As a long-term employee of one of the "big 3 legacy" networks, it kind of pains me to say that a majority of the best original programming is now on cable networks. Sure, HBO & Showtime have had killer shows for years, but now middle-tier cable channels are stepping it up. AMC bowled us over with "Mad Men" and now TVLand has gone and done it with "Hot in Cleveland."
TVLand could not have picked a better series to debut as its first original program. I think chosing a sitcom that's recorded before a live studio audience - with four stand-out comic television actresses - was brilliant.
"Hot in Cleveland" isn't so much about great writing. The writing happens to be great NOT because of brilliant situations, plots or turns of phrases. The writing is perfect because the scripts are tailer-made for its stars to shine. It is Betty White, Jane Leeves, Wendy Malick and Valerie Bertinelli that make this show the gem that it is.
I have to say I didn't much care for the pilot. I sat there loving the three actresses on screen but wanting to laugh a lot more than I did. I had a sort of half-smile pasted on my face the whole time. Thank God I decided to give the second episode a try. Laughed my arse off. I think the show improved every single week as the actresses quickly took ownership of their roles, and the writers found a "rhythm."
Sometimes all it takes is a likeable cast (and you really do like all four of these women) with undeniable chemistry. In the seemingly dying genre of "live studio audience sitcom," I think this cast has the best chemistry since "Friends." I not only like these characters, I'd love to spend an evening having some beer and munchies with them at their favorite Cleveland bar.
The season one finale of "Hot in Cleveland" airs August 18, 10pm (9pm CT) on TVLand.
Episode 5 is a great expample of the series hitting its stride.