Ugly Betty is one of the biggest television hits in the U.S., but it’s going to have a tougher time gaining acceptance in Colombia, which, ironically, gave birth to the show’s inspiration, Yo Soy Betty La Fea.

Ugly Betty has just begun airing in Latin America, but Colombians are apparently not so eager to tune in to the Emmy Award-nominated comedy series, as they feel the show is a pale imitation and counterfeit of the original.

“Watching the gringo version would be like reading [Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s] 100 Years of Solitude in English,” Fabian Sanabria, an anthropologist at the Universidad Nacional who studies television, said. “It makes no sense.”

Executives at Sony Entertainment Television, which operates a Latin American cable channel that reaches more than 17 million viewers, disagree with Sanabria.

“Even though everybody in Latin America knows the story from Betty la Fea, I think Ugly Betty brings something different,” Carolina Padula, a chief programmer for Sony, said.  “It’s an adaptation and a very successful one.”

For those who have watched both Ugly Betty and its Colombian counterpart, the differences between the shows should be apparent.  Whereas the original Betty worked at design shop, the U.S. version, played by Emmy winner America Ferrera, is employed as an assistant at a fashion magazine.

The way the shows are presented are also distinct, with Betty La Fea airing as a soap opera with daily cliffhangers, and Ugly Betty airing as a weekly comedy, sometimes ending with cliffhangers, other times not.

Despite what has been said about the show, Padula is confident that Ugly Betty, which debuted across Latin America early last month, will become a hit for her network as well.

“The show has a lot of attitude, a sense of humor and high quality,” she said.  “It portrays, in a very positive way, Latin American culture.  It sets aside stereotypes, in a very positive way.  It has a lot of differences from the original Betty la Fea, but it still keeps faith with the original version.”

Nevertheless, some Colombians remain unconvinced.

“This series could be a moderate success around the rest of Latin America, or it could even be as successful as The Sopranos or 24,” Omar Rincon, the TV critic at Bogota’s El Tiempo newspaper, said.  “But in Colombia, no one will watch it.”

-Lisa Claustro, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Source: McClatchy Newspapers  
(Image Courtesy of ABC)


Staff Columnist, BuddyTV