DVD Review: 'Ugly Betty, Season One'
Extras are perfect accessories to fun-filled season
Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) is a cheerful, smart, yet fashion-challenged young woman from Queens who is determined to make it in the magazine business, even if it means dealing with her womanizing boss Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius) and the superficial atmosphere at Mode. It's lucky that she has a certain amount of pluck and integrity too, since she has to put out her boss' fires, deal with bitchy coworkers and juggle her family's dramas as well as the unexpected curveballs of her own love life.
The featurette "Becoming Ugly" gives a short rundown on how the telenovela "Betty la fea" got the U.S. TV treatment and how Ferrera got cast. The rest of it is the usual behind-the-scenes type of love fest in which the various actors and their respective characters are praised for how spot on they are. Particularly gratifying is learning that Michael Urie and Becki Newtwon have the same camaraderie or are "total besties" offscreen just like their alter egos -- Marc, Wilhelmina Slater's assistant, and Amanda, the ambitious receptionist. Also included is Ferrera's tearful and touching, yet surprisingly eloquent acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.
"A La Mode" focuses on the style and look of "Ugly Betty" -- not only the contrast in fashions, but also the sets for Mode and the Suarez house. Because of the telenovela roots, the stylists are able to push the look as far as they want, creating an almost cartoony palette. Viewers learn that cooler, more "iPod" tones are used at work, whereas the Suarez home in Queens leans towards warm tones. The fashion for each character is discussed, especially Betty's "anti-fashion" statements and Amanda's weird rubber dress.
The biggest surprise for viewers will be the featurette "Green Is the New Black," which reveals that most of the New York exteriors are shot separately and added in post-production with green screen technology. This allows for a visual freedom with camera moves (and less crowds and paparazzi) and cuts down on location costs. It's actually very impressive how seamlessly the backgrounds are added and how the actors can express themselves when they're essentially surrounded by bright green panels and props.
The DVD set also gives a choice of four audio commentaries given by various cast and crew from the series. While the commentary for the pilot -- given by creator/executive producer Silvio Horta, director Richard Shepard and co-executive producer Teri Weinberg -- is appropriately insightful about all that's involved in making the show, there's only a little bit of the juicy, behind-the-scenes tidbits that the viewer enjoys most, such as the fact that Ferrera hates flan and had to eat it for several takes during the episode.
More entertaining are the commentaries given by the talent, such as episode 18, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and episode 12, "Sofia's Choice," commented upon by Urie and Vanessa Williams paired and Salma Hayek and Eric Mabius paired, respectively. A personal favorite is "Fey's Sleigh Ride," which teams up Newton and Urie and shows off their lighthearted friendship with every word uttered. They exclaim over how various costars are fabulous in specific scenes or outfits, they "sing" the wordless theme song together and laugh often about other amusing, yet mindless things.
Skip through the deleted scenes since there's a reason most of them were deleted, unless you have a particularly favorite character such as Justin or Marc. There's also a rather extended Tim Gunn segment where he plays fashion news anchor, but it's really not that funny because he's catty. We like Gunn for his candor, but gentle spirit.
The bloopers are a harmless entertainment worth a view, especially Ferrera's penchant for the giggles and a cameo by Kristin Chenoweth.
I would have preferred extras that were a bit more fun or creative, in keeping with the show's tone, such as a "Which Mode employee style do you exhibit?" quiz or a Betty Suarez virtual paper doll complete with a closet full of mixed patterns and textures. Nevertheless, the overall DVD set provides a fun, colorful and most of all stylish experience, the perfect accessory for any fan.
EXTRAS: "Becoming Ugly"; "A La Mode" style featurette; "Green Is the New Black" set featurette; deleted scenes; audio commentaries; bloopers