this is a telenovela and the best thing about them is that you not only have the ending that American soaps never have, it's almost without exception the happy one.

That's one of the things I really liked about "Betty," though, because the journey to that happy ending is pretty intense. On its face, and certainly true to this point, "La Fea," like "Betty," has been an over-the-top production of broad characters and situations (some of which get played out a little too long, but it's got to stretch an hour 5 nights a week), far more comedy than drama. But you've gotten to see the characters develop now, and the pathos (sorry for the verbiage) behind most of the characters, even the secondary ones, is beginning to move to the front. Even the meaner characters have earned your sympathy in part, or will before it's over. And we're just beginning to see the other transformation of importance, a reverse "Betty," rich swan into poor uglier duckling.

Who? Again, I won't give too much away, but the hidden theme of "Betty" was the contrast between her evolving from shy, hurt, unkempt, naive young woman into a strong, confident, knowing beauty and the opposite path the love of her life goes down. The "hero" here, because of her, how she loves him, and how he ends up treating her, gets a trial of character that is really his own redemption and takes the quotes off the word. Who was really mas fea and mas bella from the start to the end keeps threading its way cleverly throughout the show, and I've gotten to where I like the guy playing "hero" enough to have hopes that he'll do the job on that journey that "La Fea Mas Bella" deserves.

If he does, it will be well worth your time, even if you just start it now. One of my big fears with the coming ABC version is that, given one night a week for who knows how long, and with half the time for each episode, they'll have to cut and shrink so much that the show will suffer too much to be anywhere near as good. The secondary characters, who build the ambience of the show, will just be over-the-top and not the strong supports they are here. Their "quirks" and predilections will either just be shallow stereotypes or ignored completely without being given time or plots to flesh out the more human parts of the characters. More importantly, this could also happen to the primary characters, especially the "hero," his initial love interest, and, worst of all, "Betty." This show simply needs time to develop or it will just be the silly parts without the anchors that ground the clowning into caring. Unless ABC gave it a three-year guarantee or so, I really don't see how it can pull it off.

So go to Univision now and catch the real thing. It doesn't matter completely if you don't understand Spanish beyond "Papa," "cerveza," and "Dios mio." The expressions, intonations, and situations will get you through most of it, especially if you've seen enough soaps. If you understand some of it, more the better. Right now they're going into the complicated business fiasco that sets everything downhill, and those terms get by my wife, who majored in Spanish. If you have closed caption, you can read it along the bottom, and that may help, although the typist sometimes goes berserk. If Univision had any sense, it would do the captions with an "English option," like Telemundo does, but we're talking about a television network here. But the thing is, you know the basic story, the Ugly Duckling turns Cinderella thing, and it's being done well. And watching the "hero" transform into a hero because of "La Fea" is the morality tale that redeems both him and the romance.

You'll have a smile on your face at the end, trust me.