Saturday, May 19, 2007

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Final Update

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Now that "Ugly Betty" (ABC's far superior homage to the classic "Betty La Fea" compared to Univision's way-off-the-tracks "La Fea Mas Bella") has finished its first year and "La Fea" has reached its "ultimos capitulos," I'm going to put an end to these updates with this 38th. (It takes a special person to write 38 of these.) First, let's give you a few links to some recent "Ugly Betty" stories and hope they're still up if you click them. Then we'll have our own final thoughts about the two series.

USA Today had a nice piece with "Ugly" cast members relating their ups and downs of the season. More sad than funny, but interesting insights into each actor. . . . A more detailed article on the cast comes from U of S CA's campus paper, believe it or not. (America Ferrera is still a student there.) You get a pretty good taste of how each actor sees his/her character. . . . This interview with America was in a bunch of papers, and it's yet another impressive presentation of the young star. You do hope she can keep her head this straight for the rest of her career, especially in a time when Lindsey Lohan is every male's ideal apparently. . . . Entertainment Weekly had its own interview with Ferrera here. Not as much context but different questions and quotes. . . . Tired of America interviews? Well, here's one with her counterpart, Eric Mabius. . . . Finally, a touch of "La Fea" in all the "Ugly Betty" stuff. A quick interview with Angelica Vale (the "La Fea") who did a cameo in the "Ugly" finale. Seems to have a brain in her head as well. Maybe that's a requirement for this part. It's a nice thought, anyway.

Now for final deep thoughts. The "Ugly Betty" finale really should be considered the last two episodes, not just the last one. The prior episode set up next season well. It appears that someone with a grudge against Betty's father, probably in the family of the man he killed, will play a major role, and the young guy who massaged Hilda's foot for her will likely be there to help her get over her grief from losing Santos. The best revenge would be to take someone Ignacio loves away from him, so I'm betting Hilda gets a bigger and different role next year.

The penultimate (!) episode also featured several motifs from the usual telenovela, including seers and signs and prophecies and the reunion of the child (sorta) with the parent who did her wrong before the parent departs the planet. This is all good telenovela tradition. One thing did strike me wrong, although it was a funny line. If telenovelas are constantly on the Suarez tv, why didn't Betty know that her "embarrasada" when she tried to say she was embarrassed would sound exactly like the Spanish for "pregnant"? If there's one word you learn from telenovelas, it's pregnant.

But the final episode, of course, also set up so much for next year amid telenovela conventions. Amanda's got a new mom, Christina has an abusive husband who's likely to show up, Claire's on the loose and with a mission to bring down Milhelwina, as Daniel called her while drunk. The old "using pregnancy by one guy to get the hero" trick is fully in play, and so is the vengeance of the "losing" heroine. As for the car crash, in a telenovela we would have seen the car flying through air at least. Since they're not going to kill off Daniel, they couldn't have it bursting into flame on new impact, a favorite convention, but I see this as the way to get Rebecca Romjin off the payroll and introduce new emotions and tensions into the Meade family members. Finally, one of the most common telenovela elements is the sudden and unexpected violence and the killing of cast when you don't expect it, a la Santos. The guy did go out with some class, and I wonder, given the way the camera focused on the masked shooter, if that shooter isn't going to show up again. That's the most speculative I'll get. In any case, very good finale, well played and making us all ready for the next season to already be here.

In the case of "La Fea," as I've made clear, I wanted that finale about 3 months ago and, had it remained true to the wonderful original, it would been then. Now it's got two or three weeks to get the leads together and send Aldo off to be noble elsewhere. They've drained all the pathos out of the initial characters. Betty would never have been "Aurora," Nicolas NOT getting the girl was the right and most believable thing in "Betty," and the resolutions of the other cast members' problems have now either vanished or aren't even on a back burner. I realize the show has gotten the networks good ratings through all, and Angelica and the others have really done nice work. But the story and its message were what was important and lasting in "Betty La Fea," and this remake has betrayed both. "Betty" will still be a classic a decade from now. Univision will likely be doing another remake by then. But that's all "La Fea" will ever be. A remake.

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