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Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season (2007-2008)

ABC Studios
DVD Released: 9/9/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/7/2008

Here's the process of making a television show: First (after the idea has been approved), one episode, called a "Pilot" is made. If the powers-that-be and a test audience like the Pilot, then a season is ordered, often 13 or 22 episodes. I've read interviews with series creators where they talk about having a multi-season plan for their show. And while that may be true, given the fickle nature of TV audiences and the fact that a show can be cancelled at any time, I believe that those who make shows take things one episode at a time. Thus, we get the "sophomore slump" with many shows. The first season is impressive, and then it's like they don't know what to do with that second one. That seems to be the case with Ugly Betty.

(SPOILER WARNING: It's impossible to discuss the events of Season 2 of Ugly Betty without mentioning what transpired in Season 1. So, if you haven't seen Season 1 and want to be surprised, please read with caution.) Ugly Betty introduced us to Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), a young aspiring writer who takes a job as a administrative assistant at Mode magazine, an trendy fashion tome. She is paired with editor Daniel Mead (Eric Mabius), a conceited playboy who got the job because his father, Bradford Meade (Alan Dale), owns the company. Despite their different backgrounds, Daniel soon came to reply on Betty as his moral compass, and they became friends. Betty was there to help Daniel against his enemy, Mode's Creative Director Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams). Betty leaves her boyfriend, Walther (Kevin Sussman), and begins to see fellow employee, Henry (Christopher Gorham). As Season 1 came to a close, Daniel learned that his long-lost brother Alex, had gotten a sex-change and was now Alexis (Rebecca Romijn). Also, Daniel's mother, Claire (Judith Light), was convicted of killing Bradford's mistress. The cliffhanger involved Alexis and Daniel being involved in a car crash.

As Season 2 opens, Daniel is recovering from the accident and Alexis has amnesia. Due to the wreck, a shift in power at Mode, and a death in the family, Daniel begins to spiral out of control. Meanwhile, Betty, still trying to define her relationship with Henry, finds herself oddly attracted to Gio (Freddy Rodriguez), a local caterer. Wilhelmina's schemes to overtake the Meade publishing empire reach new heights, and she moves from attempting to weasel into the family to creating one. Amanda (Becki Newton), who learned that she was the illegitimate daughter of Mode's deceased editor searches for her father, and learns that it could be someone who is well-known. Throughout this turmoil, Betty continues to pursue her dream of being a journalist, but she often finds herself too busy trying to keep everyone around her from going insane.

The season premiere of the second season of Ugly Betty is one of the best programs ever put on television. The show delivers an emotional sucker punch which will take some viewers time from which to recover. The resolution of Season 1's storylines are fairly satisfying, and the overall quality of this episode makes Season 2 seem very promising. However, the season fails to deliver on this promise.

The second season of Ugly Betty has issues to Season 2 of Heroes. On that show, the intriguing characters were all separated and the show lost it's appeal. For some reason, the creators of Ugly Betty decided to keep Betty and Daniel apart for much of Season 2. Yes, they shared scenes and Betty continued to be Daniel's assistant, but their storylines were often divergent. In Season 1, we watched spoiled little rich boy Daniel Meade learn about life from a dowdy girl from Queens. On the flipside, when Daniel would drop his guard, Betty would see that the rich and powerful do have feelings and can be insecure. Within the soapy chaos that is Ugly Betty, this dynamic gave the show a very human core. Without that, the show felt rather silly and unhinged.

However, that's not to say that Season 2 isn't worth watching. While the storylines aren't on par with Season 1 (again, I don't think they knew where to go) and some of the Betty/Henry plots get very redundant, the show's vibrant characters do keep things moving. Even when what they are doing isn't very intriguing, just seeing Marc & Amanda, or Marc & Wilhelmina or Hilda in action is entertaining. And even when the drama got too over the top (again, this is a soap opera), the show was still quite funny. The humor is often more silly than clever, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't laugh.

To say that Season 2 of Ugly Betty wasn't good would be a huge overstatement. However, there's no denying that it wasn't as satisfying as Season 1. The show got away from its roots and simply got too broad. Things came back together at the end of the season, and I'm hoping that Season 3 will be able to balance all of the soapy wackiness with the Betty and Daniel show.

Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season gets fashionable on DVD courtesy of ABC Studios (which is distributed by Disney). This five-disc boxed set features all 18 episodes from the show's second season. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The show looks fantastic on DVD as the image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. Ugly Betty is a very colorful show and those colors look great here, especially the heavy use of orange. The picture has a very nice depth and there is no artifacting. This looks better than digital cable quality. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers some nice stereo effects, most notably during the office scenes. These same scenes, and any party scenes, provide subtle, but effective surround sound effects.

The Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season DVD set contains a few extras, all of which are found on Disc 5. "On Set with the Besties" (7 minutes) has actors Michael Urie and Becki Newton touring the set. The piece is accompanied by pop-up facts which tell us about the show, the actors, and the set. In a similar mode, actor Tony Plana shows us Betty's house in "The Suarez Tour" (4 minutes), where he's joined by actor Mark Indelicato. "Wilhelmina Slater: Love to Hate Her" (7 minutes) has comments from cast and crew discussing their view on Vanessa Williams' character. "Las Pasiones De Telenovelas" (6 minutes) explores the Latin soap operas which are always playing in the Suarez home, and how they are now used to promote the show. We get behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the faux telenovela. There are then two examples of these shows; "Los Pecados Del Corazon" (21 minutes) and "Asesinato Por Muerte" (16 minutes), which can be viewed in English or Spanish. "I (heart) Betty" (6 minutes) examines Betty's many romantic relationships from the show. "Betty Bloops" is a 5-minute gag reel. Finally, we get 16 DELETED SCENES taken from various episodes.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long