Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XVI

Bringing in Patricia Manterola for an extended cameo as they just have is one of those nice touches that you get in “La Fea Mas Bella,” and “Betty La Fea,” the original, that most telenovelas can’t do because of their narrative structure. Having the celebs on board, either as themselves or minor characters, is a way of winking at the audience and the telenovela concept itself. Manterola is one of the hardest of bodies in the telenovela world and, like many of its stars, doubles well as a singer and performer. Over the course of the serial so far, we’ve seen traditional novela heartthrob Jorge Salinas turn up as Luigi’s heartthrob in the most clever of the turns, but we’ve also seen veteran Paty Diaz (she played the snobby beauty in the hall at Lety’s old bank) and that singer guy whose name I never can remember. There may have been others I’ve forgotten, and it’s a safe bet there will be more turning up. In “Betty,” I recall Laura Flores at one point and newscasters, but I was just getting into telenovelas at the time and probably missed a ton.

This will be one way to keep tabs on how much the ABC version, “Ugly Betty,” will try to keep to the novela spirit, at least “Betty La Fea”s. Will they be bringing in stars for cameos the same way? We know producer Salma Hayek will be showing up as a character in Betty’s dad’s favorite telenovela. Who else could pop up? It would be wise for building up audience to use several Latino stars, at least those recognizable to non-Latinos. Why are only Daisy Fuentes and Eric Estrada coming to mind? Jlo wouldn’t do it . Oh, well. . . . wait, what about Shakira? Could they get her? Is Thalia well enough known? Paola Rey does hair commercials. Jorge Ramos, the newscaster? That Miss Universe Trump thought got too fat (she still looks mighty good at her size, by the way)? My personal choice would be Barbara Bermudo, the anchor of the early evening “Primer Impacto.” Non-Latinos aren’t likely to know her, but I guarantee that every conversation in the room would stop the second she appeared on the screen. (Disclaimer: On my list of celebrities my wife will let me sleep with, Barbara would likely come right after Salma, or maybe Carey Lowell. Of course, as I may have hinted in the past, Salma is, like, the first dozen names on the list. My problem is, I think Carey Lowell may be on my wife’s list. Wait, is that a problem?)

Uh . . . to get back to reality, having these celebrities on the show demonstrates the underlying playfulness of “Betty” and “La Fea” that “Ugly Betty” will have to “get” to have a chance of living up to the standard set. Manterola is a nice touch, and she’s playing to it well. I’m interested in seeing who else they call on in the next months (yes, it still has months) as the story progresses. If they follow “Betty,” there will be plenty of natural opportunities. And hopefully the people working on “Ugly Betty” are paying attention. A lot of the excisions they’re apparently making can be forgiven if they capture that playfulness. Maybe Manterola can do double-duty. I can’t think of much better, except, maybe, that Carey thing. . . . better go now.