If you like seeing your hometown on the small screen, you won't have to rely on those Drew Carey Show reruns much longer: TV Land recently picked up 10 episodes of Hot in Cleveland, slated to star Jane Leeves (Frasier), Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time, Touched by an Angel, Eddie van Halen), Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me) and Betty White, who at 88 is enjoying a bit of a second (or third?) heyday. The show is scheduled to premier in June.
Rumors of a Cleveland-based sitcom began circulating in January, when Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog ran a hilariously Photoshopped preview of what some have called a retread of Golden Girls. The premise for Hot in Cleveland is that three eccentric best friends from Los Angeles get trapped in Cleveland and decide to put down roots because the locals think they're hot. (White plays the "sassy caretaker" - oy - of the friends' rented property.) Clevelanders - with our legendary craving for attention and corresponding sensitivity regarding how that attention is delivered - may have some mixed feelings about the show. After all, we've been trained to expect the worst.
The premise feels insulting on a couple of levels. First of all...trapped in Cleveland? Is this a Donner Party situation, or do these women just not know how to get to the airport? And is Cleveland so deprived of attractive people (or the means - such as, you know, television - to even know what attractive people might look like) that three wacky gals from the Left Coast present a unique opportunity to gawk and gander?
It's too soon to tell if the show will use its setting as an excuse to take cheap shots at the city's expense. One hopes they will at least get the in-jokes right, and not try to put the Rock Hall in Rocky River or give the Cleveland Museum of Art a lakefront view. Drew Carey even painted Cleveland as a kind of paradise, where good friends and the neighborhood bar provide salve for whatever wounds life may deal out. But Carey is a Cleveland native, and he knows where the sore spots are. We're happy to make fun of ourselves... to a point.
I always wonder if there is a glut of television writers born and bred in northeast Ohio, otherwise why not Hot in Detroit? Or Hot in Gary? (Or for that matter...Smart in LA.) Naturally, the show isn't filmed in Cleveland - much like Drew Carey, we will have to be satisfied with stock skyline footage and perhaps some hastily-shot exteriors of a well-tended house on a quiet street in Parma or Willowick. What we won't see, because this is a sitcom on TV Land, and not a Ken Burns documentary, is the Cleveland we know and love (or tolerate), the real Cleveland we live with every day. Because while those tidy suburban houses in Parma and Willowick - and the burning river jokes, and the seemingly eternal heartbreak of the Browns - are part of the fabric of the city, there's so much more to us.
So regardless of how Hot in Cleveland treats us, we'll have to rest assured that we're the ones who really know what's happening here on the homefront. If the show gets it right, great. If it's not so hot - well, at least we know who our friends are.