'Ugly Betty' is Beautiful in Season Four

americaferrera_uglybetty_290.jpgIt finally happened.

Ever since "Ugly Betty" premiered, I've been waiting for Betty (America Ferrera) to start dressing a little more sophisticated and put together. I didn't want her to lose the things that made her Betty but I also thought it odd that she worked at a fashion magazine for three years and not a single thing seemed to be rubbing off on her. Things finally start to rub off as the fourth season kicks off tonight (Friday at 8 p.m. on ABC)

In addition to her outward appearance, there's a lot of change is afoot for Betty which is fantastic because we want to see our lead characters evolve and grow as the seasons progress. And as tonight's two-hour season premiere demonstrates, things really have changed for Betty. She's been promoted to associate features editor much to the chagrin of both her former-boyfriend-turned-boss Matt and her colleague Megan (a spot on Smith Cho).

While often I've felt the show has wandered a little aimlessly, the fourth season begins with most of the characters off to strong story lines. You find out early on who shocked Wilhelmina at the end of last season and it's a story line that allows Wilhelmina to be Wilhelmina while also showing her softer side. In particular, I really liked the interaction between Justin, who struggles as he enters high school, and Marc, who knows a lot about what those struggles are about. Marc becomes a more grounded character when he helps Justin out and I think Justin's story line will be familiar to anyone who didn't find high school, for whatever reason, to be the best time of his or her life.

The only story line I didn't love was Amanda with Daniel's new temp (played by Kristen Johnston). I continue to think that Amanda can be much more than a one-note character with biting one liners. I would really like for her to get a much stronger story arc this season.

But all in all, I think the show is off to a strong start (four out of five stars). I'm just hoping people still find the show in its new time slot. Will you be watching "Ugly Betty" tonight? Talk about it below.

Discussion Topics of the Week

As much I'm still enjoying "Glee" (as I've said before, the way to my season pass manager is through a well done musical number), I just cannot stand Terri faking her pregnancy. It makes no sense. Will can't possibly be that dumb. Even if we concede that Will never sees his wife naked or gets to know her in the biblical sense any more. He's okay with never seeing his wife without her shirt on? He never wants to touch her stomach? He doesn't bump into her while they're sleeping and feel that she has something attached to her body? He really thinks it's okay that the doctor puts up a sheet during an ultrasound? I need this story line to be wrapped up fast. The other thing I'm concerned about is that every episode is a variation on the same theme - something or someone breaks up the glee club before they're eventually brought back together by the end of the episode. I think we also need to get to sectionals fast. How about you?

Okay I've been trying to put off this conversation because it pains me to say it but (deep breath) here I go - since the season premiere, I don't think "How I Met Your Mother" has been that funny this season. I'm so disappointed because, as you know, I think "HIMYM" is one of the best comedies on TV. But the plots this season have been more preposterous than usual. It's ridiculous that Marshall and Lily would act so silly when they had Robin and Barney over for dinner or that the conversation would be so awkward. The gang hangs out all the time. One of the things I love about "HIMYM" is that it usually taps into what a real group of friends are like. Sure it's always exaggerated for television but it's been grounded in reality. The show seems to have lost sight of that this season. Do you agree?

Are you still watching "Dollhouse" this season? I hope so because the show is really hitting its stride. I like having Ballard working to bring down the Dollhouse from the inside. I like that we got to see November/Mellie/Madeline again and hear why she entered the Dollhouse in the first place. Next week, we'll learn why Sierra entered the Dollhouse. And I think the assignment of the week stories have been much better - particularly last week's that had a serial killer's personality ricocheting all over L.A. All that plus some of our favorite actors from the Whedonverse - Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, and, starting next week, Summer Glau. What have you thought of "Dollhouse" so far this season.

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

Mike Starr was the insurance salesman Andy and Dwight thought was a member of the Mafia on "The Office." Starr was Kenny on "Ed."

Dennis B. recognized Tiffany Dupont, Frannie on "Greek," as the prostitute who helped Lauren escape the yacht on "Melrose Place." Dennis A. recognized Kevin Alejandro, who we won't be seeing as Detective Nate Moretta on "Southland" (just for fun, let's say it again - Boooo NBC, Boooo!), as the designer Anton V. on "Melrose Place." Alejandro was also Rudolpho on "Weeds" (remember he kidnapped Celia), Santos on "Ugly Betty," and Danny on "Shark." And we just saw him on "Drop Dead Diva" as the man wrongfully accused of a crime.

Steve recognized that Joe Morton had double primetime duty this week. He's Justin's professor on "Brothers & Sisters" and Peter's lawyer on "The Good Wife." Morton is Henry Deacon on "Eureka."

Toby recognized Tyler Hoechlin as the violin instructor on "Castle." Hoechlin was Martin on "7 Heaven" and Owen Scott on "My Boys."

Anne and Steve recognized Leslie Hendrix, Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers on "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," as the jury consultant on "The Good Wife." Chris Bauer was the opposing counsel. Bauer is Detective Andy Bellefleur on "True Blood" and I always remember him as Frank on "Third Watch" and Frank Sobotka on "The Wire."

Ginni recognized Brian Hallisay, Will on "Privileged," as Joanna's former fiancé on "Eastwick." Rachel Boston, Beth on "American Dreams," was his new fiancée.

Marc Blucas, Riley on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," was Jack Rader, the rival truth telling expert on "Lie to Me." Mary Mara was the hospital administrator trying to figure out where the tainted blood came from. I'll always remember Mara for playing Loretta many years ago on "ER" (remember she was the prostitute Carter was always trying to help.)

It was quite traumatic to see Ben Feldman, Fred on "Drop Dead Diva," as Jack, the victim of the week (and not a nice one either) on "CSI." Tracy Middendorf was his boss. I'll pull Middendorf out of my "deserves her own show" file to tell you she was Carla Matheson during the second season of "24," Bonnie on "Lost" (remember she worked at The Looking Glass station), Elsa Kaplan on "Alias" (she played Christian Slater's wife) and I'll always remember her as Laura Kingman on "90210,"

Gina Torres is Felicia, Wedeck's wife, on "FlashForward." Among her many TV roles, Torres was Anna Espinosa on "Alias," Julia Milliken on "24," Jasmine on "Angel," and Zoe on "Firefly." Kim Dickens was Aaron's ex-wife on "FlashForward." She's Cassidy, the woman Sawyer conned on "Lost" and Matt's mom Shelby on "Friday Night Lights."

Quotes of the Week

"There's just got to be more to life than eating pudding and watching 'CSI'" Elderly patient to McSteamy on "Grey's Anatomy."

"I know my methods are extreme. I know I'm not like the rest of you hippies, caring about the kids' feelings as if they're real." Sue to Will on "Glee."

"Irina's actually a really good designer. The only problem with her is that she's a bitch." Nicholas on "Project Runway." Thanks to Jackie for the quote.

Exchange of the Week

"What do we want?" Kenneth to the striking pages on "30 Rock."

"To get your sandwiches." The striking pages chant back to Kenneth.

"When do we want it?" Kenneth.

"Whenever it will be convenient for you!" the pages' response. I didn't love the strike story line but I found this particular exchange hilarious.

That's all for today. I'm back on Monday to check in on new shows and see how they're doing (are we still liking "Cougar Town" and "Modern Family") and I'll also have a review of the new USA drama "White Collar." Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week or a topic for discussion? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com or follow me on Twitter. Have a great weekend. Talk to you on Monday.

 

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal