Hot in Cleveland -- TV Review

"Hot in Cleveland"
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Even without Betty White in a guest role, it would be hard to see "Hot in Cleveland," TV Land's first original sitcom, as more than an update of classic sitcom "The Golden Girls."

Like White's former series, this one also is about three good women friends of a certain age who live together but have their own distinct outlook on life, love and, especially, growing older. And just like "Golden Girls," "Cleveland" can boast a dream cast of skilled and veteran performers: Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli.

Although the original remains the greatest (at least, based on the single "Cleveland" episode made available for review), the newer sitcom has charm, wit and actresses who could coax laughs reading the fine print of a credit card agreement.

Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by writer/executive producer Suzanne Martin is putting this series in motion. How does one get three close friends, all of them thoroughly inculcated in the Los Angeles lifestyle, to decide simultaneously to begin life anew in Cleveland?

Martin's far-fetched solution has them all flying to Paris for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Their plane inexplicably makes an emergency landing in Cleveland and, based on what they see in one bar on one night, they decide life is better along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Even Victoria Chase, Malick's fading actress who presumably would be a fish out of Lake Erie, embraces the idea.

The women are charmed by the fact that "everyone's eating and no one's ashamed." They revel in the appreciative looks they get from men who, unlike those sissy Angelenos, actually look like men and know how to fix things. Even when one of those great Cleveland guys turns out to be a two-timer, his wonderfully sincere apology somehow becomes another justification to remain there.

Even after a half-hour, nothing about the premise is any more convincing than if a character's aunts left her a house she is required to occupy or the three were deposited in Cleveland by a cyclone.

Malick is the updated version of perennial femme fatale Blanche, played by the late Rue McClanahan. Leeves plays the levelheaded one, formerly the role of Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur. Bertinelli's Melanie, a writer, is less naive and more astute than Betty White's Rose, but then, who isn't?

White is billed as a guest star in the premiere. She plays the longtime caretaker of the Cleveland house rented by the three friends. She also is the reincarnation of tart-tongued Sophia, formerly played by Estelle Getty. For that reason alone, this show won't be the same without her.

Still, there's enough wit and talent here to predict "Hot in Cleveland" will be warmly received in the rest of the country.

Airdate: 10-10:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 16 (TV Land)
Production: Hazy Mills and Sam-Jen in association with TV Land
Cast: Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, Betty White, John Schneider, Tim Bagley, Patrick Faucette, Chris Marrs, Bill Dwyer, Diane Sellers
Executive producers: Suzanne Martin, Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, Lynda Obst, Larry W. Jones, Keith Cox
Producer: Bob Heath
Director: Michael Lembeck
Writer: Suzanne Martin
Director of photography: Donald A. Morgan
Production designer: Michael Hynes
Editor: Ronald A. Volk
Music: Ron Wasserman, Emerson Swinford
Set decorator: Melinda Ritz
Casting: Collin Daniel, Brett Greenstein
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