Wait, since when does TV Land produce their own shows? I guess this would be as good of a time as any to inform you that I don‘t have cable in my house. For one thing, I’m too cheap. But my biggest reason for not subscribing to a cable or dish network is that I have a hard enough time figuring out if I even want to watch TV or not as it is — and I would not want to transfix my brainpower on which of the three-thousand channels I would have at my fingertips to choose from for an evening of viewing.
OK, so obviously, the long overdue announcement that TV Land now broadcasts its own original programming didn’t make it to my desk. Of course, had that memo have made it to my desk, I would have simply buried it under the pile of movies that I have received in the last year or so; movies that I simply haven’t been able to make up my mind over as which ones to watch yet.
Look, I’m a bit indecisive sometimes. Don’t judge me, dammit.
Now then, if I did have cable and I did decide on which show I would want to view for an evening, I have to admit that TV Land’s first original scripted series, Hot In Cleveland, would actually make its way to my list of “Things I Actually Like” (and brother, is that a short list!). At first, I wrongfully assumed that this would be another crap-tastic sitcom in the fine tradition of ‘90s UPN programming. Nevertheless, I was determined to check it out. After all, it had both Valerie Bertinelli (One Day At A Time) and Jane Leeves (Frasier) in it — so at least I could rekindle my long-lost one-sided admiration for each of these actresses.
Turns out Hot In Cleveland was a double hit for me: I could lust after Valerie and Jane and enjoy the show at the same time! And, as it turned out, many others enjoy the show, too, seeing as how the premiere of Hot In Cleveland was TV Land’s highest-rated telecast ever.
As simple as a standard sitcom can be without turning into something as dreadful as Friends, Hot In Cleveland is a delightful comedy that begins with three Los Angeles ladies from the entertainment industry — writer Melanie (Bertinelli), beautician Joy (Leeves), and actress Victoria (Wendie Malick) — whose plane makes an emergency stop in Cleveland. Darting over to a sports bar, our heroines are shocked to discover that the men in Cleveland aren’t the pretentious group of metrosexual and gay men that they’re used to in LA. In fact, the guys in Cleveland appreciate these single ladies for the hotties that they are!
As it turns out, the girls’ current careers and/or lifestyles are in the slumps: Melanie’s going through a divorcee, Joy’s number one client (Oprah) is being “plucked by someone else,” and that damn Susan Lucci still manages to overshadow Victoria in the daytime soap limelight. And so, our trio of lovelies figure “Aw, what the hell!” and decide to lease a house in Cleveland — and inherit a cantankerous old lady named Elka (played by Betty White, naturally) as their live-in caretaker in the process. Guest stars for this season include John Schneider, Carl Reiner and Tim Conway (who fight over Elka in one memorable scene), Wayne Knight, Huey Lewis (as an aging rocker), Dave Foley and even Ms. Susan Lucci herself.
Aside from the powerful star factor here, Hot In Cleveland (which has already earned a couple of Screen Actors Guild Award nominations) struck a chord with me for its writing. Honestly, it reminded me a bit of Frasier — which is no surprise since Hot In Cleveland’s creator, Suzanne Martin, was a writer and producer on the ever-popular Cheers spin-off. Our four leads play off of each other perfectly, but it’s Betty White and Jane Leeves’ constant bickering back and forth that had me giggling like a little kid. Speaking of little kids, my duo of young adults in the making watched this series with me and also enjoyed it immensely — so it’s pretty safe for a general family environment.
My only real problem here is that this season only has ten episodes to it. Since the series started out late in the broadcast year, it’s understandable. Fortunately, all ten episodes of Hot In Cleveland: Season One are included in this 2-disc DVD along with an extended pilot episode. All episodes are shown in their original 1.78:1 widescreen ratio with English Stereo sound, and the audio/video aspects are satisfactory for a “non-mainstream” release such as this. Additional special features for Hot In Cleveland: Season One consist of several short behind-the-scenes featurettes, a blooper reel, the uncut version of “Victoria’s Japanese ‘Lady Pants’ Commercial” (you’ll just have to watch to find out, but I guarantee you will “feel as fresh as Mt. Fuji” once you see it) and the premiere episode of another TV Land sitcom, Retired At 35.
In short: Hot In Cleveland: Season One is a fun and very witty series. It’s a joy to see these four great actresses cast together. It’s an even bigger joy to see TV Land get out of the “rerun” format and make it big with a production as tremendous as this.