Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: HOT IN CLEVELAND Jan28

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Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: HOT IN CLEVELAND

It’s about time that someone figured out that the classic television sitcom is not dead!  Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, and Betty White are proving that with each and every episode of Hot in Cleveland, which just entered its second season on TV Land. So, what makes this show so great while broadcast continues to churn out duds?

Our story is about three friends, well past their prime and living in Los Angeles, who decide to pick up and move after their love lives hit the wall.  While en route to a vacation in Paris, their plane diverts to Cleveland, where they ultimately decide to stay.

One of the biggest pluses for this series is the cast.  You have four veteran sitcom actresses:

Valerie Bertinelli – her big sitcom hit came in the late 70’s and early 80’s with One Day at a Time for CBS.  She played Barbra Royer, who along with her recently divorced mother, picked up and moved to an apartment in Indianapolis.  This show lasted for 9 seasons and we saw Bertinelli grow from a teenager to a married adult.  Now, she plays Melanie Moretti, who was recently divorced, and is looking to move on with her life.

Jane Leeves – her big hit was as housekeeper Daphne on NBC’s Frasier.  She starred in all 11 seasons of the show.  She also appeared on Murphy Brown. Now, she plays Joy, the unmarried beautician.

Wendie Malick – best known as Nina Van Horn from NBC’s Just Shoot Me.  She also appeared on Frasier as his love interest and is a professional model.  She once auditioned for the role of Diane on Cheers.  Now, she plays Victoria Chase, the beaming soap opera star.

Betty White – the first lady of television.  She is probably best remembered as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, but that is just one of a zillion appearances she’s made on the small screen.  Now, she’s Elka, the eccentric and elderly caretaker of the property.

The first thing the creators of this series did right was casting these four.  At times, Malick’s performance can be a little bland, but 98% of the time they have great chemistry.  The guest stars at times are right out of the pages of a classic TV Guide as well.  John Schneider, Wayne Night, Huey Lewis, Hal Linden, Susan Lucci, Carl Reiner, and most recently Mary Tyler Moore have guest starred in various episodes,

The writing for this series is another key to the show’s success.  While still keeping the show current, the jokes are clever, without going for the traditional bathroom or dumb child humor.  Also, there are no children present in this series at all.  One trap many writers fall into, is to have the cute kid do something funny, and go for the cute laugh.  These characters do get themselves into outrageous situations, but there is thought and flow to the script.

Hot in Cleveland is also recorded in front of a live studio audience.  Again, something Hollywood has gotten away from in recent years.  They even open each show with that classic disclaimer (just like the old days when Cheers and The Cosby Show) did it.  There are a few shows that still record in front of an audience, but more and more are heading for the single camera and canned laughter format, which takes away from some of the magic.

The executives behind the show are also veteran television professionals as well.   The show is produced by Sean Hayes, who is better known as Jack McFarland from Will & Grace.  The head writer, Susan Miller, has penned scripts for Frasier and Ellen.

The ratings continue to grow with each episode.  It premiered on June 16, 2010 to 4.75 million viewers, which was a record for TV Land.  The first season consisted of ten episodes and the second season will feature twenty.  The second season launched on January 19th and that night’s rating beat the networks, scoring first place in its time slot.

If you would love a chance to sit in the live audience, check out Audience’s Unlimited website.  They post tickets 30 days before a taping.  The tapings last for 5 – 6 hours and they provide audience members with a sandwich, bottled water, and a cookie.  You can also use that site to score tickets for other Hollywood shows such as Dr. Phil, Mike & Molly, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and more… even for upcoming show test pilots!  Hot in Cleveland has finished taping for now, but keep your eye on their site for when more episodes of this hit are ordered.

I have to honestly say, it’s been a while since I’ve had a good laugh from a sitcom.  Sure, CBS and ABC have a couple of good ones on right now, but this show gives me a good gut busting laugh that the others just don’t.  I find the characters interesting, the situations they get themselves into real, and the writing superb.  It’s not stupid jokes, or canned laughter that goes off when someone turns on a light.  I really feel that many of these shows that are on the air now are just dumbed down too much.  I’d start naming shows, but the list would be too long.

For me, Betty White makes this show.  She was originally only supposed to appear in the pilot, but her character worked so well, she signed on for the full first season and then again for the second.  She has a reduced schedule, so she’s only on set when needed.  Her character Elka, is a much updated version of The Golden Girls’ Rose Nylund.  She walks in at the right time to deliver a zinger.  She also offers the cast advice and definitely gets into the dating game herself.  It was also genius to pair her with her 70’s cast mate Mary Tyler Moore for the second season premiere.

The cast and crew of the show recently threw her an 89th birthday party at Le Cirque, a trendy and popular New York restaurant.  After a full day of doing the talk show circuit, the humble White appeared at the party with cast members and other celebrities.  Justin Bieber led the crowd with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

It’s amazing to see White continue to entertain audiences.  Last week, she played Password with Jimmy Fallon and recently, she even went head to head with him in a game of beer pong.   I will always remember her as Rose on The Golden Girls, but she’s really stealing the show on Cleveland.

New episodes air on Wednesday nights at 10pm and more surprises are in store of the new season.  Vicious soap star Susan Lucci has signed on for another two episode guest stint and one character from the show will also end up in an episode of ABC’s soap, All My Children. Other celebrities that will make an appearance this season will be Jimmy Kimmel, Peri Gilpin, and John Lovitz.

If I miss an episode, it’s repeated later that night and over the next week.  They are also posted on the website for the following week.

In even better news, season one has just been released on DVD!  So, if you’ve missed this hit the first time around – now you have no excuse!  Do yourself a favor and put this one on your must watch list!

THE 411:


Where: TV Land

When: new episodes air Wednesday nights 10pm

Rating: TV-PG

Length: 30 minutes

Type: Sitcom


JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: Definitely a must see!  We only get a short 10 episode first season, but they’re back with an even better season two.  Check it out online, like I do, if you forget to watch the new broadcast.  This one is not for the kids, but is a half an hour of great writing, great acting, and just plain great laughs.  Do yourself a favor and tune in!