People these days are not satisfied with just a couple of funny jokes and good looking people. Shows like “Full House” are fun to reminisce about but I doubt it would work on today’s audience. To reach a modern audience now, sitcoms are often given a twist. In many ways the the classic sitcom has changed. Now networks are having them filmed like a reality show (“Modern Family”) or a show within a show (“30 Rock”) or even having a narrator set the scene (“How I Met your Mother.”) Can a sitcom that follows an old school formula of having sharp characters, quick yet easy jokes and a big name star find a place on your dial?
My answer is yes. But what channel would be willing to take a risk on a show like this? Well, since TV Land is the home of old school sitcoms, it would only make sense that for their first original scripted series, they would bring the sitcom back to its roots. Not only did they tap the TV vet Betty White, but her costars are all sitcom alum as well (Jane Leeves of “Frasier”, Wendy Malick of “Just Shoot me” and Valerie Bertinelli of “One day at a Time” and Jenny Craig commercials.) The show is taped in front of a live studio audience and never breaks the fourth wall. It truly is a throwback sitcom.
The show takes three single, successful, middle-aged women from Los Angeles and brings them to Ohio. Things like staying thin, looking young and feeling bad about themselves suddenly go out the window. In Cleveland, these women are hot. Hence… the title of the show.
Some may complain that this situation provides a lot of easy and predictable jokes. For example, when the girls order the chili cheese fries, 10 minutes of dialogue is able to stem from this. I have no complaints about that though. The jokes are funny even if they are predictable. Women do worry about what they are eating and embarrassingly, we do celebrate at the mere taste of something as delicious as chili cheese fries. Not all of us, but a good handful of us can find the humor in this joke and relate to it. And when you’re constantly trying to one up the twenty-something beauty next door; an abundance of men looking your way is a welcome change. Maybe older women looking for love has been done, but it hasn’t gotten old.
So how do we get Miz Betty White into the mix? Well, when Melanie (Bertinelli) leases a house on a whim, she finds out that the house comes with an 80-year old caretaker played by Betty White. Betty plays Elka, the sharp, uncensored, sassy senior citizen that will be hanging with the girls while they stay in Ohio. She has a series of one liners and fast retorts. (And for those who are saying how the jokes on the show are predictable, I dare you to watch Betty White explain why older women wear track suits and not laugh.)
The shows only downfall is Betty White’s lack of airtime and even this isn’t something I can fault the show for. We love her, but we don’t want to burn out on her either. I expect she’ll have a much bigger role in future episodes. Plus, the three women around her are strong enough actresses to carry the show and make it funny and entertaining on their own. There is no denying though that Betty White is a scene stealer.
“Hot in Cleveland” is a throwback sitcom in every sense. From the sets, to the format, to the camera angles, to the cast- there is something familiar about everything on this show, and that’s a good thing. Watching this show is not only entertaining, but it’s comforting. It reminds us that there is still a place for a classic sitcom on prime time TV, even today.