This afternoon, the cast received notification that it’s the last season for Ugly Betty — and that ABC has cut its order by two episodes for this season and the show will now wrap at the end of March. This sad news comes after ABC twice moved Ugly Betty‘s time slot. The one-time award-winning hit show had been Thursdays at 8 PM, but then switched to the “Friday night death slot” of 9 PM during this 4th season, then settled into Wednesdays at 10 PM in the former Eastwick spot. As an insider told me at the time, “We’ve been getting great reviews for the season but horrible ratings, and hopefully we’ve got a shot at lasting one more season with the move.” Instead, ABC pulled the plug today and even pulled it early — though the network hinted at a fan-satisfying big finale.
But the show will be remembered for more than just a fashion storyline, or a remake of a Colombian telenovela. Instead, Ugly Betty’s 2008 move from LA to Gotham for New York’s tax breaks prompted the California state legislature to finally offer $500 million in new tax credits to help stop runaway showbiz production. Even though the first credits aren’t applicable until 2011, applications are already flying out the door. That’s because the so-called Ugly Betty law aimed at big movie productions with budgets up to $75 million, new TV series willing to relocate to California, and independent films with budgets up to $10 million. The credit, for up to 25% of production budgets spent in the state, is capped at $100 million a year. This, combined with the Los Angeles City Council’s new business tax breaks, could persuade Hollywood to start filming close to home again. (But, more likely and more cynically, the studios and networks will pit states and their financial inducements against one other.)