NBC betting on ‘Betty’

'Friends' scribe Junge could pen Stateside version of skein

NBC’s search for sitcom success knows no borders: Peacock is developing a half-hour laffer based on hugely popular Latin American sudser “Betty La Fea.”

Former “Friends” scribe Alexa Junge is the leading candidate to pen the Stateside version of the Colombian skein, which revolved around an aggressively unattractive secretary — “Ugly Betty” — who works for a fashion design company and falls in love with her ultra-handsome boss. NBC Studios is attached as a producer of the project; Junge has an overall deal with Columbia TriStar Television and Brad Grey Television.

Peacock’s script commitment to “Betty” makes Colombia’s RCN the first Latin American broadcaster to break into the U.S. market with a format sale of a scripted entertainment series. RCN inked with William Morris this summer, hiring the company to handle the sale of the “Betty” format in the U.S. (Daily Variety, July 12). Junge also is a William Morris client, repped by Ann Blanchard.

“We’re extremely excited to be able to land this hotly contested idea,” said NBC Studios prexy Ted Harbert. “This is one of the most popular TV franchises in the world, and we think it will translate into a fabulous comedy on NBC.”

Sensaysh at home

Starring Ana Maria Orozco, “Betty” was a sensation in Colombia, airing every weeknight from October 1999 through its May 2001 conclusion. Junge’s version will be a more traditional primetime comedy, perhaps with dramatic elements.

While WMA reps major Euro producers such as Endemol and the BBC in the U.S., RCN is the tenpercentery’s only Latin broadcaster client. Latin American broadcasters and producers generally make straight program sales only, though Televisa announced at the beginning of the year that it was branching out into format sales, including its novelas.

“Hopefully this deal will open the door to other broadcasters from south of the border,” William Morris veep Raul Mateu said.

In “Betty,” scribe Fernando Gaitan asked the question, “Is beauty more than skin-deep?” While novela heroines are almost unfailingly gorgeous, Betty wore braces and oversized glasses along with her frumpy wardrobe and bad hair.

And in class-conscious Latin America, she hails from a modest, middle-class family and is a brilliant economist who can’t find a job suited to her abilities.

While “Betty” was a soap opera, it had strong comic elements that could lend themselves to a sitcom.

Univision earlier this year acquired rebroadcast rights to the original “Betty” and an upcoming sequel, “Ecomoda,” now in production in Colombia.

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