Ugly Betty

Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC. Nine episodes into the first season.

Where to start with Ugly Betty? The Americanized telanovela about an unglamorous assistant at a hyperglamorous magazine is a tangle of contradictions. It’s both frivolous and sincere, farcically broad one moment and surprisingly delicate the next, cheerfully divorced from reality and then ready to examine issues of class, for example, that most purportedly “serious” dramas don’t touch. To focus solely on Ugly Betty’s charming silliness would belie its depth, but to concentrate on its heavier, more provocative elements would also misrepresent the show.

That weird, contradictory chemistry of goofy camp and earnest thoughtfulness is what makes Ugly Betty so interesting. It doesn’t always work—sometimes a scene tilts too far in one direction or the other—but when it does work, Ugly Betty contradicts its own name.