Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Overlooked TV: Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015)

The situation comedy HOT IN CLEVELAND aired for six seasons on the cable channel TVLand, so since we don’t have cable, I was only vaguely aware of it. But then, looking for something lightweight for us to watch, Livia bought a set of the whole series on DVD. And I’m glad she did, because we burned right through all six seasons and enjoyed it as much or more than anything we’ve seen in a good long while.

HOT IN CLEVELAND is about three friends from Los Angeles—an actor, Wendie Malick; an author, Valerie Bertinelli; and a hair and nail stylist, Jane Leeves—who are on their way to Paris for a vacation when their plane is forced to land in Cleveland. While they’re waiting to continue on to Paris, they discover that men in Cleveland find them much more attractive than men in L.A. seem to, so they decide to move there and rent a house that comes with a caretaker played by Betty White.

Yes, it’s a very flimsy premise, even for a sitcom, but the execution of it is excellent and it’s clear that everybody involved is having a great time. (You could make a good drinking game out of how many times Bertinelli almost breaks up, especially during the first couple of seasons and whenever Betty White is involved in a scene.) All the leads are very likable, and they try hard even in the most ludicrous situations. The scripts take a lot of funny and accurate shots at Hollywood, too.

What lifts HOT IN CLEVELAND to greatness where I’m concerned, though, are Betty White and a roster of guest stars like a reunion of all the greatest TV comedy talent from the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties: Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Tim Conway, Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Rhea Perlman, John Mahoney, Tim Daly, Bonnie Franklin, Pat Harrington, and some I’m bound to be forgetting, plus newer guys like Dave Foley (who is excellent as a private detective who starts out as Leeves’ boss and becomes her beau), Will Sasso, and Jon Lovitz, not to mention the great Craig Ferguson. Watching a scene where it’s just Betty White and Carol Burnett sitting on a bench talking, I turned to Livia and said, “That’s a lot of TV history sitting there.”

What I’m getting at is that, yes, HOT IN CLEVELAND is a silly, often raunchy (but never quite crude) sitcom that pushes all my nostalgia buttons. I remember watching THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, and THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW every Saturday night with Livia at her parents’ house before we got married and in the first apartment where we lived after we got married. That’s part of a very good time in my life, and I remember it with great fondness.

If HOT IN CLEVELAND doesn’t hit that same sweet spot for you, you might not like it nearly as much as I did. But I’m sure glad that in this time when life is all too grim, all too often, we found something that we could count on to make us laugh and remember better days.


wayne d. dundee said...

Agree all the way around, for all the reasons you mention. Plus -- speaking strictly for myself, having had a huge crush on Valerie Bertinelli going way back -- it was especially good to see her in a bawdier, more mature role ... And the chemistry among the four leads, no matter the flimsy framework, was truly magic.

Adventuresfantastic said...

I missed this one. I am going to have to correct that oversight.

Derrick Ferguson said...

I love this show. It's basically an update/remake of "The Golden Girls" but done with such wit, charm and style that any similarities are quickly forgotten. the cast is outstanding, the dialog fast and funny and everybody is so obviously having a good time. Great entertainment.