From 1999 to 2001 the Colombian network RCN aired a certain telenovela about a homely and mundanely-dressed young woman working as a secretary for a major clothing label who nurses an unrequited love for her boss. “Yo Soy Betty la Fea” would become a hit Colombian TV export, such that other countries would eventually produce their own localized version (our own ABS-CBN offered “I Love Betty la Fea” in 2009-10. But the American adaptation, “Ugly Betty” on ABC, was big enough to gain its own following, thanks to its show-runner Silvio Horta. Tragically however, Horta has passed away this Tuesday.
USA Today has it that Silvio Horta, the Cuban-American screenwriter and producer who adapted “Yo Soy Betty la Fea” into “Ugly Betty” for US television, was found dead in January 7 at a Miami hotel room. Investigating authorities have reported the cause of his death as a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Horta was just 45 years old. The news came as such a shock to the slew of actors and producers who have worked with him, particularly on ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” that social media erupted with online sorrow.
The very star of the show that made Horta a promising name in TV production expressed shock and heartbreak over the news and circumstances of his death. America Ferrera wrote on Instagram how she and the viewers of “Ugly Betty” found joy and light due to his talent and creativity with the show, which Horta shifted from tragic melodrama to a comedy-drama series. Fererra writes, “I’m thinking of his family and loved ones who must be in so much pain right now- and of the whole Ugly Betty family who feel this loss so deeply.”
“Ugly Betty” shifted the setting of its source material from Bogota, Colombia to New York City, with Betty Pinzon being reimagined as Betty Suarez (Fererra), a braces-ridden Mexican American who lucks out with a job at “Mode” fashion magazine. Rather than pine for her womanizing boss, Betty instead become friends and allies in a high-pressure workplace, with the former counting on her supportive family and workplace allies against the mag’s scheming and ambitious creative director. Despite a solid first two seasons the ABC series suddenly plummeted in ratings for the third and fourth, leading to its cancellation after a 2006-2010 run. Fans however have rehabilitated Silvio Horta’s “Ugly Betty” into a cult classic, with talk of continuing the storyline by a big-screen film sequel that so far has never materialized.
Image courtesy of The Wrap