When it comes to sitcoms it helps to have a classic premise.
Hot in Cleveland is classic fish-out-of-water. Three LA women in their prime are on a flight to Paris which is forced to make an emergency landing in Cleveland of all places.
Stuck in the city they discover men. Heterosexual men. Men who pull out the chair for women at the table. Men who date women their own age. Suddenly they have become attractive all over again.
When divorcee Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) decides she wants to catch her breath in the new city, she takes out a month-by month lease on a property with an outspoken ageing caretaker, Elka (Betty White). Elka gives the girls plenty of worldly advice about men, social graces and coping with life.
The other two girls are Joy (Jane Leeves), a Hollywood beautician who knows all the big female stars “Oprah, Cher, Ryan Seacrest….” and Victoria (Wendie Malick), a vain actress denying her mature years and waiting for her next big gig.
This is a traditional multicam sitcom with laugh track -or at least a generous live audience. Produced for cable channel TV Land it replicates the formats of network comedies.
What makes this work is the calibre of the ensemble. Leeves, Malick and Bertinelli have great comic timing and spark off one another. Having White is simply the icing on the cake. She delivers with unblinking deadpan, turning amusing sitcom lines into even-funnier ones.
Malick’s character echoes Christine Barinski’s self-indulgent pal of Cybill‘s, or possibly hints at what America might have done with their own version of Ab Fab‘s Patsy.
Writer Suzanne Martin has peppered this with lots of gags for girls.
“That’s why the internet was invented. For men to search for naked celebrities and women to cyberstalk men they trust,” says Joy.
Sure, it’s no Golden Girls, but if this show can maintain the energy of the pilot episode, it should slot perfectly into Nine’s schedule for audiences who already enjoy the base comedy of Two and a Half Men.
While this isn’t my preferred style of comedy, I was pleasantly surprised. Does it show?
Hot in Cleveland premieres 8pm Monday on Nine.