TV/American TV-PG Running time: 17:12
IMDB rating: 6.6 Aspect: Wide; Languages: English; Subtitles: French, Spanish; Audio: DD 5.1
With this third-season boxed set (24 episodes, plus bonus material, on six discs), Ugly Betty continues one of television's most adroit balancing acts. Is the series, which chronicles the urban adventures of young Betty Suarez (American Ferrera), the archetypal fish out of water making her way through the cutthroat world of high fashion, a comedy? A nighttime soap opera? A serious drama? Well, yes. There are a lot of other words to describe it--outrageous, flamboyant, tender, absurd, cartoony, poignant, arch, bright, kinetic--but most of all, Ugly Betty remains compulsively watchable because it's entertaining, pure and simple. As ever, the show does a nimble job of simultaneously maintaining multiple plot lines. Some of them last nearly the entire season, like Betty's leaving the family house in Queens to live on her own in a Manhattan apartment, the struggles of Meade Publications, parent company of Mode Magazine (Betty's principal employer), to deal with ongoing financial issues (exacerbated by a major embezzlement sub-plot in mid-season), or the endless power plays involving villainess Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams) and various members of the Meade family. Other developments, and there are many, unfold over just a few episodes. Some of the best of these are Betty's re-acquaintance with Kimmie (a perfectly cast Lindsay Lohan), a former high school nemesis whom Betty helps find a job; Betty's membership in the Young Editors Training Program (YETI), which brings her into conflict with Marc (Michael Urie), Wilhelmina's flagrantly gay assistant; numerous Suarez family issues, including father Ignacio's (Tony Plana) heart attack; and, of course, the tangled love lives of Betty and virtually every other character of note. Through it all, Betty is awkward, naive, and hopelessly unhip, but also smart, creative, and sincere; she remains the one beacon of purity in a world where everyone's out to get everyone else. Ugly Betty is beautifully crafted--it's well-written, nicely acted, and deftly edited, and the bonus material (deleted scenes, episode commentary, bloopers, etc.) is fine (newcomers will be grateful for the "starter kit," which introduces the major characters and storylines). One wonders, though, how long it can sustain itself. If Betty finally blossoms into "normality," the show's over; but if the emphasis on cutesy quirks continues, there's sure to be some shark-jumping in the near future. Stay tuned for further developments.