As we've mentioned, Ugly Betty's getting a lot less ugly these days. The main character, Betty, has been an awkward, ungroomed braceface for the duration of the show up to this point. Now, this season, the assistant-turned-associate editor will sport tweezed brows, chic glasses, and she is finally getting her trademark braces off.
Producers are unsure, however, how the makeover will be received. Apparently, major character changes are extremely risky and are often the main reason viewers lose interest in a program. Even the smallest modifications to a show can have tremendous sway on the viewership.
The first season of Betty, 11 million viewers tuned in to each episode. In contrast, only 7.4 million viewers watched each episode in the 2008-2009 season. With dwindling ratings, the updated look is intended to draw viewers back in, no doubt, but will it achieve its goal?
To answer these questions, before they making any permanent changes, ABC went through several rounds of viewer testing. Fortunately for ABC, through the use of the internet, research methods are becoming more and more cost-effective. ABC sampled about 2,000 viewers, polling them online with video clips and photos of Betty with her more fashionable look.
Betty star America Ferrera, who wears faux-braces inserts during filming, and executive producer/head writer Silvio Horta have been discussing removing Betty's braces since last season, but now that they're finally going to do it, Ferrera says that fans have stopped her on the street to ask about it, unnerved about the change. Fans have also debated the aesthetic change online. Ferrara says she thinks, "It has to be too soon," noting, however, that "medically, I don't think you can even wear braces that long."
Similar to the actress's experience, when Horta tested the more fashionable and pearly white look online, reactions were mixed. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however: Horta says, "A passionate reaction is exactly what we wanted."
Despite all the drama surrounding the change, however, the updates are still very subtle. "We wanted to take it in baby steps," ABC Entertainment Group SVP of drama, Channing Dungey said.
What's more, testing isn't always an affective barometer for the potential success of a show. The research report written before Seinfeld premiered on television read, "Overall evaluation is weak…Characters are weak and narcissistic. No one will like them." Needless to say, it was way off the mark.
What do U think of Betty's new look? Will you continue to watch?
[Image via WENN.]