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Melissa Ross

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Why I Love Hot in Cleveland

Posted: 07/09/10 01:57 PM ET

So LeBron is leaving tire tracks on I-77 as he leaves the city we used to call "The Mistake By the Lake," and heading for the decidedly more glamorous confines of South Beach. That's all well and good, and I wish him, and the Heat, nothing but the best, although all my old friends from the Buckeye State will probably hate me for saying that.

But while the men of the nation obsess over LeBron James leaving Cleveland, the women of America are just settling into the same city for a nice long visit, and it's all because of Valerie Bertinelli, Betty White, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick.

It's not difficult to explain our attraction for that rarest of finds these days, a traditional three-camera sitcom, "filmed in front of a live studio audience," and starring some of the most talented women in television. We are simply reeling in the years.

In 1977, when my parents were going through a painful breakup, the top-rated shows on TV were Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, Three's Company, and Charlie's Angels, but my favorite that year featured the one about the newly divorced mom, who actually kind of looked and talked the way my mom and my mom's friends looked and talked, and the two teenage daughters. Yes, Barbara Cooper was that perfect reflection of me at that time, and millions of other children of divorce. As we marched on into adulthood, just like Valerie, we all struggled with man troubles and weight issues. And of course, we all had a crush on Eddie Van Halen back then, so her marriage to him was nearly as exciting for us as Lady Di and Prince Charles hooking up. (Sorry things didn't work out).

Obviously, Valerie Bertinelli is supremely relatable and women in my demo would probably watch her in just about anything she decided to do.

But, Hot in Cleveland is more than Valerie Bertinelli's approachability and nostalgic appeal, and Betty White's spicy one-liners -- although it's fantastic to see her moment stretching on, and on, and on.

No, this show is simply a nice stiff drink of what Hollywood does far too little of: showcasing mature women at the top of their game. And isn't it about time? Let's be frank: with Sex and the City now consigned to the rerun bin, we really needed this cocktail.

Jane Leeves is perfection in her role, as usual, and Wendie Malick seems incapable of making a false move on camera or delivering a flat line reading. These are four women who are very, very good at what they do. The writing is snappy, and the Hollywood-vs.-the-Heartland meme, which I expected to be somewhat tired, is actually mined for real amusement. Not only that, the time-warp cameos are a perfect sort of amuse bouche for it all -- Huey Lewis, funny? Who knew?

Let LeBron go. (Even this plea from the cast didn't work.) I expect to get through this long, hot summer hanging out in Cleveland with the girls -- and, thanks to the monster ratings, next summer, too.


 

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