The Braces Come Off: The End of ‘Ugly Betty’

What do 24, Lost and Ugly Betty have in common? Nothing. Except that I’ve been watching them all from the beginning of their runs, and they’re all ending this season.

To be honest, the way I’m watching the swan song seasons of these three shows is not even remotely similar either. Lost has taken TV storytelling to a new level with its final act, solidifying its place as one of the best shows ever. I will miss it dearly when it goes. 24 has me riveted again (against my will) with its high wire antics, even as I scorn the perpetually silly contortions required to sustain 24 episodes. I’m interested to see how the writers will get themselves to the end of another day, but am also relieved that I don’t have to spend another 24 hours in real time next year wondering why Jack Bauer never eats or goes to the bathroom.

Then there’s Ugly Betty. Look, let’s be honest here. We all knew how Ugly Betty was going to end the day it started. You don’t call a show Ugly Betty unless the Betty in question is going to transform into something that we know is most certainly not ugly. That’s what’s been happening over this season. New glasses, new outfits, new attitude. The transformation is occurring on a weekly basis. And with two episodes left, everyone knows those braces are coming off and Betty’ll probably get contacts. Ugly Betty will end her run just as Betty (or even Attractive Betty). Finally.

The problem is that I don’t really care. Betty was never truly ugly to begin with. America Ferrara is a good looking woman. So the transformation is kind of anticlimactic. If waiting for that change was the only reason to watch the show, I would have stopped about three episodes in.

Which makes me realize something unusual about Ugly Betty. It may be the only show that I’ve watched the entire run of where I had almost no interest in the main storylines. In fact, most of the telenovela plot machinations of the past four years have been lost on me. As it comes to an end, I’m realizing that the reason I’ve watched all these years is mainly for the peripheral characters that are so much more memorable than the core.

So with only two episodes left, I’m going to ignore the inevitable discovery of Betty’s hotness and self-respect (and probably true love), and focus instead on enjoying the supporting cast that has been so enjoyable.

In no particular order:

Michael Urie as Marc: Marc manages to be bitchy and sensitive, sometimes in the same sentence. But mainly he’s flat-out funny. Urie has turned a potentially one-note role into one of the show’s most fully developed characters.

Ana Ortiz as Hilda: One of the show’s best episodes had Hilda stuck in her bedroom nursing her injured boyfriend back to health for the entire hour. Of course, it turned out that the whole show was a sucker punch when it was revealed at the end that the boyfriend had actually died at the end of the previous season. Ortiz sold this trickery for all it was worth and made me believe it. The rest of the time she’s just bubbly as hell and fun to watch.

Becki Newton as Amanda: This role should have been just another dumb blonde, but Newton turned it into much more. In her hands, Amanda is still dumb, but an intriguing complicated dumb. If for no other reason, the show has been worth watching to watch her and Urie riff off each other week after week.

Mark Indelicato as Justin: Like all the best characters on the show, Justin tosses off one-liners with ease. As Betty’s teenage nephew who is clearly gay but not quite willing to admit it, Indelicato has played the part perfectly. One of the most satisfying things about this season has been the way that Justin has started to come out at least to himself, if not the world.

Tony Plano as Ignacio: I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see Plano as anything other than the patriarch of the Suarez clan. That’s a compliment.

Judith Light as Claire: I saw Light in Wit years ago. Ever since then, I’m happy to see her in any role anywhere. Her introduction to the show as a felon on the run was a bit strained, but since she took up at Meade publications as a regular, I’ve enjoyed having her around.

Ashley Jensen as Christina: Let’s forget the stupid “I’m carrying Wilhemina’s baby and then stealing it and then getting deported” storyline. Christina was hysterical as the somewhat out-of-place painfully honest Scottish fashion closet lady for the early years of the show. I hope they bring her back for the finale.

Adam Rodriguez as Bobby: As Hilda’s latest and last love interest, Rodriguez has only been on the show for a handful of episodes, but he’s been fun to watch playing off of Ortiz.

So that’s it for Ugly Betty. I’ll be watching the last two episodes expecting each of these actors to give their characters a proper send-off. Oh yeah, and to see the braces come off too.