Sunday, October 29, 2006

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XXII

Well, we’ve finally turned the corner on the silliness and gotten back into the meat of the story in “La Fea Mas Bella,” the TelevisaUnivision version of the classic “Betty La Fea.” Yes, we’ve still got puppy dogs and idiot children plus the fun of watching Alicia get to work without her beloved car now, but the plot has moved into the betrayal of Lety by Fernando and the subsequent transformations of both. The show still hasn’t captured the exquisite bittersweetness of the original, but Angelica Vale’s performance of Lety’s grief and misery at the discovery of the betrayal was excellent. The guy playing Tomas also did a good job in proving himself her best friend, although Nicolas in “Betty” at the same juncture was a standard no remake could hope to match. The show apparently will go into late February/early March here, so there’s clearly a lot more to happen (which I’m hoping won’t be as horrendously overplayed as they dragged out the last month and a half). But getting Lety away and recovered, the business problems of Conceptos, her return and the love triangle that will be developed could take up the time profitably. They have a walk a line now of keeping the amusement going in some areas while the darkness of what has happened plays itself out. I’m still not confident they’ll pull it off as well as they need to (the “happy” music that played while Lety was telling off Alicia last week gave me concerns, for example), but the story is just too good to screw up if you have good people in the roles. And Angelica Vale’s turn last week shows she’s up to the task.

As for “Ugly Betty,” I’ve liked the move to humanizing some of the characters, with just the touch of zaniness that has marked the predecessors. I’m hoping they don’t move too fast into a possible romance with the boss. Since they’ve pretty much dumped all the original but the premise of ugly girl out of water, there’s no need to move in that direction yet. I like the signs that the hero can come to appreciate this heroine as someone he can and should respect and value without sex having to come into it, almost like the Bill Murray position in “Lost in Translation.” Let Betty have her triangles with lesser lights and let’s see a mutual friendship and partnership grow with Daniel. That would be its own contribution to the medium, not as important as the original’s but good in its own sake. Then, as they near the end of the show, they can move them together if that still makes sense. The show’s worth your time on its own merits and may be memorable at some point. The ingredients are there. They just need to mix them right and not be too traditional. With Salma (!!!) at the wheel, they have a chance.