The decline and fail of “Ugly Betty”

This is a hard post to write. Ugly Betty has been one of the most delightful things on television. And America Ferrera is, well, just look.

But Betty did not have a good year. Oh sure, Betty Suarez had her share of “ups” this year, including a rich boyfriend and admission to the elite Young Editors Training Initiative for aspiring fashion magazine editors.

Ugly Betty, however, seemed to flounder in Season 3. And ABC’s announcement this week that the show will move to Friday for Season 4 seems to be the network’s way of shoving Betty on the subway back to Queens.

Tonight’s two-hour season finale promises some surprises, including guest appearances by Rachel Dratch (as twins!) Rachel Maddow and Billie Jean King, and the return of Christopher Gorham’s Henry.

But I’m not confident that even the best of finales can save Betty. As much as this pains me, I find myself agreeing with most of BlackBook’s 7 Reasons Why Ugly Betty Spirals Toward Ugly Fate. Here are some highlights — or, more accurately, lowlights.

Betty’s braces
No, BlackBook isn’t anti-teeth-straightening, but Betty’s dental appliance isn’t so cute and campy anymore. After three years at an upscale magazine, has no one told Betty about invisible braces? The bright braces have come to symbolize Betty’s failure to break out of her assistant role despite her successes. Betty Suarez is not an idiot. Her integrity certainly would keep her from becoming a Mode clone, but updating her hair and wardrobe would not be an indication that her inner beauty is less dazzling. Fail.

Getting rid of the hot chick
Rebecca Romijn as Alexis Meade was a revelation — and an amazing breakthrough for network television (from ABC, no less). Alexis was the “most fully-realized transgender character to surface on primetime.” And she was hot. Why send her to France? Fail.

Getting rid of Ashley Jensen
Jensen’s Christina McKinney is the most consistently funny character on Ugly Betty. She’s also been Betty’s main confidante at Mode. I know that Jensen stayed in L.A. when the show moved to New York. But producers should’ve made the commute work. Fail.

Betty’s romantic carousel
Betty is a gem, yes. Betty’s inner beauty shines through her glasses and braces and garish clothes, yes. But the only realistic relationship Betty had (hi, Henry) turned into something out of an overwrought soap opera. Yes, I know Ugly Betty is based on an overwrought soap opera. No excuse. Fail.

I wish I could disagree. I wish the article (read the rest here) made me angry and sparked a brilliant defense of Ugly Betty along with seven compelling reasons why the show will return to its former glory. But instead, it just makes me sad. I don’t want you to go, Betty. But I’m not sure I want you to stay, either.

What do you think? Can Ugly Betty bounce back? What needs to happen for Betty to be network TV’s darling again?

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