Ah, Ugly Betty. You're gone but will never be forgotten.
The adaptation of the wildly successful Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, La Fea, ABC's much-discussed one-hour comedy (executive produced by Salma Hayek, with America Ferrera playing the titular role) arrived in the United States back in 2006 with a lot of hype and very high expectations. It didn't disappoint: the show is riotously funny, big-hearted and winsome, all messy and self-deprecating charm.
One-part brutal satire of the magazine world and one-part dramedy about a tight-knit Latino family living in Queens, Betty had the surrealist humor of Desperate Housewives with a candy-colored aesthetic and addictively soapy storylines. Following Betty Suarez's foray into the fashion industry as she accepts a role as the assistant to Daniel Meade, the womanizing editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. But both Betty and Daniel are perpetually under attack from the magazine's creative director, Wilhelmina Slater (a vicious Vanessa Williams, playing an Anna Wintour-cum-Tyra Banks supervixen editrix), and her hilarious lackies — Marc St. James (Michael Urie) and Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton).
The show takes some unexpected turns, but the most unexpected piece of Ugly Betty was that ABC gave it a full four-season run; it's probably a testament to the network's belief in the show that they made it that far, as initially strong viewership waned during the third season and all but disappeared by the time it was finally canceled.
As a rare show to actually feature a largely Hispanic cast, its cultural impact was powerful — but more than that, it's developed a cult following in the years since its cancellation in 2010 due to how irresistibly likable it is. It may not have always been amazing, but even watching it now, Ugly Betty feels like a security blanket: Warm and comforting.
And fortunately, it's streaming on Netflix. Watch it now.
Sam Lansky is a writer and editor from New York City.
Photo courtesy of ABC