TV: ‘Hot in Cleveland’ goes live for midseason premiere

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl
Hot in Cleveland returns to TV Land June 19 at 10 p.m.

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A narrator in a promotional video for the midseason premiere of Hot in Cleveland says it all: “See Hot in Cleveland like you’ve never seen it before: live, uncut and quite possibly the biggest mistake we’ve ever made.”

Hot in Cleveland follows three women who found themselves in Cleveland after their plane heading to Paris crashed. Once the ladies discovered the rules and lifestyle of Los Angeles do not apply in the Midwest, they decided to stay.

The midseason finale of season four — which aired February 13 — left us with a lot of questions but one seems more pressing than the others: What is Elka (Betty White) up to? All season long they have teased about her and Mamie Sue (Georgia Engel) dealing in “shady business” and now the time may have come that we finally get to know what our favorite bedazzled-sweat-suit-wearing-grandma is up to. Not to mention the burning question about what will happen to the trio when Victoria (Wendie Malick) moves to Moscow with Emmet (Alan Dale) and Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) moves in with Alec (Jay Harrington)? What will Joy (Jane Leeves) do? Can we expect her to be the next Murder, She Wrote?

Most of these questions will be answered Wednesday when Hot in Cleveland returns to finish its fourth season, beginning with “It’s Alive” — the show’s first live episode.

In a letter posted on Hot in Cleveland social media, White wrote to fans about her excitement for the live episode.

“Did you all know that tomorrow night I’m attempting something I haven’t done since Truman was president — a live sitcom,” White wrote. “That’s right. We’re doing the season premiere completely LIVE!! … No safety nets. Don’t miss it!!”

The live episode will feature many guest stars including William Shatner, Shirley Jones, The Office’s Brian Baumgartner — in his first role since the series finale — and Community’s Danny Pudi.

The live show isn’t the only episode featuring familiar faces. A much anticipated reunion of The Mary Tyler Moore Show cast is set to happen later in the season when Moore, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman will join White and Georgia Engel — who will continue her recurring role — on the show. This is the first time in 30 years that the five former cast-mates will be reunited on stage. The episode will follow Elka and Mamie Sue reuniting their bowling team, named GLOB: The Gorgeous Ladies of Bowling.

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Another reunion is in store for the June 26 episode when Carol Burnett and Tim Conway guest star. Burnett will play Victoria’s mother while Conway plays a friend of Elka’s.

In a press conference with student media in April, Cleveland stars White and Leeves continually said the show’s success is due to the chemistry between the four leading ladies, a chemistry that was there from the start.

“When we first sat down at the table read, there was just something there,” Leeves said. “It felt like we’d known each other for a long time. … We absolutely adore each other. That has been a part of other huge shows we’ve been on.”

“Absolutely! How do you do comedy if you don’t like each other?” White added. “We fell in love the first time in rehearsal… and it never changed.”

Hot in Cleveland is TV Land’s first original scripted series, and Leeves said the show did what Mad Men did for AMC: It branded the network. Now, TV Land has six other original series, including Cedric the Entertainer’s The Soul Man, Retired at 35 and Kirstie — Kirstie Alley’s new show which will air in the fall.

In the press conference, Leeves said the show’s message was relatable to people of all ages.

“There is such a message of hope in this show,” she said. “It’s not over when you reach a certain age. We’re still vibrant, vital, funny women. … There’s always a way to reinvent yourself, just as Joy and Elka are doing by going back to college.”

As for plans for the future, both Leeves and White said they would love to do Cleveland forever, and White reaffirmed that she isn’t going anywhere soon, especially since Cleveland has been renewed for a fifth season.

“Everyone asks: ‘Aren’t you going to retire?’,” White said. “It may be wishful thinking, but you can’t get rid of me! Why should I quit something I enjoy so much?”

***Author’s note: I couldn’t publish this without letting the world know of my appreciation for the wonderful opportunity I had to interview Leeves and White in April. It was honestly a dream come true. I grew up watching Golden Girls, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Frasier, so to be able to speak to those shows’ stars was amazing. I could not have asked for a greater honor. I only asked a few questions but it is definitely one of the greatest moments of my journalistic career thus far. Listening to all of their answers during the press conference reaffirmed my adoration for the two actors. It was so easy to tell how well they got along and how much they love doing what they do now. My hopes are that they read this and that they understand how much their fans love them and how much their fans love Hot in Cleveland.***

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