Image Credit: Craig T. MathewTV Land’s Hot in Cleveland—a scripted bright spot in an otherwise reality-infused summer—signs off its first season tonight. I’m beyond sad to see it go! But that’s reason enough to revisit the show here for a quick moment. I previewed most of tonight’s tornado-infused episode (yes, they’re pulling a Desperate Housewives-style stunt!), and it’s full of the heart, laughs, and all the Betty White-in-a-sweat suit that you have come to love and expect so far. The episode is actually kind of a retrospective, with lots of time spent on all the men that have blown through these four ladies’ lives in the first nine episodes. Here at the end of a rather surprising and spectacular first season, I thought a toast to the show was due. So, here are my 5 Reasons Hot in Cleveland Rules. Here goes:

1. DUH: BETTY WHITE! I’ve already referenced the genius of the sweat suits she wears (and bedazzles!), which is reason enough to love Betty’s inclusion in this show. But, honestly, just the sheer fact that this 88-year-old is funnier than almost anyone around continues to amaze me. The season finale finds her character Elka revealing a bit more about her past and what she’s really hiding down in that funky-smelling cellar. I don’t want to spoil it, but: Brilliant.

2. THE YOUTHFUL POP-CULTURE INFUSION Just because a show stars ladies that range in age from 49 (Jane Leeves) to 88 (Betty White) doesn’t mean it has to be frumpy and dumpy. Beyond the old-school vibe, though, I’m always amused by the amount of pop culture savvy that churns in Cleveland. For instance, the season finale references Antiques Road Show (all right, maybe that is a bit older-skewing), The Price is Right (okay, that, too), LeBron James (ding ding, young!), and the combination of Susan Lucci and the Daytime Emmys (fine, yet again, old). Whatever. It feels like someone in-the-know wrote the series.

3. WENDIE MALICK I’ve loved her since her Just Shoot Me! days, but she’s only endeared herself more to me during her run on Cleveland. In the season finale, she kills with her over-the-top, diva-licious, totally irrelevant, self-obsessed soap star Victoria Chase, who can’t make it to the Daytime Emmy Awards because of the tornado. “I cannot believe that I’m trapped down here,” she says, to launch a ridiculously entertaining monologue. “When a beloved artist inhabits an unforgettable role like Honor St. Raven for the past 27 years and cannot get to the Daytime Emmy Awards to receive her public lauding from her peers, after being overlooked for such a long time, well, then the terrorists have won.” Also, Malick is 60 (correction, almost 60: she’s 59 until December), and looks like she’s 40. I die for her. (And just since we haven’t referenced her age yet, note that Valerie Bertinelli is 50.)

4. THE GIRL TALK Not since Sex and the City went off the air, and before that Golden Girls, have there been a show that so featured great, gabby, gossipy, guilty girl talk. Loves! On Cleveland, the ladies are almost always playfully jabbing each other—or maybe it’s just Betty White’s character Elka jabbing the other ladies—but it’s welcome and refreshing. The season finale is almost exclusively the four ladies sitting around gabbing—a result of them hiding out in Elka’s cellar, waiting out the storm. Bring on the cheesecake and brunch!

5. THE CLIFFHANGER I don’t even know what it is yet—obviously something caused by the tornado, as the lights were cut at the end—but I’m intrigued that the publicity folks at TV Land felt it necessary to lop off the last scene or two of Cleveland when they sent me the preview disc today. “We couldn’t reveal the cliffhanger!” the show’s publicist told me. What could be happening that would warrant that? Especially on this sitcom? We shall see. But count me interested.

What do you love about Hot in Cleveland? What makes it rule in your mind? Hit the comments below!

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky


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