Written by Diane Tillis
When I first heard about Hot in Cleveland, I thought the show would be a modern remake of The Golden Girls. Both shows have four older, single women, living under one roof, as they try to survive each day with a little bit of humor. Before watching the show, I was worried that Hot in Cleveland would appear to be a hasty decision by TV Land because they wanted to jump on the Betty White bandwagon. However, I truly enjoyed the first season more than I thought I would. Hot in Cleveland is not a rip-off of The Golden Girls. While they have many similarities, they also have more differences.
Hot in Cleveland begins with three middle-aged women enjoying a glass of champagne while on a flight bound for Paris. They are looking for an escape from Los Angeles and from their complicated lives. Due to bad weather, the flight diverted to Cleveland, Ohio. A rocky start to their much-needed vacation ends up being the best thing that has ever happened to the women. On their first night in Cleveland, they visit a sports bar. As they walk in, they notice all the men are staring at them. The women discover they are desirable to ordinary, decent gentlemen of their own age. They feel liberated to do anything they want, even to eat cheese fries covered in chili and non-light beer!
Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) is a non-fiction writer going through a divorce. She decides to relocate to Cleveland to restart her life, and rents a beautiful home. Melanie is the chipper optimist and rarely uses profanity. The home comes with 88-year-old caretaker Elka (Betty White). Elka is the sassy, tracksuit-wearing matriarch of the group who frequently smells of marijuana. Melanie’s friends decide to relocate with her. Considered the L.A. beautician ‘eyebrow queen,’ Joy (Jane Leeves) has never married. She moved to America decades ago to escape her oppressive mother in Britain. Victoria (Wendie Malick) is a self-absorbed former soap opera star, who loves to interject her problems into any conversation, and is five times divorced. The women have great on-screen chemistry! While some of the situations they deal with may seem clichéd, the hilarity behind the show gives them a fresh edge.
Hot in Cleveland is a throwback to the traditional multi-camera sitcoms of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Before each episode, one of the four leads announces that the show is recorded before a live studio audience. It continues to feel like a throwback with the plethora of guest appearances. Carl Reiner, as Elka’s boyfriend Max, is the best guest of the season. He captures the stage in every scene, even when he is threatening to beat up a rival for Elka’s affection. There are over twenty guests among the ten episodes, and many of them are well known. I was pleasantly surprised to see Robert Gant of Showtime’s Queer as Folk make an appearance as a blind date for Joy who turns out to be a suspected murderer.
Hot in Cleveland continues to prove that it is a contemporary remake of old-school comedic sitcoms. While it is tame compared to many modern television shows, it is not as tame as one would expect. There are jokes about ‘motor-boating’ and ‘going downtown.’ Marijuana is the topic of conversation in several episodes. I would not recommend watching this show with young children, unless you want to explain the above-discussed issues.
The video aspect ratio is 1.78:1. The video quality of Hot in Cleveland is better than older sitcoms, but it is worse than modern sitcoms. The colors are warmer than normal, and the video lacks the detail of modern productions. On larger television screens or monitors, minor compression artifacts appear like color bleeding and some aliasing.
The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 with English language track, but no subtitles. There is nothing special about the audio quality of Hot in Cleveland simply because the show does not have a wide range of sound. There is the dialog track, the track of the audience laughing, and the occasional on-set sound like a door closing. The audio is not sharp, but it is fine enough to hear the dialog over the audience laughing.
The special features include three short behind-the-scenes featurettes. “How’d they get so hot?” explores the wardrobe on the set with costume designer Lori Eskowitz-Carter. The “Hot in Cleveland Set Tour” explores the sets for the show. The “Hot in Cleveland Cast: We Love Our Age” is the cast discussing the joys of being older women. There is a short blooper reel and copy of Victoria’s Japanese “Lady Pants” Commercial.
The original full-length pilot episode is available in the special features collection. The original pilot is three minutes longer than the episode that aired on television. Some minor plot points changed, but this is the only significant difference. The pilot episode of Retired at 35, a new TV Land sitcom, is also included in the special features. Poorly written with a dull cast, I think I will skip watching this show.
In summary, Hot in Cleveland is designed for a particular type of audience: older females. It is far from a Golden Girls remake, but I would still call it an old-school sitcom. I hope the second (and much longer) season will improve the quality of the series. People looking for a good laugh should check out Hot in Cleveland!