Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hot in Cleveland


HOT IN CLEVELAND was a TV series I ignored for all six seasons it aired on TV Land, between 2010 and 2015. The one exception I made was for the highly publicized MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW reunion episode.


Ignoring it turned out to be a big mistake on my part. As of yesterday, I have now finished watching all 129 episodes and the series has safely ensconced itself into my all-time Top 10 favorite sitcoms list!


Why? The writing. That and the absolute fearlessness of the regular cast—Wendie Malick, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Betty White. If you’ve ever imagined what a completely uncensored sitcom might look like, this was it, and, in the great tradition of Lucy and Viv, the talented actresses had no problems whatsoever in making their characters look silly or unattractive or even—in this case—slutty and underhanded. Anything for a laugh. Literally, ANYthing for a laugh!


I wished I’d kept track of how many men these women—all four of them—slept with on the series, but then I realized that would go against the purpose of the series, which is to show that women of any and all ages are sexual beings and that their lives and desires are valid. 


There are a couple of shows that aired LIVE, there’s a fully animated episode, there are several behind-the-scenes episodes and blooper episodes. 


Loaded with in-jokes and references to classic television programs, one of the best things about HOT IN CLEVELAND is its endless parade of high-profile guest stars from classic TV. Georgia Engel and Dave Foley are semi-regulars in later seasons. Soap goddess Susan Lucci appears or is name-checked often as an exaggerated version of herself. Here’s a partial list of others that were so much fun to see again:


Carol Burnett

Mary Tyler Moore

Carl Reiner

Tim Conway

Cloris Leachman

Juliet Mills

Buck Henry

Hal Linden

William Shatner

Cybill Shepherd

Queen Latifah

Ben Vereen

Jon Lovitz

Garry Marshall

Robert Wagner

George Takei

Orson Bean

Mackenzie Phillips

George Wendt

David Spade

Tim Daly

Heather Locklear

Rhea Perlman

Jason Priestley

Jean Smart

Sandra Bernhard

Jimmy Kimmel

Valerie Harper

Marla Gibbs

Paul Dooley

Barry Livingston

Pat Harrington, Jr

Bonnie Franklin

Fred Willard

Ed Begley, Jr

Bob Newhart

Gregory Harrison

Steve Lawrence

Kristen Chenoweth

Ed Asner

Doris Roberts

Ernie Hudson

Don Rickles

Regis Philbin

Stacy Keach

Cedric the Entertainer

Millicent Martin

Kirstie Alley


And that’s just SOME! In the case of a few of these actors who have since passed, their appearance on HOT IN CLEVELAND turned out to be their last acting role!

 All in all, I was impressed, amazed at the risks they took and got away with, and ashamed to admit that I never thought it worth checking out until it had been off the air for five years. It’s often compared to THE GOLDEN GIRLS but I watched that series and other than the basic “four women” setup and the presence of Betty White (as a VERY different character) I really don’t see the comparison. Don’t get the impression that it was all sex jokes and barbed jabs at aging, either. Every step of the way, the show displayed more genuine heart than I’ve seen on a TV series in years. I highly recommend HOT IN CLEVELAND.

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