Nearly 5 million people tuned in to watch the new TV Land comedy last summer, making it the highest-rated sitcom on cable television. Now, as season two begins, we head west to find out why everyone thinks we're so funny — and whether we should be laughing, too.
Betty White looks like a benevolent queen surrounded by her court.
Wearing a soft sweater and, as always, bright pink lipstick, she's sitting square in the middle of a long U-shaped table. She's flanked on either side by her Hot in Cleveland co-stars and, beyond them, by guest stars Bonnie Franklin from One Day at a Time, John Schneider from The Dukes of Hazzard and Wayne Knight from Seinfeld.
It's a sunny Monday morning on Gunsmoke Lane in Studio City, Calif., and show producers, writers and crew members fill the room to watch the read-through of the sophomore comedy's third episode.
White's character, Elka, is turning to wine to cope with a problem in her love life that we won't give away.
"I'm stink faced," she reads, and the room rolls with the special kind of Hollywood laughter reserved for hit shows. This is what success feels like.
Oh, we know, this is only its second season — on TV Land, no less, a network built on reruns. And, sure, we initially had our doubts. Anyone with any history in our town — the real Cleveland — would.
The entire premise of Hot in Cleveland is built on what sounds like the start of a pretty ugly joke: Three fabulous women from LA walk into a bar on Euclid Avenue. Upon seeing people like us there, they feel 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter. And that's why, after an order of fries, they decide to stay in Cleveland.
So you'll understand why we didn't grab hold of White and her pals Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick like a big bag of Snickers when the show premiered in June. Even if we had initially loved the show's premise, you've seen what happens in Cleveland when we get our pedestals out, right? Someone fumbles. Or gets indicted. Or goes to Miami.
Then something inexplicable happened: Nearly 5 million people watched the show's premiere. That's more than double the Mad Men and Entourage season openers this year. We watched, too, ready to pounce. Instead, we chuckled — not the inane guffaws of the live studio audience. But, yes, we laughed.
Those same millions tuned in for the next episode. And for the one after that. The Betty White fever spread. Just three episodes into the first season, the show was picked up for a 20-episode second season.
- Season 1 Episode Guide
- Don't miss our summaries, picks for the best CLE lines and Wahoo sightings.
- On Set
- Find out what's new, old, gone and wrong in Hollywood's version of a Cleveland home.