Last week, when Henry and Betty kissed at the end, I all but cheered. This time I cringed. This was, bar none, the worst Ugly Betty episode so far.
My usual complaints about pacing, when I have them, applied tonight: everything was rushed, overdone, and impaled itself on its plot points. (I guess that's what happens when the show skips ahead two weeks from the prior one.) And more of those plot points were contrived than ever, from Betty and Henry's under-the-desk date making plans to Gio as her "boyfriend" to B and H's narrated text messages at the theater to their saw-it-coming-a-mile-away appearance onstage, to select from a single plot strand. What the hell is this, late Three's Company? (Gio was a lot more bearable tonight, though the competition for worst aspect was so stiff I may be forgiving more than necessary.)
Even Wilhelmina's wedding planning carried little weight. Having to gain six pounds opened the door for some Betty's-weight jokes--wow. Nico canceling a wedding appearance: Vanessa Williams was convincingly distraught, but the whole thing went by too quickly to register especially well. One classic touch: Bradford and Wilhelmina's wedding theme is "Ebony and Ivory." It's funny largely because Wilhelmina is so blasé about it.
And hey--blasé is the perfect word to describe the fact that Mode is dying and we've heard barely a peep about it. Um, didn't this show skip two weeks from the magazine using rice paper? I forgive a lot of weirdness about Ugly Betty; realism may not be its entire m.o., despite the baffling expectations of a couple commentators this blog has drawn. But even within those limits the whole thing is starting to creak really hard.
Marc and Cliff: their interaction in Ep 5 was so well paced in part because it moved at a leisurely pace. Here they got to hit their marks and do little else. Very disappointing. Amanda's response to them was about what I expected, and handled well, but it didn't feel enough like it was leading up to something . . . I hate to use the word "revelatory," but even insightful would do. Maybe it still can. But it's not apparent that it will, and at this stage any promise along those lines would be really helpful.
Because what is not the least bit helpful is Broadway tie-ins. The obsequiousness this episode paid Wicked made musicals seem even more tedious than they usually are, and it made the show seem desperate. Did the 37 or so plot strands Ugly Betty's already managed to cook up really need to be intruded on by some harebrained cross-promotion bullshit? Apparently so. "Don't lose sight of who you are," went one sappy number as---gosh---various cast members began to realize the truth and rightness of the sentiment. Girlfriend Quote of the Week, said with deep sarcasm: "This song is so perfectly in tune with everything that's happening." Betty seeing a Broadway show without Justin is a cheat anyway--and Gio's little sister doesn't make up for it.
-NOT looking forward to the Victoria Beckham guest appearance next week.
-Hilda's gig at Hooters knockoff Hi-Beems: enh. Her new barber chair at the end: keep your expectations low. Ignacio's "I can even make my famous coffee cake for your customers": worst line of the episode, in heavy traffic.
-Second Girlfriend Quote, during stock aerial shot of the NYC skyline: "Oh no! They did New York all green like in the play. Ugh."
-After the iffy stuff early in the season Amanda continues to be underutilized. Her little facial moue in response to Betty's "You look so pretty today" was the funniest moment of the show.
-Marc provided the other funny moments: after Cliff leans in to kiss him and is brushed aside, Marc said, "You know the fashion world: very homophobic." Just as good is when Wilhelmina throws a chocolate at Marc and he catches it in his mouth. Expect a lot of outtakes from that one to show up on the Season 2 DVD.