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Published: Friday, 6/11/2010

Betty White and crew are 'Hot in Cleveland'

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

Basic-cable sitcoms — think: TBS's ‘Bill Engvall Show' and ‘House of Payne' and Lifetime's ‘Rita Rocks' and ‘Sheri' — have yet to really catch on in any culturally significant way.

On paper, TV Land's ‘Hot in Cleveland' (10 p.m. Wednesday) seems unlikely to fare much better, but it is funnier and more likable than its predecessors.

That's due in large part to its all-star cast of actresses from sitcoms past: Valerie Bertinelli (‘One Day at a Time'), Jane Leeves (‘Frasier'), Wendie Malick (‘Just Shoot Me') and the uber-popular Betty White (‘The Golden Girls'). They make ‘Hot in Cleveland' an entertaining diversion.

The show is unlikely to win Emmys, but it is worth a few chuckles, spurred on by actresses in an age bracket not generally associated with leading roles on network sitcoms.

Written by Suzanne Martin (‘Hot Properties,' ‘Frasier'), ‘Hot in Cleveland' is about friendship among women who are not quite over the hill, but they're not spring chickens either. White hit it big with ‘The Golden Girls,' which makes the three women in the leads of this show not quite ‘The Silver Girls.'

‘The Bronze Girls,' perhaps?

The series begins as Victora (Malick), Joy (Leeves), and Melanie (Bertinelli) head to Paris from their Los Angeles home base on a girls' vacation.

Victoria is the vain former soap star, Joy is the effi cient businessman, and Melanie is the author who's recovering from a divorce. Just about every joke in the show is age-based, aimed right at the TV Land target demo of viewers in their 40s.

“She's half my age!” Melanie cries when she learns her ex-husband has a new fiancee.

“Well, darling, that really isn't that young,” Victoria says.

“My fake age,” Melanie retorts.

“Oh my God, she's a child!” Victoria says, scandalized.

When their plane makes an emergency landing, the women find themselves on a layover in Cleveland, which at first horrifies them until they visit a bar and discover that while they may not get much attention from men anymore in Los Angeles, they are considered hot in Cleveland.

“I feel young and hot, like they're undressing me with their eyes and not finding Spanx,” Joy says. “I haven't felt like a piece of meat in so long.”

A little of this humor goes a long way, and it remains to be seen if ‘Hot in Cleveland' can sustain its premise once it inevitably exhausts its litany of older-women jokes.

The trio decide to spend their vacation in Cleveland as Melanie rents a house that comes with a caretaker, Olga (White), whose purpose is to be the sassy old lady who does things old ladies are not expected to do (lives in the vicinity of pot smoke, talks out of turn, etc.).

But because she's Betty White, a national treasure with perfect comic timing, viewers will laugh because it would be wholly un-American not to offer a charitable guffaw.

Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is TV editor of the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com



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