'Hot in Cleveland' premiere review: Hot enough for you to come back again next week?

Hot in Cleveland shouldn’t have been tucked away at 10 p.m. to make its premiere: This playfully naughty throwback starring Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, and Betty White is the kind of thing a network would program at 8 p.m. nowadays. That is, if networks had any use for women stars over the age of 40. Which was the point of this show, debuting on the home of fond dreams, cable’s TV Land, after a slew of Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.

If you bought the premise — three Los Angeles gals stranded in Cleveland find that they like the place, because they can eat junk food without guilt and there’s not a working-class lug in sight who knows the meaning of “manscaping” — then you bought this show.

The jokes were wan, but the performances were plucky. If Bertinelli seemed stifled as the show’s good-girl, Malick made the most of her florid aging soap-star persona, and Leeves left Frasier‘s Daphne behind as a man-hungry woman who yelped yearningly, “I haven’t felt like a piece of meat in so long!”

Cleveland‘s chief weapon was Betty White as the caretaker of the house Bertinelli ends up leasing. From her instant characterization of the others as “prostitutes” to the not-immortal punchline, “Escaping from the Nazis was the least of my problems,” White wrung her laughs from her timing and intonation.

The half-hour put so little pressure on the attention-span that one had time to ponder various items flitting across the screen:

• The raucous laughter from unseen mouths; the house set that looked like an unfurnished version of the Bea Arthur Maude home, or Bertinelli’s One Day At A Time apartment — it was all like a tutorial in how they used to build ’70s/’80s sitcoms.

• Do you think Leeves put it into her contract that she gets to show a lot of her legs in every episode? Because there was some strenuous gam-promotion going on there…

• The unheralded presence of John Schneider as Bertinelli’s flirt-interest was so unheralded that it took me a minute to register that this wasn’t a Schneider impersonator, but was indeed the charming fellow himself.

My guess is that Hot in Cleveland will do pretty well for TV Land’s ratings while it’s still a novelty. But I also think the network has miscalculated its target audience. The current Betty White groundswell was built by 20-somethings who think it’s cool to love one senior citizen in show-biz and refer to her as “legendary.” This is not the case among the 40-something TV Land demo, which had little to do with the Facebook phenomenon that got White her SNL gig. To TV Land’s core audience, White is the clever woman who was married to Allen Ludden, brightened Password, starred in TV Land classics such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, and is now getting the sort of renewed career boost many 40- and 50-somethings wish they were getting in their own careers. Furthermore, TV Land viewers probably feel as much fondness for Valerie Bertinelli or Jane Leeds as they do for White, since One Day At A Time and Frasier are as familiar and comforting to them as White’s shows.

In short, it would be a mistake to beef up White’s role simply because she’s currently on a roll. (She originally signed on for a only a limited number of episodes, but clearly the network and producers want her onscreen as much as possible.) The TV Land generation will latch onto this series more firmly only to the extent that Hot in Cleveland builds its own unique ensemble of lovably irascible characters, with White an integral part of the ensemble.

So, you tried Cleveland once. Will you be returning for a second week?

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Comments (211 total) Add your comment
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  • Bill

    I’ll give it another try. I thought it was funny.

    • Louis Burns

      I LOVED it! I thought i was a GREAT show and that all the cast was superb. I will definitely be a HUGE fan of this show.

    • Mothra

      Didn’t seem to be on in Canada. And isn’t her name Jane Leeves?

      • Cindy S.

        You’re right, Mothra. The correct name for the actress is Jane Leeves. I watched and enjoyed this show. Betty White’s always a joy to watch.

      • Kylie

        I live in Canada too but I just watched it online. TV Land Canada doesn’t carry the show.

  • Dee Dee

    I loved these ladies and the dialog. I’ve got my DVR set to record every week. John Schneider is a real plus – still HOT! Looks promising to me.

    • wino

      same here. loved those three together and their chemistry. i’ll be back next week. it has promise.

    • Mimi

      I agree. Betty White is a hoot. and the rest of the cast is fabulous. Can’t wait for nest week but please TVLand move it up, need more laughs in the early evening.

      • downtown diva

        I enjoyed the lines and the cast though I didn’t recognize John Schneider– I wasn’t a Dukes of Hazzard fan. I’ll probably watch at least a few more episodes.

  • bunker

    I liked it. It definitely showed promise.

    • gregk

      Decent show but hate the laugh track. Not that many bad Cleveland jokes, thankfully (my old hometown), but still plenty of fodder left.

      • Me

        I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that’s a laugh track. Before it started, there was a Betty White voiceover proclaiming filming in front of a live studio audience. Throwback, indeed!

  • AlexG

    I really enjoyed it. I love the whole cast! I look forward to watch it every week.

  • MaryUtah

    Thought it was cute. I like all of the actresses and think it has potential. I’ll definitely give time to pull me in or drop me off on the curb :)

  • kin in ky

    Malick basically seemed to play another version of Nina van Horn

    • billy Bill

      … and the problem with that is—-? Malick was hilarious as Nina Van Horn.

      • amj

        I absolutely agree!

      • Allison

        Nina was my favorite character on “Just Shoot Me.” Really the only reason I would watch it.

      • Jane

        just meaning she’s a one-trick pony, that’s all, not a real complaint, just a comment.

      • two roles don’t make a one trick pony.

    • Andrew

      I agree with you. I think they should have taken a cue from Golden Girls and have the actresses play against type(as White was cast as the Sue Ann Niven role of Blanch and Rue was to play Rose). I would love to see Jane play Wendy’s role and let Wendy try out a different character type.

  • Stacie

    I am definetly going to watch again. I laughed a couple times and during the summer when there are only a few shows out there, this one is definetly worth watching. The 3 ladies have a great rapport. Leeves, Malick and Bertanelli are very believeable as friends. And what can you say about Betty White. She’s just fantastic. I agree that it shouldn’t be on at 10pm but either way it’s off to a pretty decent start.

  • hyoll

    funny! I will be back

  • sam

    I thought it was very funny. A Nice summer show and Betty is a great benefit.

    • tina

      I agree, good summer show and I’m curious as to how the plot will play out. But i have to say, I’m not buying any of them giving up Paris for Cleveland. Maybe on the way back Paris!

      • DivaSoulSista

        I’m from Cleveland …. I’d choose Paris.

  • Jackie

    DVR totally set to record next week! Funny and very enjoyable!

  • Rich

    where’s Betty White there’s laugh beyond belief! =)

    • stephanie

      Agreed! Betty White had me in stitches..and btw EW, I a 20-something (though barely) and I was a part of the Facebook thing and I came to watch the show. MORE BETTY WHITE!

      • ann

        why all the can laughter??? it was disturbing

      • Tracy

        @ann–they said in the beginning of the show that it was filmed in front of a live studio audience.

  • gina

    Thought the show was hilarious! These 4 ladies have great comic timing & were so funny :) Can’t wait see the next show.

  • debbie

    i enjoyed it. ill be back next week.

  • Scott

    Very enjoyable and very much like a beloved ’70s sitcom in re-runs. A perfect fit for TVLand’s first original series. A shame CBS, NBC, & ABC let it pass by; it’s so reminiscent of the sitcoms that used to make the networks worth watching. A special bravo to Betty, Bertinelli & John Schneider (the latter should be a regular–he looks better and is far more charming than he ever was on the “Dukes”. Can’t wait for Carl Reiner to join the cast!

    • Josh

      Schneider was also great for the 5 years or so he was on Smallville.

  • EL McGuire

    I LOVED IT. The ladies sparkled and it could easily be a longer sitcom. Nice to have Betty White and the rest of them back. Good Vibes. Will definitely watch again

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