BY: Mike Cidoni
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES – It’s a sitcom about four single women of a certain age, portrayed by an ensemble that includes Betty White.
‘Hot in Cleveland,’ which debuts this week on TV Land, is not officially ‘The Golden Girls‘ redux. But the similarities don’t end with the set up. Just as White shared top billing with three golden character actresses (Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty), she now works with another trio of established comedy veterans: Valerie Bertinelli (‘One Day at a Time‘); Jane Leeves (‘Frasier‘); and Wendie Malick (‘Just Shoot Me!‘).
The four recently sat for an interview with The Associated Press on a key set for the series: the bar where three fifty-somethings (played by Bertinelli, 50; Leeves, 49; and Malick, 59) discover that while they may be past their prime in hometown Los Angeles, they are still “hot” in Cleveland. And, with that realization, they decide to stay there, moving into a house that comes complete with its own caretaker (White, 88).
Associated Press: So, who is the most comfortable here, sitting in a bar?
(Betty White and Jane Leeves raise their hands. Wendie Malick points toward Leeves. All laugh.)
Leeves: I’m English. Pubs. It’s the natural habitat.
AP: I see remnants of merlot on that table cloth.
Bertinelli: It’s actually grape juice. (Laughs.) They won’t give us real liquor around here.
Leeves: I don’t think you are allowed to really drink on television.
Malick: This is a bar that doesn’t have premium labels, as you may well imagine. So, we are kind of going down in terms of our needs since we have arrived in Cleveland.
White: We’re cheap, is what she’s trying to say.
AP: When this script came across your desks and they said it would be on TV Land, did you think, “Huh?”
Bertinelli: Goodness. When I first heard about it, Betty was already set. And this happened most quickly.
Malick (to White): You were the bait.
Bertinelli: Yes, she was the bait. … It was (writer) Suzanne (Martin) who came up with it, the idea. Then they sold it to TV Land immediately, and then they cast all of us … and they started shooting within a month. Then within a month, we were picked up. That doesn’t happen within television land — except on TV Land.
AP: When I first heard about this, I thought, “the new millennium’s ‘Golden Girls.’”
Malick: Silver. ‘The Silver Girls.’
AP: What do you think of that, Betty? Do you think this is the next generation’s ‘Golden Girls’?
White: I think it’s chemistry no matter what the age. I think age is the bottom rung. I don’t think age matters. … I’m 88 and a half, and I’m still working my tail off.
AP: How is the chemistry different here than it was on ‘The Golden Girls’?
White: It doesn’t differ that much. It is a team effort. These girls all work together. There is never, “How many lines do you have?”
Bertinelli: We are all trying to get rid of our lines, usually. “Why don’t you take this line? I need a break here.”
AP (to Bertinelli, Leeves and Malick): These three women are really going through a mid-life crisis, all of them. Have you already gone through that?
Malick: I have to say that I am so grateful to this woman right here (turning to White), because I am an actress in her 50s who, along with so many of my peers, has wondered how long there will be a place for me at the table. And when I see your career, it just reinforces that there is no end to this.
White: You are never done.
Leeves: I have no problem admitting my age now. I’m … (coughs to cover up the number.)
White: I don’t know where that breaking point comes. When I started, you just assumed no one knew how old you were. I was, like, 22, and would walk out in front of the studio audience to greet them and they would say, “How old are you?” And I would say, “47,” thinking that was old and they would know I wasn’t 47. Well, all of a sudden you go from not wanting people to know how old you are to … “Hi, I’m Betty White. I’m 88 and a half.” It is a bragging thing now.
‘Hot in Cleveland’ debuts Wednesday on TV Land, and will be repeated through June 22 on TV Land, with additional airings on CMT, Nick at Night and VH1. Check listings for air times.
Watch an Exclusive Sneak Peek of ‘Hot in Cleveland’
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