Tonight I bid another fond farewell to a much loved TV companion. Dammit TV. Time and time again you break my heart. Why do I even bother watching? Well, it’s because amid the thousands of channels and hundreds of hours of pure dreck, oh-so-ocassionally there comes a gem like Ugly Betty.
Ugly Betty has been on for four seasons. It was canceled several weeks ago – not just “not renewed for next season” but canceled, which means stopped in its tracks. Fortunately the show’s creators were given a few weeks notice so the writers’ could construct a proper finale. (Take this in contrast to Lost, a show you probably already know is in its final season, whose creators decided three years ago exactly when the show would end.) Also fortunately, I think, the show is going out on a creative high note. So many shows overstay their welcome, turning into one of the hours of pure dreck, that it’s easy to let go (Lost.) Creativity has a shelf life. Stories aren’t meant to go on and on but to be brief glimpses into another world. But my darling Betty, I do wonder if another season as great as this one was in the cards if the show had been left to continue its run.
I love nothing more than a smart, quotidian, domestic story. Ugly Betty was about the absurdities of working in the fashion industry. It was based on a telenovela so, particularly in its first season, there were some larger than life plot lines and mysteries. But for the past four years this show has always remembered that it is about a real person. It was grounded in reality, understood family and was always delivering messages about tolerance. Characters in this show evolved, believably. Over time they grew up and grew wiser and learned to work together. Other shows watch characters devolve into nothing but bland, two-dimensional stereotypes of their original selves. All the characters on this show were fully realized, none more so than Betty herself.
And I have to say, though if you look elsewhere on the web you’ll find it said a thousand times over, that the coming out of 16-year old Justin was handled so gracefully and what felt like so truthfully, it was difficult not to be moved to tears. It was not only the character of Justin, but the evolution of the character Mark into a role model for Justin that helped sell this story so effectively.
The show seems to be trending towards an eventual coupling of Betty and the boss, and from what I hear this is how the original version ended. I kinda hope this doesn’t happen but it seems inevitable now. Perhaps in the hour they have left, they’ll convince me. But all in all it’s shaping up to be a much more satisfying resolution than the way Monk ended, and I’m very glad I don’t hate this show in the way I do Lost, which I continue to watch simply because I feel I’ve invested too much to quit now.
I don’t think I’ll wake up tomorrow and actively miss Ugly Betty. It’s been a good story and now I’ll move on. I do often think that as each of my favorite shows ends, that will be the end of TV watching for me. I doubt the ability of quality new material to come along, but somehow it always does. Something with as much heart as Ugly Betty though? That seems unlikely.
“The time for us to say goodbye is near
The day I hoped would never come is here
Though many hearts are broken, we must somehow carry on
I think you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”
–Randy Newman, When I’m Gone, from the series finale of Monk.