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Hot in Cleveland on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

"Hot in Cleveland" Season One DVD Review

Hot in Cleveland: The Complete First Season DVD cover art - buy from Amazon.com Hot in Cleveland: Season One (2010)
Show & DVD Details

Writers: Suzanne Martin (also creator), Vanessa McCarthy, Anne Flett-Giordano, Chuck Ranberg, Sam Johnson, Chris Marcil, Liz Feldman / Directors: Andy Cadiff, David Trainer, Gil Junger, Michael Lembeck

Regular Cast: Valerie Bertinelli (Melanie Moretti), Jane Leeves (Rejoyla "Joy" Scroggs), Wendie Malick (Victoria Chase), Betty White (Elka Ostrovsky)

Recurring Characters: Carl Reiner (Max), David Starzyk (Pete), Bil Dwyer (Anders)

Notable Guest Stars: John Schneider (Hank), Tim Bagley (Larry), David Giuntoli (Tyler), D.W. Moffett (Chester), George Newbern (Bill), Robert Gant (Steve), Huey Lewis (Johnny Revere), Amy Yasbeck (Hailey Nash), Wayne Knight (Rick), Hal Linden (Alex), Juliet Mills (Philipa), Shirley Knight (Loretta), Tim Conway (Nick), Mark Indelicato (Zack), Gary Anthony Williams (Coach Taylor), Joe Jonas (Will), Dave Foley (Dr. Moore), Carole Gutierrez (Dr. Hernandez), Susan Lucci (Herself), Rand Holdren (Nooner)

Running Time: 210 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-PG on air)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Surround (English)
Subtitles: None; Show and One Extra Closed Captioned / Season 1 Airdates: June 16 - August 18, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $26.98 / DVD Release Date: January 11, 2011
Two single-sided discs (1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5); Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

Buy Hot in Cleveland: Season One on DVD from Amazon.com

Everybody loves Betty White. I know this because the media reminded me on a weekly basis last year. The Betty White craze that seemed to begin with the actress' wacky turn in The Proposal intensified in 2010 with a standout Super Bowl ad co-starring Abe Vigoda, a Facebook-demanded hosting of "Saturday Night Live", and a new sitcom on TV Land.
Never mind that the public passed on seeing You Again in theaters. White, who recently became the only surviving Golden Girl, turns 89 next week with seemingly little competition for the position of America's favorite octogenarian (perhaps only Queen Elizabeth stands in the way of the global equivalent).

The sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland", returns for a second season next week, which means of course that Season One comes to DVD this Tuesday. While White, who became a TV talk show host back in the early 1950s, easily claims seniority, her three co-leads also have significant small screen credits to their name, bringing a legacy fitting for the first original series on a channel called TV Land. Joining Ms. White in the cast are veterans Valerie Bertinelli ("One Day at a Time", "Touched by an Angel"), Jane Leeves ("Frasier"), and Wendie Malick ("Just Shoot Me!").

Appropriately enough considering the channel, "Hot in Cleveland" is a throwback, a traditional multi-camera sitcom that begins every episode with one of its four leads proudly announcing that it is recorded before a live studio audience. That establishes the hearty laughter that pervades the show as genuine, though you might still question it. While the series is presented in the new standard 16:9 aspect ratio, it even sort of looks like an old sitcom. In many ways, it feels like a show from the late-1980s or early-1990s that you missed out on and are now catching in limited reruns.

The title logo for "Hot in Cleveland" appears gradually to effect, over the Cleveland skyline. Longtime best friends Victoria (Wendie Malick), Joy (Jane Leeves), and Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) relocate from Los Angeles to Middle America in "Hot in Cleveland."

The pilot episode establishes the old-fashioned premise. Three middle-aged Los Angeles women, best friends, have their Paris-bound plane crash-land in Cleveland. Impressed that they are found desirable by ordinary, decent gentlemen their own age and liberated by the lack of current partners and underage children, they decide to start a new life there, renting a house together and enjoying the change of scenery and reduced cost of living.

There is something sad about the concept, that women of a certain age need to escape the West Coast and settle for Middle America to feel wanted and alive. Of course, it's written as comfort food for women 40 and up, evidently one of TV Land's main demographics. This target audience ate up the series, making the premiere the most-watched telecast in the basic cable channel's 15-year history with 4.75 million viewers. Even dipping a little throughout the uninterrupted 10-week summer season, the numbers were strong enough to get "Cleveland" renewed after just three episodes had aired.

"Hot in Cleveland" may remind you of an earlier Betty White series. Like "The Golden Girls", it puts four seasoned single women under one roof. Even the ages aren't that far from where "Golden" began. It's just that 25 years ago, 50-year-olds looked like Rue McClanahan and 60-year-olds like Bea Arthur. Today, they look, respectively, like Valerie Bertinelli and Wendie Malick; nary a gray hair in sight. They're not seniors, just some middle-aged gals who stay fit and fashionable while holding onto "it."

At the peak of popularity, 88-year-old Betty White adds star power as sage, sassy caretaker Elka Ostrovsky. On the deck swing of their new home, Victoria (Wendie Malick) and Rejoyla (Jane Leeves) team up to protect their friend in "It's Not That Complicated."

In yesteryear sitcom fashion, the plots and jokes are broad and the characters are bold. Chipper Melanie Moretti (Bertinelli) is a non-fiction author going through a divorce. Victoria Chase (Malick) is a vain, self-absorbed former soap opera star, five times divorced and always willing to discuss her signature character.
Never-married British expatriate Joy Scroggs (Leeves) is renowned as L.A.'s "eyebrow queen" for her beautician work. Entering the lives of these longtime best friends is Elka Ostrovsky (White), a sassy, snappy, long-widowed, tracksuit-bedazzling 88-year-old caretaker, who comes with the house.

The show is a bit rough around the edges, either because original programming is a new adventure for TV Land or because there are so few people today who are comfortable and familiar with multi-camera sitcoms. The entertainment value is comparable to an adequate 20-year-old sitcom; rarely is there gut-busting hilarity, but you're usually amused enough not to resent studio audience's enthusiasm.

Five-time Emmy winner White is given some of the best lines, many of them founded on her age and shattering expectations that stem from it. She was only intended to be a guest star in the pilot, but the producers liked her so much they made her a regular. Not just a regular, but presently the most famous name in the cast by far, and the focus of most of the show's coverage and even the DVD cover.

Though I've reiterated again and again the recent-retro stylings, "Hot in Cleveland" is absolutely a contemporary program. There are ample cultural references to that effect, but the production era is more noticeably confirmed in the show's use of racy content deemed acceptable today. While by some standards this show is still tame, it's not nearly as tame as you might expect. There are jokes about "motorboating" and "going downtown", a muted profanity rant gag that network standards and practices surely would have killed, and a casual attitude towards sexuality and drugs. Not that the model for this series, despite its pastel robes and cheesecake, was squeaky clean. But the TV-PG rating that episodes are assigned does not align with the MPAA's "PG" rating for films. Though perhaps as appropriate as any of the few multi-cam sitcoms being made today, "Cleveland" isn't an ideal show for family viewing if your family includes younger kids.

As part of the Viacom family, the debut release of TV Land Home Entertainment is naturally distributed in conjunction with Paramount Home Entertainment. Here is a closer look at the first ten episodes, presented on two DVD discs (and thus far unavailable on Blu-ray Disc)...

Victoria (Wendie Malick), Joy (Jane Leeves), and Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) are excited by the Cleveland bar scene they discover in the pilot episode. Victoria (Wendie Malick) is surprised and disappointed to find her old bad boy rock star flame Johnny Revere (Huey Lewis) now thinks it's hip to be square.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (21:03) (Originally aired June 16, 2010)
The women spontaneously move to Cleveland and adjust to life there.

2. Who's Your Mama? (21:04) (Originally aired June 23, 2010)
Joy thinks the younger man she's dating might be the son she put up for adoption as a teenager.

3. Birthdates (21:04) (Originally aired June 30, 2010)
As presents for their neutral group birthday celebration, the four ladies set each other up on interesting blind dates.

4. The Sex That Got Away (21:03) (Originally aired July 7, 2010)
At a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame party, Victoria catches up with a wild ex (Huey Lewis) while Melanie gets uncomfortably close to a personal idol (Amy Yasbeck).

Mel (Valerie Bertinelli) tries to reformulate her insulting remarks for neighbor/columnist Rick (Wayne Knight) attending her party. Elka (Betty White) has her choice of Hawaiian shirted suitor in legendary funnymen Carl Reiner and Tim Conway.

5. Good Neighbors (21:03) (Originally aired July 14, 2010)
At a party for their neighbors, Melanie insults a local columnist (Wayne Knight, Newman of "Seinfeld"). Victoria tapes a commercial for Japanese diaper pants.

6. Meet the Parents (20:43) (Originally aired July 21, 2010)
Mel's overprotective mother (Shirley Knight) and Victoria's promiscuous father (Hal Linden) visit, and Joy's mother (Juliet Mills) disapproves overseas via webcam, giving the ladies guilt and anguish.

7. It's Not That Complicated (21:02) (Originally aired July 28, 2010)
Melanie considers getting back together with her ex-husband, inspiring Joy and Victoria to interfere. Elka finds herself in a love triangle with her boyfriend (a now-recurring Carl Reiner) and a new suitor (Tim Conway).

Despite her 16 Daytime Emmy nominations, Victoria (Wendie Malick) has trouble portraying the symptoms of a rare fatal disease she's faking for two specialist doctors (Dave Foley, Carole Gutierrez). In the season finale, the ladies wait out a potent tornado in a shelter holding Elka's secret riches.

8. The Play's the Thing (20:18) (Originally aired August 4, 2010)
A teenaged fan (Mark Indelicato, "Ugly Betty") gets Victoria to help out with his high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. Melanie's new relationship finds her neglecting Joy.

Disc 2

9. Good Luck Faking the Goiter (21:30) (Originally aired August 11, 2010)
Melanie has trouble communicating with her son (Joe Jonas), who stops by on his way home from college. To help her Daytime Emmy chances, Victoria runs with Elka's story that she is dying from a rare disease.

10. Tornado (21:04) (Originally aired August 18, 2010)
Taking shelter in Elka's secret den of treasures, the women mull over their eventful experiences from earlier in the day.

Dating a younger man she fears could be her son, Joy (Jane Leeves) sees the maternity test potential in a nosebleed. Communication is strained between Mel (Valerie Bertinelli) and her collegiate son Will (Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers) as he visits in "Good Luck Faking the Goiter."

VIDEO and AUDIO

As mentioned earlier, "Hot in Cleveland" appears in 1.78:1 widescreen here, signifying the death of the narrower aspect ratio regularly employed for television's first fifty or so years. The picture quality isn't especially clear or detailed. It looks like it's not utilizing DVD's full resolution, and on a large enough display, you spot artifacts which can't be the product of compression. It doesn't take long to adjust the presentation and the soft-lit visuals aren't important enough to mind this not having the presence of most contemporary television. In short, the video is acceptable, but not much better than that.

For audio, we're given the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or plain surround. I kind of doubt anyone needed the latter option over just having the 5.1 track downconverted, but there was space to spare, so it's a non-issue. I listened to the 5.1 mix and it also leaves a little to be desired. The dialogue isn't as crisp or rich as on other modern shows, but it's fair enough. The sound is loudest and most assertive in opening, closing, and transitional music. Beyond that, it's an average presentation.

No subtitles are included here, but English closed captioning is on the show. Of the two formats, I definitely prefer the former, but if your system supports both, it's not a huge deal and it's not like the typical viewer will have to often rewind to clarify something said.

Father (George Segal) and son (Johnathan McClain) become Florida housemates in the pilot for TV Land's "Retired at 35." Costume designer Lori Eskowitz-Carter briefly discusses the show's wardrobe department. Victoria's Japanese commercial for Mrs. Ladypants Beneficial Dryness Force (Freshness of Crotch!) is isolated and preserved on Disc 2.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

With the exception of a short auto-playing commercial for "Retired at 35", all of the DVD's bonus features appear on Disc 2.

The "original full length pilot episode" (24:34) is not tremendously different from the broadcast version on Disc 1. Some additional jokes here and there comprise the 3-minute difference, but few that you'll notice, therefore barely changing the experience. This is presented in 2.0 Surround and, for some reason, 1.33:1 "fullscreen."

Next comes the pilot episode of "Retired at 35" (21:07), the new TV Land sitcom that will air after "Hot in Cleveland" this forthcoming season. It has similar senior-friendly sensibilities, beginning with life change and featuring seasoned TV veterans. David (Johnathan McClain) is a hardworking big shot for a New York food-based wooden stick company who suddenly decides to call it quits and move in with his parents ("Just Shoot Me!"'s George Segal and "Arrested Development" matriarch Jessica Walter) at their Florida retirement community home.
When Mom takes off, David tries to help Dad date again, with outrageous results! A pilot of a kindred series is one of the best DVD bonus features a studio can provide, even if the show isn't very good (and "Retired" isn't). The only closed-captioned extra, it's presented in full 16:9 picture and 5.1 sound, with only two brief animated overlays announcing when to tune in for more of it.

Five additional "Cleveland"-related short videos can be played collectively but are distinctive enough to enjoy individually.

"How'd They Get So Hot?: Wardrobe on the Set" (1:30) lets costume designer Lori Eskowitz-Carter discuss her department's contributions to the show. It's too short to even touch upon character styles or provide inside scoops, as you might expect.

Victoria's Japanese Mrs. Ladypants commercial is presented in full (0:55). Most of it is seen in the fifth episode it was created for, but as one of the series' more creative self-sustaining gags, it deserves turning up here too.

Wendie Malick and Valerie Bertinelli take us on an entertaining tour of their fake home. The four women of "Hot in Cleveland" tackle an issue that looms over actresses' careers: age. Jane Leeves takes her turn on Disc 2's animated main menu loop.

Wendie Malick and Valerie Bertinelli take us on an entertaining "'Hot in Cleveland' Set Tour" (3:06) of Stormy's Bar and the women's rented home.

"Hot in Cleveland Cast: We Love Our Age" (2:06) has the four stars talking about making peace with their ages and how that factors into the series. It's more candid and honest than the pithy subtitle suggests.

Finally, there is a collection of bloopers (8:36). Instead of the typical quickly-edited, minimal context approach, this shows us amusing outtakes in full (with footage from the various cameras), separated into six inconsistently-presented groups. That design gives us a better appreciation for the goofs and the cast's chemistry.

The animated main menu gives each leading lady a turn in clips and stills while the end credits theme plays. Submenus are silent and static.

The first season of "Hot in Cleveland" is packaged in a standard black keepcase, with Disc 1 residing on a swinging tray. It seems to me that the tray is using more plastic than the Eco-Box cutouts are saving. There are no inserts or slipcovers, which would be less of an issue if an episode list was included on the case.

The women of "Hot in Cleveland" engage in a living room group discussion.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I'm far from what appears to be the target age and gender for "Hot in Cleveland", but I found it to be a moderately appealing and diverting traditional sitcom. It does feel like a step back compared to today's smarter, funnier single-camera comedies, but it's a step back that many should enjoy taking with a channel built on nostalgia.

While the DVD's picture and sound are a bit lackluster by current high standards, they are acceptable as are the nice collection of bonus features. The price is low enough to consider buying this set unseen and while I don't recommend that, I don't have strong enough objections to discourage you from checking this out if you think you'd like it.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 9, 2011.



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