Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ugly Betty

AOG, Madrid


Television in Spain is quite bad. There are reasons why this is, but I won't go into them right now. Lets just say that 'the cheaper the better' goes a long way here. Why invest in quality programming when they'll buy whatever you make on the cheap?

Local programming extends mostly to what is known as "
prensa del corazón" (literally, press of the heart - meaning A, B, C, D and E- list celebrities, their lives and loves and those of their maids, cooks, body guards &c.) or "prensa rosa" (pink press, and no, no gay connotations), and some Spanish-produced sitcoms and tv series of various degrees of quality.

Oh, yes, and game-shows which tend to give out good prices and usually loads of money.


Cultural programs in Spain, something everyone I know wishes there were more of- are ubiquitous because of their almost complete absence, though , of course, there are exceptions. Children's programs are also quite good though Saturday mornings are not wall-to-wall cartoons and zany contests.

Serious news programs à la 20/20 or similar, however, are top-notch. A very good example of this is Informe Semanal. Very very good. But not very many of them as a whole.

I find it odd that this country can produce such good informative shows and at the same time it feeds its housewives (for they are the main audience for the 'press of the heart') absolute drivel.


When I moved to Madrid, I installed a Digital Television decoder. Here too Spanish television often lets me down.

Some channels show Mexican and Latin American programming (mostly soaps) and others show sport. I also watch Sony television, which emits in dual-band.

This means I can switch (something I never do) between English and dubbed-into-Spanish dialogue. It shows old sitcoms like 'Mad about you', 'Will and Grace' and things like 'Providence', which I don't watch.

Unfortunately most of these channels are very dependent on the most God-awful info-mertial and 'quick-buck' endless shows. The kind where you play hangman and people call in continuously until all possible options are exhausted. Call and win! they say. I don't know if people win, I never tune in for that long.


This means two things, one, I buy a lot of DVDs: comedy shows, series and movies, mostly US and British stuff. And two, whenever Spanish television shows an American show, I am glued to the screen. Just like in back in the UK, another country with bad television- though to their credit, not as bad.

Yes, great comedy, yes. The British do great comedy. But guess what? they also produce a lot of bad and uninspiring stuff. And I remember watching mostly Channel 4 there because it showed mostly US-made programs.


But back to Spain.
Since last year I've been hooked on Medium, Nip/Tuck and Desperate Housewives. I have not been able to get into House (mostly because it is only broadcast dubbed into Spanish), Queer as Folk US version (ditto on the reasons why not), or Lost, wich I find exasperating. Sorry fans.

The newest addition? Ugly Betty.

Watch this clip if interested-



It is a sort of toned down Ab Fab meets You can't do that on television. Too much fantasy stuff goes on to compare it to the Colombian original (though much better than Spain's version of that soap). It is glamorous, and also innocent.

However, although it portrays very obviously gay characters homosexuality seems to be taboo. In a fash-mag. Can you believe it?

It also stars, unfortunately, this Australian actor who starred in the ozzy soap Neighbours for ages. as Mr. Mead, owner of the magazine.

He only has one emotion, and one look. He does have, however, a deep voice and provided he does not speak for long, or not at all, can be believable as a multimillionaire magazine owner who's just lost his lover (...or has he?).


It also stars Vanessa Williams who is really the best actress in the show. She aims for comedy, but is in fact much too good a serious actress to let herself go. And you have to love her for it.

And Salma Hayek, who somehow manages to play herself (as well as produce the show) all through the show. I have to say though, she, like Julia Roberts, is very good at being herself, so no harm done.

So, with Betty in tow, I start this Summer 2008.

1 comment:

Timbo said...

Ugly Betty...mmmm..that's so last year...or year before!! The big thing on the tube right now is a little thing called "I Survived a Japanese Game Show." Maybe y'all will get it in 2012?