First things first: Betty is totally not ugly. Despite being kitted out with an unfortunate hair-do, terrible braces and wretched fashion sense, she's still pretty darn cute. That being said, she doesn't exactly fit in at Mode Magazine, where she's been hired as the assistant to the editor-in-chief simply because the owner of said company doesn't want said editor -- his son -- to sleep with his assistant. Again. Of course, Daniel, the aforementioned horny editor-in-chief, spends forty-five minutes trying to humiliate Betty into quitting, only to be eventually won over by her pluck, her smarts, and the clever editorial campaign she comes up with for a Donatella Versace-esque Gina Gershon. Not much else happens in this episode other than setting up the people and players at Mode: we've got Alan Dale as the crotchety, shady owner; Vanessa Williams as the highly-placed magazine staffer/Botox addict who got passed over for the EIC job and thus is out for Daniel's blood; a charming Scottish girl who works in the magazine's closet, and befriends our heroine; the possibility that the allegedly dead, Anna Wintour-y, former editor-in-chief of Mode is actually being kept alive by Vanessa Williams in a garret somewhere, for unclear but obviously nefarious purposes; Betty's charming family, including an adorable nephew who is clearly gearing up to be her main gay; and, finally, Salma Hayek making kind of hilarious cameo appearances in a telenovela Betty's sister watches. Any show that allows Salma Hayek to threaten a guy with a gun, get slapped, and then make out with him is okay by me.
We fade up on our heroine's round little face, as she sits and fidgets in the very grand lobby of Meade Publishing. I know we're supposed to think she's ugly -- hence the title -- but America Ferrera is totally cute. She just needs to get rid of the braces. And get a better haircut. And some cuter glasses. And some lipstick. Basically, she needs to be featured on this reality show that my friend Grant and I invented about three years ago, called Subtle Makeover. You know, it's just like Extreme Makeover, except at the end, everyone at the reveal is all like, "Did you get new glasses?" and the Makeover goes, "No! I just got bangs!" Anyway, Betty sits and fidgets, and then looks up and smiles, and moves over to make room, on the bench she's commandeered, for a tall, model-y type. "I like your poncho," Betty tells her. "My dad got me one in Guadalajara." The model sniffs dismissively: "Milan. Dolce and Gabbana. Fall."
Before Betty can respond, a suit calls her name, and she gets up for what I presume is a job interview. Her suit, I have to tell you, is not THAT terrible. It's very '80s, kind of a tweedy pink Chanel-y knockoff, and the skirt needs hemming ["and the jacket was a bit small" -- Wing Chun], but it's kind of retro and could be fun if the skirt were shorter, and if the whole thing were appropriately accessorized. Unfortunately, it clashes terribly with her shirt, and she looks totally fussy and dated. I do like her "B" necklace. Patricia Field, who did Sex and the City, is the costume designer for this show as well, and she apparently loves iconic necklaces. I do wonder if she's been reading Anne Boleyn biographies, or if it's just coincidental that Betty's necklace looks just like the one Anne Boleyn famously wore all the time. (I just read The Other Boleyn Girl, which makes much of the necklace, and I'm sure we'll see it in the movie version of the book. The book is quite good, by the way.) I don't know what Betty has in common with a woman whose powers of seduction induced a man to create an entirely new church so that he could marry her, and who was then accused of witchcraft (which may or may not have been true, but it was certainly convenient that her witchery was discovered when her husband wanted to marry her cousin), and who ended up getting her head lopped off, but not before giving birth to probably the most famous ruler England has ever had. I can't imagine there are going to be a lot of overlaps, but listen: no one loves a soap opera more than I do, so if Betty ends up in the Tower after allegedly nailing her gay brother to produce a male heir, I will be pleasantly surprised.