Will "Ugly Betty's" move from the Friday-night dead zone to Wednesdays be enough to save what was
ABC announced Wednesday that the sassy comedy starring America Ferrera will air Wednesdays at 10, replacing the ill-fated "Eastwick," beginning Jan. 6. The network knocked the show from its coveted Thursday-night perch and switched it to Friday nights last season after steady viewership declines. Since the shift to Fridays, its ratings have plummeted -- falling by an additional 46%, according to a new study by Horizon Media.
Viewers began retreating when the show tweaked its tone in the middle of Season 2 to deflate some of the overblown plots. Series creator Silvio Horta later told The Times that he felt the show's signature outrageousness had gotten out of control -- right around the time Betty was talking to a ghost in a fridge -- and decided the stories needed to be "a little more grounded" and "a little more relatable." The audience has been dwindling ever since.
The most recent episode of "Betty" -- which wrapped up major plot lines revolving around Betty's boss Daniel joining a Scientology-esque cult and her nemesis Wilhelmina's demonic daughter -- hit a series low point, drawing just 3.26 million viewers.
Horta said Wednesday that he's thankful for the new night. "Whatever happens, I'm just grateful to ABC for not just letting 'Ugly Betty' die there," he said. "Fridays nearly killed us."
He has every reason to hope for an uptick too: Wednesdays give the Emmy-winning show a strong lead-in with the hit comedy "Cougar Town," and some TV bloggers have been rallying behind what they've deemed a creative comeback this season, which has seen Betty undergo a makeover and become an editor at Mode magazine.
Caryn Ganz, a writer for New York magazine's culture blog Vulture, wrote two weeks ago that the show had "hit its stride again" and that producers had delivered "a perfect episode of 'Ugly Betty' " with "just the right balance of slaps and smiles: physical comedy, intriguing plot twists, Big Issues, topical humor, and real emotional moments." Entertainment Weekly blogger Tanner Stransky in a Sunday blog item titled “10 genius lines from Friday night’s great episode” declared that the show is "getting better and better."
"The show has been in really good shape creatively," Horta said.
He hasn't yet thought about the flexibility the 10 p.m. hour might afford the show, which became a sensation in the more creatively conservative 8 p.m. time slot. "This week's episode is pretty racy, and maybe we will be able to take more chances and tell more jokes," he said. "But I don't think it's fundamentally going to change. It will always be a nice, warm mixture of funny and heart."
Horta said the series still faces a battle. Its biggest obstacle will be drawing viewers back to its heavily serialized story lines. "The audience is going to have to find the show all over again," Horta said.