'Ugly Betty,' Thursday on ABC

Verne Gay
Newsday (MCT)

UGLY BETTY. 8 p.m. EDT Thursday, ABC.

Why you should watch: Remember Renee (Gabrielle Union), Wilhelmina's (Vanessa Williams) sister and new Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius) squeeze? More on this in a bit. (Don't you just love teases?) Plus, all those awards. Headline star America Ferrera took home last year's best actress/sitcom Emmy, and then there was the Peabody. Also, this is maybe the biggest night of the season for ABC - an all-new lineup, with the network giving up "Betty" as the only show of its mighty Thursday triumvirate for review. That means ABC wants to draw attention to this sophomore (probably to goose ratings).

What it's about: Yeah, "Betty" requires a serious catching-up tutorial; the last original episode ("A Thousand Words by Friday") aired late January, so memories are understandably a little rusty. Take a deep breath, and here goes: Claire Meade (Judith Light) is out of prison and plans to launch her own mag, Hot Flash (think the now-extinct Lears), while Henry has gotten serious, then cool again, with Renee (Union) after he learns she's Wilhelmina's sister. Meanwhile, Betty's love life grows more complicated, with Sandwich Boy, Gio (Freddy Rodriguez), emerging as a serious contender to safe and terrifically bland Henry Grubstick (Christopher Gorham.) Now tonight, which is titled "Twenty-Four Candles," revolves around Betty's 24th birthday (and please tune out right now if you don't want any plot spoilers, or skip straight to "The Bottom Line"). The best stuff has to do with Renee and Wilhelmina, who warns Daniel (back with Renee) about her once-wayward sister. "Ask about Stony Brook," she advises Dan. Stony Brook?! Yes, says Renee, when confronted with the big question. "It's a state college on Long Island. I had a few boyfriends there." Oh, really, Renee? And what else happened? Meanwhile, Renee finds out about Wil's deep, dark secret - you know, how she stole Brad Meade's sperm to impregnate Christina (Ashley Jensen) to get a piece of the Mode kingdom, etc. And Betty? Not a good birthday, because Henry's (also pregnant) ex, Charlie (Jayma Mays) suddenly shows up. But Gio saves the day, or rather, night.

The bottom line: Based on a telenovela after all, "Betty" veers between soap spoof and soap, and sometimes (usually) blends both together and fairly seamlessly at that. This week it's balanced more toward pure soap. That's fine, if soap's your thing. The episode is still a good one.

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