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STUDIO: TV Land
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 215 minutes
- Original Full length Pilot episode
- Retired At 35 Pilot
- How’d They Get So Hot? Wardrobe on the Set
- Victoria’s Japanese “Lady Pants” commercial
- Hot in Cleveland Set Tour
- Hot in Cleveland Cast: We Love Our Age
Stick a bunch of women in a house and have them talk about relationships, men finding them attractive or not, failed marriages, and life without botox or spa treatments. Add a dash of Betty White saying things you’d never expect (or maybe you do) and you have a sitcom!
Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves
Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) and her 2 friends Victoria (Wendie Malick) and Joy (Jane Leeves) are on their way to a vacation in Paris, and are forced to stick it out in Cleveland when their plane has to make an emergency landing. There, they begin a different chapter of their lives that includes Betty White and all of her elderly outlandishness.
By now, it’s happened to all of us. We’re sitting in first class on a plane, drinking wine and toasting our independence with our friends, when all of a sudden our plane hits turbulence and we have to start a new life in Drew Carey’s favorite city. Wait, what? That’s never happened to ANYONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD? My mistake. It’s just the premise for this show, and as hard as it is to believe, that’s what happens. And how does it happen? Well, while waiting for another flight presumably days away, the 3 women visit a nearby bar and when they notice that the men in the bar are actually looking their way as opposed to the men in L.A. who don’t find them as attractive anymore, Melanie (who is recently divorced and her soon-t0-be-ex husband is already engaged to a 25 year-old) decides that it’s time to start a new life. In Cleveland. So without more than a couple days passing by she has decided to lease a Victorian home and take things month-by-month. Her friends decide to stay with her since they were going to be on vacation anyway. And it just so happens that Elka (Betty White) is the house’s caretaker and lives on the property, stopping in every now and then to say something you don’t usually hear coming out of an 88 year-old woman’s mouth (“I hate you, douchebag” is a prime example).
As you probably gathered, Elka is the main comic relief for the show. The other girls are funny, but the real knee-slappers come from Elka’s mouth. And if Betty White’s success in the past few years is anything that you’re familiar with, you’ll know why. She even just won a SAG Award for her performance, and it was definitely warranted. Her delivery is dry and her timing is great. But the slight problem with the show, and the jokes, is that they’re mostly based on sexual subjects. There are several jokes that go on a little too long, as well. Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld) does a small spot for one episode and Melanie is in his house and notices his baseball collection and remarks that she “loves his balls”, and talks about how smooth they are. It isn’t a joke that either character is in on, though. They’re dead serious but the sexual implications are as blatant to us as a mallet to the head. Another example of this is in another episode where Elka, after going on a date with Max (Carl Reiner), complains that he “doesn’t like to go downtown”. And the girls of course all laugh at this, thinking she’s referring to oral sex, but she actually genuinely means “downtown”. Then when he comes to pick her up, declaring that he’ll “go downtown if she wants him to” and saying “I hope I don’t get lost, it’s dark and scary”, you can imagine that the audience is going completely wild. It’s funny in a sense, I suppose, but the show relies on these types of jokes way too often.
The characters aren’t half bad, and the actresses work quite well together and have a lot of chemistry. But these are some veteran comedic actresses and they do more than an adequate job. The standout, besides Betty White, is definitely Valerie Bertinelli as Melanie, a writer and mother. She’s pretty hilarious at times, and even though her situation is kinda hard to believe (uproots her life on a whim to live in Cleveland), her character is definitely interesting. Wendie Malick (who in real life is surprisingly 60 years old) plays Victoria Chase, and she’s something of a daytime soap star, having been on a show for 27 years and been nominated 16 times without winning a daytime emmy, complaining about Susan Lucci (who actually does a small guest spot) all the time. She’s extremely high maintenance but not to the point of annoyance. Jane Leeves is Joy Scroggs, a beautician and the “Eyebrow Queen of Beverly Hills”. She had a son at a young age that she gave up for adoption, and in one of the episodes dates a guy who she is convinced is her son. She is so convinced by his story that she tries to steal DNA from him. It’s a pretty awkward scenario. Aside from the main characters there are some pretty good guest stars. As mentioned earlier, Carl Reiner makes several appearances as Elka’s love interest, but we also see appearances by Tim Conway, Dave Foley, Amy Yasbeck, Huey Lewis, and John Schneider.
I honestly couldn’t really muster up any hate for this show if I tried. And I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. If you’re tired of Betty White’s recent career resurgence you might hate it, but if that’s the case, shame on you; let her have some fun before she kicks the bucket. It’s laugh out loud funny at times and while yes, the sexual innuendo and reliance therein is through the roof, it’s not really a deal-breaker. I already told you that the premise is far-fetched, but it certainly doesn’t matter in the confines of a sitcom. Most of the plotlines are pretty flimsy anyway in shows like this, with no real sense of continuity from episode to episode. But the show is decent, as sitcoms go, and certainly watchable. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when you hear the words “TV Land’s first original scripted series” but it does a good job of meeting your expectations of what it should be, and that’s a fun show that isn’t high-brow in the slightest sense but it’s good for what it is. It’s even taped in front of a live studio audience, something I love. It isn’t the funniest thing on TV, but it definitely has some of the better qualities of sitcoms that have come before it. I genuinely don’t mind admitting that I added it to my DVR schedule.
There’s the full-length version of the Pilot, but other than that there aren’t a ton of special features. There are some short bloopers, which can be pretty hilarious at times considering they’re filming in front of an audience. One of the major features, however, is the pilot episode for TV Land’s new show Retired At 35. It isn’t great.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars