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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ugly Betty is an hour-long comedy set in the competitive, materialistic world of a high-fashion magazine called Mode. Several characters -- most of whom are pretty over-the-top -- consequently exhibit poor values and iffy behavior (scheming, corporate one-upmanship, petty meanness to those who don't fit in, etc.). By comparison, delightful main character Betty stands out like a cheerful, hardworking beacon. Unabashedly proud of her working-class roots and eclectic taste in clothes and accessories, Betty is a great role model for teen girls who worry about fitting in.
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What's the story?
Executive produced by Salma Hayek and based on the wildly popular Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea, UGLY BETTY stars America Ferrera as optimistic, focused Betty Suarez. Betty -- who wants to be a serious journalist -- accepts a job assisting Mode magazine's playboy editor-in-chief Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius). At first, Daniel does everything he can to make her life miserable, but he quickly realizes that he can't run the magazine without her, and the incongruous pair become a team. Furious about being passed over for the editor-in-chief job, creative director Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams) will do anything to bring Daniel -- and, by extension, Betty -- down. In her ring are toadying assistant Marc (Michael Urie) and evil receptionist Amanda (Becki Newton), who's sleeping with Daniel and wants Betty's job. Rounding out the cast are Christina (Ashley Jensen), the on-site seamstress who shows Betty the ropes and acts as her confidant and guardian angel; Hilda (Ana Ortiz), Betty's outspoken older sister; and Justin (Mark Indelicato), Betty's hilariously fashion-obsessed nephew.
Is it any good?
The show's writing and acting are both top-notch, and there are giggles to be found at every turn. In one scene, for example, Betty admires a model's beautiful Dolce & Gabbana poncho and chummily tells the woman that her father bought her a similar one in Guadalajara ... only to show up the next day proudly wearing a gaudy, blanket-like garment that has "souvenir" written all over it. Coming to TV on the heels of The Devil Wears Prada, Ugly Betty is wildly fun fare that takes the Prada premise and ups the ante -- unlike Anne Hathaway's Andy, Betty never bows to the pressure to turn herself into one of the skeletal, glam automatons who sashay through Mode's hallways.
Ugly Betty has enough ongoing drama to satisfy older viewers, but, unlike other soapy shows, it spends an equal amount of time on "everyday" storylines like Betty's heartwarming relationship with her father. Although the show has a few risqué scenes that might raise parental eyebrows, including one in which Daniel's receptionist is caught under his desk (presumably pleasuring him), Ferrara's stellar performance outweighs them. Betty is clearly the most admirable character on the show, and her positive qualities just make the other characters' failings more obvious -- even to younger teens. Bottom line? Ugly Betty is a must-see.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Betty's impressive optimism in Ugly Betty. How does she stay so positive in such a hostile environment? How can you deal with tricky work situations (harassment, nasty co-workers) in the real world?
Besides her outward appearance, what else sets her apart from most of her Mode co-workers? What gave her such a good work ethic? What role does her family play in her life? What makes her a good role model for real girls and young women?
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