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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The United States of America Ferrera

I just adore watching America Ferrera (Real Women Have Curves). She is beautiful in a very real, approachable way, and she is a good actress with a real knack for comedy. So when I heard that she was chosen to play Betty in the ABC's Ugly Betty, the new U.S. incarnation of Yo Soy Betty La Fea, I was excited. There are many people in the U.S. who might not be familiar with the original Colombian version of Betty, nor its Mexican version, La fea más bella. The ugly duckling story will no doubt resonate with viewers, however. Ferrera plays Betty Suarez, a young woman from Queens who is determined to be a magazine editor. She is confident, intelligent and ambitious--she's also a bit on the plain side. When she applies for her first job after college, the human resources manager takes one look at her and lies that the position has been filled. Fortune smiles on Betty, however, when young Daniel Meade, the son of magazine publisher Bradford Meade, is made editor in chief of Mode magazine. Daniel can't keep his hands off his assistants and it's keeping him from doing his job--so his dad decides to hire Betty, a girl he knows daniel won't want to sleep with. Daniel starts out hating her but then realizes that she has ideas that might help save his job. The first two episodes have been absolutely charming, filled with cartoonish energy and sly humor. Ms. Ferrera shines, and even when she is surrounded by models, you can't take your eyes off of her (in a good way).

Of course, there are a lot of unsettling feminist implications in Ugly Betty. It all depends in which direction the U.S. version decides to go. Will Betty end up getting a makeover and marrying her boss like she does in Yo Soy Betty La Fea? I hope that the show comes up with a slightly different ending, for the sake of novelty and dignity. At this point, I'm not going to be too critical--having a normal looking Latina woman starring in a primetime tv show on a major U.S. network seems like enough of a victory for now.

Ugly Betty airs on Thursday nights on ABC at 8 ET/PT. Give it a chance!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dexter (S1-EP2)

This week on Dexter, our hero/villain hunts down a serial DUI murderer while trying to figure out who put the doll limbs in his freezer. His sister finally gets assigned to homicide, much to the chagrin of her boss. The more I see of this show, the more I like it. Dexter adds depth to its titular character by analyzing what it must be like to be a sociopath (i.e. to not be able to empathize with others). Dexter has difficulty relating to anyone, cannot feel erotic love for his girlfriend, cannot feel sympathy for the victims of crimes he solves every day. Or can he? Once in a while, Dexter experiences twinges of sensations that seem foreign to him (yet human to us). Could it be that Dexter is learning to be more human? This posits a fascinating question that often arises in developmental psychology: is a person’s personality malleable in adulthood, or is it forever written in stone? Is it possible to teach empathy? Most researchers say no, but it is an interesting topic to explore on TV nonetheless. Dexter has a lot going for it: good performances, clever writing and the coolest opening credits since Carnivale. Of course, it’s too early to tell if it has staying power, but I predict that it will have at least one excellent season; and on Showtime, that is pretty much the standard.