Mitch Haddad, ABC
Henry (Christopher Gorham) proposes to Betty (America Ferrera).

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It's not giving anything away to tell you that Betty Suarez and Henry Grubstick are not going to ride off into the sunset together this season on "Ugly Betty."

You may recall that last season ended with a romantic cliffhanger for Betty (America Ferrera). Not only did Gio (Freddy Rodriguez) ask her to go to Italy with him, but Henry (Christopher Gorham) suddenly proposed.

Well, we know that Betty won't be accepting that proposal. Gorham has signed on as one of the leads in the CBS midseason series "Harper's Island," which means he's not going to be available to be on "Ugly Betty" even if the producers of that show wanted him.

(And that's why it's not giving anything away to tell you that Henry and Betty aren't going to live happily ever after.)

But, according to "Ugly Betty" executive producer Silvio Horta, this wasn't a case of Gorham jumping to another show. It was more that "Betty" had reached the end of Henry's storyline.

Horta said the end of the Betty-and-Henry storyline came because the writers felt they were "rushing" Betty into a long-term romance.

"We had no end point in sight. And thinking about it and where we could go, I just didn't see where there was a place that was exciting that I wanted to write about and where I thought the audience wanted to watch it," Horta said. "So it just made the most sense to part ways."

It wasn't because of any unhappiness with Gorham or Gorham's reluctance to move from Los Angeles to New York, where the "Ugly Betty" production has shifted for the upcoming season.

"It doesn't mean that the door is closed to him being a part of this at any point. But it just felt like it was time to move on," said Horta, who declined to comment on whether Henry shows up at all in the upcoming season.

The shift is also part of Horta's plan to try to make the show what it was originally supposed to be.

"I think we started to veer a little too much into the romantic storyline, where it started to really become the show," Horta said. "And it started to just get away from what I originally wanted to do and where we originally started, which was about a girl making it in the city and her work life.

"So we're trying to refocus that back."

In other words, "Ugly Betty" began as a smart but appearance-challenged young woman who was fighting to build a career in the cutthroat world of magazine publishing. But, over time, her job had taken a backseat to her love life in the storytelling.

(And, while we haven't seen anything of the new season yet, it sounds like this refocusing is the smart thing to do.)

So ... don't be surprised if Betty doesn't end up in a longterm romance with Gio, either. (Reportedly, Rodriguez has a busy film schedule and won't be available to do many episodes of "Betty.")

And even though Val Emmich is coming aboard as another romantic interest for Betty, his character probably won't end up walking down the aisle with Betty. At least not anytime soon.

CHECKING INTO THE "ER": In its 15th and final season, "ER" will turn into something of a family affair.

Angela Bassett, who is joining the cast as the new head of the emergency department, will be joined by her husband, Courtney B. Vance.

Vance, who spent five seasons on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," will be doing a multiepisode arc as Russell Banfield, the husband of Dr. Cate Banfield (Bassett).

No hints about the plotline were released — just that this is the first time the husband-and-wife actors have acted together.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com