[16 June 2010]
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)
We must have been having an awful lot of fun. Where did the time go?
Jane Leeves, the lovably loopy Daphne from “Frasier,” is 49. Valerie Bertinelli, the adorable younger sister from “One Day at a Time,” is 50. Wendie Malick, the boozy fashion editor and former supermodel in “Just Shoot Me,” turns 60 in December. And Betty White — well, she’s always been pretty old, but now she’s 88.
The quartet comes to TV Land in the network’s first original scripted program, “Hot in Cleveland” (premiering at 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday), bringing 156 years of TV acting experience with them. It’s not wasted. The sitcom is funny and fresh, and the actors appear to be having the time of their lives.
In most worlds, the younger trio would be considered in their prime. But, alas, this is showbiz, so they are notably long in the tooth, though just a shade younger than the actresses who starred in “The Golden Girls” when it premiered in 1985.
“Hot in Cleveland,” with “Will & Grace’s” Sean Hayes as an executive producer and “Frasier’s” Susan Harris as show-runner, is structurally similar to that beloved classic, one of the many that have been buttering TV Land’s bread for years. The network has been promoting the dickens out of its new toy, but there’s no need to go too far afield as you seek to join other cable channels that have found real gold slotting originals with their reruns.
The show features three women of a certain age and one certifably old coot who has earned the right to speak plainly to them. No silver-haired retirees this time around, however. Ripping a page from Bertinelli’s character’s book, “200 Things Every Woman Should Do,” these semi-glamorous L.A. best friends are off to Paris on a whim.
But their plane is forced into an emergency landing in Cleveland. “I’m too young to die,” hollers Malick’s Victoria Chase, as the plane shudders. “Nice to still be too young for something,” she mutters as an afterthought.
Our heroines wind up in a bar, at first dismayed by the down-market atmosphere and clientele. Spago, this isn’t.
“I Googled ‘Cleveland’ and ‘get hammered,’ and this is what came up,” says Victoria, who’s constantly poking her BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm Pixi Plus or whatever it is, to see if her agent has found her anything new after 27 years of playing Honor St. Raven, and, occasionally, her evil alter egos, Silver and Magnolia St. Raven, on the iconic, but just-canceled “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Eventually, he comes through with an audition for a “Transformers” sequel, but Victoria’s pretty sure she doesn’t want to play Megan Fox’s grandmother.
As they get acclimated to the bar’s bad lighting, what to their wondering eyes should appear than men who look at, and not through, them, and an entire establishment full of people who see nothing of note in women ordering cheese fries and “not light” beer.
A gal could get to love this, even one played by a Jenny Craig spokeswoman who has lost nearly 50 pounds, so Bertinelli’s Melanie Moretti decides to stay in Cleveland and rent a house. After all, it’s a monthly lease, and the rent is about the same as the cost of one night at a fancy Paris hotel.
A fancy Paris hotel comes with a concierge. Melanie’s manse has a caretaker. “I’ve been caretaker of this place for 50 years, but you can kick me out,” says Elka Ostrovsky. She’s played by Betty White, and even if she weren’t the hottest actress on TV, you’d still be disinclined to fire her because she’s just so cute and cantankerous.
Victoria and Leeves’ character, eyebrow-archer-to-the-stars Joy Scroggs, are reluctant to join their friend at first, but after some discussion, it appears that all four will be in town for the duration, which so far is 10 episodes, getting to know the Terminal Tower, Great Lakes Science Center and maybe even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They’ll also meet some of the denizens of a city that “The Drew Carey” Show demonstrated years ago were very down-to-earth. This time, they’ll be played by such starry TV Land favorites as Carl Reiner, Susan Lucci, Juliette Mills and Hal Linden.
Just because you’ve got a brand-new show set in the wilds of the Fly-Over, there’s no need to have things be too unfamiliar.