Are you one of the many viewers who deserted Ugly Betty now that it’s been moved to Friday nights?
If so, it’s time to come back, at least for "Back Seat Betty," this week’s remarkable episode.
No, Justin, Betty’s 14-year-old nephew who’s pinged more than a few gaydars, doesn’t come out now that he’s in high school. But the show seems to be on the verge of doing something even more interesting with the character
Just to be clear: Justin doesn’t have that much screen-time in Friday’s episode, and you may think his storyline is getting short-shrift.
But just wait until the end.
The show manages to do something truly extraordinary, tying together a number of different storylines with Justin at the dead center.
It is also clearly setting the character up for what could to be a remarkable, unprecedented teenage journey.
Here are three things I think are great about Friday’s episode, and the show in general:
First, the bond between Marc and Justin is strengthened, but not in an expected way.
The character of Marc (Michael Urie) began Ugly Betty as Wilhelmina’s catty, quippy assistant. Since then, he’s deepened in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible. Along the way, he’s developed a conscience — and done something truly subversive in the world of television: he’s befriended a young, possibly gay teenager.
Think about this: an adult gay man has become a mentor for a young man who may very well also be gay. And he’s done it with the full approval of both Justin’s aunt Betty and his mother Hilda.
I don’t think such an inter-generational storyline between two "gay" non-relatives has ever been attempted on scripted television. And I love that the show portrays their friendship not as something in any way questionable, but instead, something to be encouraged.
Second, this episode spells out exactly why Hilda has long been so supportive of Justin and has always encouraged him to be exactly who is he, whoever he is.
The close relationship between Justin and Hilda has long been one of my favorite parts of this show. Hilda is not the mother I had, but by God, she’s the one I wish I’d had!
This episode shows their relationship deepening in a way that I found truly touching.
And yet, Hilda isn’t the type of person who you’d necessarily think would be a crusader for gay rights. So why is she the way she is? In this episode, we learn the reason — and it turns out to be one of those perfect answers that is screamingly obvious in retrospect.
Finally, Justin does answer the question, "Are you gay?" and it is — and isn’t — the answer you think.
Watch closely at the end of the episode: Marc’s reaction is pitch-perfect. Better still, I’m dying to know exactly where the show goes with this.
But I’ve said too much already. Watch the episode yourself and see what happens.
(And if all of the above is not enough to get you to tune in, Betty also has a hot new "bad boy" would-be boyfriend!)
I truly think Ugly Betty is currently the best, most under-rated show on television and encourage you to start watching.
Ugly Betty airs Friday night on ABC at 9 PM.