Evans Ward, Picturegroup
Hot In Cleveland" is like lots of things we've seen before.
But who cares? This new sitcom features both Valerie Bertinelli and Betty White — and how do you not love them?
If that's not enough to love, how about the other half of the cast? There's Wendie Malick ("Just Shoot Me") and Jane Leeves ("Frasier").
"Hot in Cleveland" is unabashedly an update of "The Golden Girls." With a (mostly) somewhat younger cast.
Bertinelli — who's still cute as a button at the age of 50 — stars as Melanie. Her kids are in college; her husband left her; she authored a book titled "200 Things Every Woman Should Do Before She Dies."
One of those things is go to Paris, so Melanie and her two friends are winging their way to France.
Victoria (Malick) is an aging soap star whose show has just been canceled. Joy (Leeves) is a sharp-tongued makeup artist whose clients are "mostly women — Oprah, Cher, Ryan Seacrest."
But their plans are aborted when the plane runs into trouble.
"I'm too young to die!" Victoria says. "Although it is nice to be too young for something."
They make an emergency landing in Cleveland, and the women are shocked when they go into a local bar and attract the attention of the local men.
"They're looking at us. In L.A., they look past us." Melanie says.
"I feel young and hot. Like they're undressing us with their eyes and not finding Spanx," Joy says.
"To think that we spend all that time and effort and money trying to look 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter and all we had to do was crash land in Cleveland," Victoria says.
The next thing you know, Melanie has met a man (guest star John Schneider) and fallen in love — with Cleveland. She wants to make a fresh start and thinks this is the place to do it.
Her friends are less enthused.
"Melanie, friends don't let friends move to Cleveland," Joy says.
There are, predictably, a few cracks about Cleveland. But there are many more jokes aimed at the shallowness of Los Angeles.
Melanie finds a great big house she can lease cheaply — compared to Los Angeles property rates. The only drawback is the tart-tongued caretaker, Elka (White).
"Why are you renting to prostitutes?" Elka asks the rental agent.
It's a lot like White is returning to "Golden Girls," only this time she's playing Sophia.
Predictably, Joy and Victoria decide to move in for a while. Well, at least for 10 episodes, which is how many TV Land has ordered at this point.
"Hot in Cleveland" is bright, funny and witty. And, yes, it's a purely traditional sitcom, filmed in front of a studio audience, which clearly appreciates the jokes.
And that's not criticism. "Cleveland" very much fits into TV Land's prime-time lineup, which features "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Roseanne" and "Cosby."
And the "Golden Girls" parallels continue. If you'll recall, there was plenty of sex talk in that show — and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) was very, um, friendly with men.
"Hot" is also an anomaly in the same way "Golden Girls" was. It's nice to see a show filled with great comedy actresses who are considered a bit, um, mature for the broadcast networks. The average age of the cast is 61.5 — Bertinelli is 50; Leeves is 49; Malick is 59 and White is 88.
Younger isn't necessarily funny. And "Hot in Cleveland" is funny.
It's familiar as an old pair of shoes, but it's fun. What more can you ask?
COMPARATIVE AGES: Believe it or not, the average age of the cast of "Hot in Cleveland" is a year older than the average of "The Golden Girls" when that show premiered.
But that's because Estelle Getty (who was 62 in 1985) was playing a woman in her 80s. Today, White is a woman in her 80s.
(In 1985, Bea Arthur and White were both 63; McClanahan was 54.)
If you watch…
What: "Hot In Cleveland"
When: Debuts Wednesday at 11 p.m.
Channel: TV Land
Repeats: Wednesday, 11:30 p.m.; Thursday, 2 a.m., Saturday, noon; Sunday, 1 and 9 a.m.; Monday, 3:26 a.m.; Tuesday, 3 a.m.; Tuesday/early Wednesday, midnight
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