“Ugly Betty,” just like its title character, has had to prove itself over and over since its debut in 2006. Viewed as breakout hit in its first season, the show has since suffered at the hands of critics, sagging ratings and a disastrous move to the fabled Friday night death slot.
Silvio Horta, “Ugly Betty’s” executive producer, will be the first to admit the show has had growing pains. Cuban-American Horta grew up watching Spanish-language telenovelas, such as “Betty la Fea,” the show “Ugly Betty” was adapted from. After penning the screenplay for the box office hit, “Urban Legend,” he moved into TV with the brilliant, but canceled series, “The Chronicle” on the then Sci-Fi network, and UPN’s “Jake 2.0.”
This week, “Ugly Betty” gets another chance to recapture its audience as part of ABC’s primetime comedy block on Wednesday nights. We spoke to Horta about the challenges the show has faced and his game plan going forward.
Why do you think the audience didn’t follow the show to Friday nights?
Friday nights are just a tough night. The average age of our viewer is not home watching TV on a Friday night. The shows that do well just appeal to an older audience, which is not us, I think. ABC took a gamble. They knew that the show had a strong, loyal core and that they would follow them there, but it didn’t happen unfortunately. I’m very happy and grateful that they saw a slot and an opportunity to move us somewhere else and give us a shot to hopefully improve.
When ABC started doling out cancellations, the fans really pressured the network to move “Ugly Betty” into “Eastwick’s” spot on Wednesdays. How surprising was their support?
It’s nice that there are fans that care and feel passionate about it. Hopefully, they’ll be tuning in. Hopefully, we’ll do well and this will give us an opportunity to go a fifth year, which we all want and we’ll all be really excited to have. It’s still uncertain. The future is still a little murky. We’ll have to see how we deal with the next few weeks.
What’s your game plan going forward?
We’ve been strong. We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback, which I think is part of the reason ABC made the move. Going forward in this new timeslot, the idea is how do we reengage the viewers that have left over time and get them back, show them the show is strong and it’s good, and how do we get new people. It can be a very serialized show. How do we do episodes that are a little more stand-alone, so someone can tune in without having seen the past season. That’s what we’re sort of juggling now.
The critics have been harsh on the show, since season one. What are your thoughts on their criticism?
There’s always a narrative that’s created and seems to be very consistent with a lot of shows, especially shows that break out in the first season. It’s very difficult for a show to continually live up to these great expectations. I think we had a slump and I’d be the first to admit it. I read the reports and the articles and I always thought it was a really good show. I think we did some not-so-great episodes the first season. I read articles now and it’s like, oh it was this perfect season of TV. There were some clunkers.
In the past couple seasons, it’s been put out there that oh, it’s on the decline or it’s not so great episodes, we’ve done some really great episodes. I don’t think it has been as perfect as they made it out to be or as horrible that it has been made out to be. I think we’ve had just normal ups and downs. Fortunately, right now, we’re creatively being seen on an up, which is nice and I do feel that way, too. I hope the good will from the media continues. It definitely has an impact, as well, on perception within the network.
Recently, you brought Neal Bledsoe on to play Claire Meade’s abandoned son. We can see this, once again, complicating Daniel’s life. And now that “Eastwick” is cancelled, will Rebecca Romijn return to make the situation even more complicated?
Right now, there are no plans to have Rebecca come back. We’d love to have her back. I think she’s great and obviously part of the show. There are no plans for the immediate future. The son has been set up and he will definitely come back.
When will Betty’s makeover be complete with her braces coming off?
Definitely her braces are gonna come off very soon, regardless if this is going to be the last season or the next to the last season, that’s going to happen.
Many fans seem convinced that the show is moving toward “Detty,” a Daniel-Betty hook up. Does her recent makeover and the braces coming off bring us closer to that?
As far as the Daniel-Betty hook up, everything is considered.
You spoke with The Advocate in depth about Justin’s coming out process. Currently, Justin is in denial that he’s gay. Will he come out this season?
I think there’s going to be a lot of stuff happening toward the end of the season.
“Ugly Betty” moves to Wednesdays this week on Jan. 6 at 10pm E/P on ABC.
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