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Thursday June 17, 2010 12:56 pm

Review: Hot in Cleveland a Little Lukewarm

Posted by K.C. Morgan Categories: Comedy, Prime Time, Cable, Gossip, Video,

TV Land’s highly-promoted comedy, Hot in Cleveland, premiered Wednesday night. The series has ‘s huge popularity, three more very respectable female comedy stars, and a gigantic marketing budget behind it. But did it deliver true TV heat?

The opening scene of the pilot introduced viewers to three great-looking, stylish women: Wendie Malick’s Victoria Chase, a former daytime TV star; Jane Leeves as Joy Scroggs, the “eyebrow queen of Beverly Hills” and ’s Melanie Moretti, book author.

The sequence began with a series of predictable, female-oriented jokes - age and looks, mainly - but Wendie Malick’s delivery made the scene more believable. The setup: three best friends going to Paris together for a couple of weeks of fun. They traded quips until Melanie (Bertinelli) had an unfortunate run-in on the airplane with her ex-husband, on his way to Paris with his new fiancée. More melodrama ensued when the plane ride became increasingly turbulent. As they began careening toward certain death, Victoria vowed to stop being vain, Melanie to stop being afraid and Joy to stop complaining. The plane landed safely in Cleveland, and that’s when the show really began.

The ladies went to a bar straightaway, where the men loved them. As Joy said - “I feel young and hot. Like they’re undressing me with their eyes and I’m not wearing Spanx.”

Melanie found the Midwestern bar to be a place “where the men look like men and the women look like women.” Victoria quickly added, “and everyone’s eating. And no one is ashamed.”

Joy was quick to spur the group into action when three likely-looking males requested their company. “We appear to have landed in a dimension where men hit on women their own age. We owe it to science to investigate.”

Okay, so it’s funny and the pilot’s 11 minutes in. So, where’s Betty White?

After a night of flirting and fun, Melanie returned to their shared hotel room in Cleveland the next day - full of fatty fries and starry-eyed with romance. “I’m moving to Cleveland!” She announced. Next thing you know, she’s looking at real estate and signing a lease.

Enter Betty White with a hysterical one-liner: “Why are you renting to prostitutes?” Classic.

White plays the caretaker (Elka Ostrovsky) who comes with the house rented by Melanie after a night of impulsive romance. Elka lives in the guest cottage, though she seems to move freely throughout the property. She easily guilted gullible Melanie into allow her to keep the caretaking job. And when Melanie’s prince charming was discovered to be a married man? White, again with a great line: “Well, who didn’t see that coming?”

By the end of the episode, Victoria and Joy decided to stay in Cleveland for the next two weeks - the allotted time for their Parisian vacation, now nixed - while Melanie settles into her new lifestyle. White sat on the porch swing with her three younger co-stars, offering up witticisms and wisdom, to close the episode.

Predictably, Betty White was the best part of the show - but Hot in Cleveland is not without promise. Cliché jokes aside, there’s a strong dynamic between the four actresses which helps keep the characters from being complete stereotypes. All four actresses are highly experienced in situation comedy, and it shows, but at the end of the pilot the characters are still very two-dimensional. Hot in Cleveland didn’t quite light a blazing comedic fire, but it didn’t leave viewers cold either. For now, the show’s at a sizzle - we’ll wait to see if it turns into truly hot TV.

airs Wednesdays on TV Land at 10:30pm.



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