Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Malick, Co-Stars Are Best Things about "Cleveland"

Actress Wendie Malick has always been a great representative of Western New York and one of my favorite people in show business. It wasn’t that long ago that she even performed in a play at the Studio Arena to raise money in the hope that it would help save the local theater.

That made her light remark Tuesday on "Entertainment Tonight" promoting the new TV Land series, “Hot in Cleveland,” all the more stunning.

Asked by “ET’s” Kevin Frazier what she thought of Cleveland, Malick replied: “Cleveland sometimes gets a rather bad rap. But I’m from Buffalo so Cleveland seems like a real cool city to me.”

Then she laughed.

Ouch. WNYers tend to over-react to jokes like almost as badly as Channel 4 meteorologist Don Paul over-reacts to perceived slights at his profession.

But I’m going to give Malick a pass on that one comment because of her previous support of Buffalo and her body of work -- which includes HBO’s “Dream On” and NBC’s “Just Shoot Me.”

She’s always been one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood. There’s rarely a TV season in which Malick isn’t starring in some new show.

This summer, she joins TV vets Jane Leeves (“Frasier”), Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”) and Betty White ("The Golden Girls") in the amusing “Hot in Cleveland.” The actresses deliver their lines about aging and insecurity with relish.

Malick is the vain soap actress, who would buy bulk at a discount store to meet her fans; Bertinelli is the insecure, recently divorced novelist; and Leeves is the dryly cynical Brit who works on eyebrows for a living. White comes with the house they rent as a caretaker and is always around the corner to shout “whore,” “prostitute” or some other variation that is supposed to be funny when spoken by an 88-year-old.

The comedy is written by Suzanne Martin, whose credits include “Frasier,” “Ellen” and “Hot Properties,” the later about four women (one of whom was Sofia Vergera of “Modern Family”) who worked at a real estate office in Manhattan.

Tonight’s 10 p.m. premiere of the 10-episode series is a so-called “premise” pilot, which means the premise of how three best friends from Los Angeles landed in Cleveland on their way to Paris is established. White doesn’t arrive for about 20 minutes and has a few scenes. She has more to do earlier in next week’s episode, “Who’s Your Mama,” in which Leeves’ character dates a man who is young enough to be her son. The joke is that he just may be her son.

The actresses’ comic timing help the obvious jokes about Susan Lucci, death, the difference between men in Cleveland and Los Angeles and the fear of flying and aging. The jokes about Cleveland could just as easily be about Buffalo.

“Friends don’t let friends move to Cleveland,” Leeves says at one point.

One’s enjoyment of “Hot in Cleveland” will probably depend on expectations. It won’t be the coolest thing to watch this summer. However, there are much worse ways to spend 30 minutes on a Wednesday night than watching some middle-aged comic pros have some fun when the network choices are reruns of violent dramas and the DOA series on ABC, “Happy Town.”

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

* Channel 2’s Adam Benigni was back subbing today as a co-anchor on “Daybreak” while John Beard vacations with buddies Ed Kilgore and Kevin O’Connell. Regularly a sports anchor, Benigni has dabbled in news several times before without missing a step. He’s widely believed to be the heir apparent if Kilgore ever retires as sports director. Kilgore has one more year left on his contract. If Kilgore gets another contract, Benigni should consider moving to news. He also is scheduled to co-host “Daybreak” on Thursday and Friday.

* Finally, a shout out to Don Paul for starting Tuesday’s “Facebook” debate with me. We “discussed” Tuesday’s blog about how easy it is to be a weatherman. Paul helped this blog hit a record high number of hits. More importantly, the debate helped many new people find the site, which so far has been only been found by people through Facebook or word of mouth.


  1. "Malik, Co-Stars Are Best Things..."

    So what ISN'T a good thing about it? The writing? (Susan Lucci jokes - come on! and "Edge of Tomorrow"? How original.) The horrible laugh track? The cramped-looking three-camera sets?

    I was never a fan of Frasier but I thought White and Leeves were the only decent actors. I like Malik but she was horrible... and playing a horrible character. And Bertinelli was unwatchable. Her delivery sucked. And man, has she filled out! I had to switch my TiVo to "panel" mode to make sure it wasn't just the 16:9 stretching.

    The laugh track was the worst... are you sure TV Land isn't trying to make some sort of spoof of a classic TV show? It was like it was made in 1994, not 2010. I half expected it to end with "Hot in Cleveland was taped in front of a live studio audience".

  2. Hi Alan,

    I hate to admit that I found this thanks to DP's weather blog, but I'm glad I did. I was very sorry to see you retire--you're a great TV and radio critic and responded respectfully to my couple of comments to you over the years. DP's a great weatherman, but holy cow, an ego the size of a Cat 5 hurricane.

    Anyway, I stumbled on "Cleveland" last night (after flying home through Detroit, hah) and thought it was surprisingly good. I've aways loved Wendy. Didn't like Jane as much, but, as you say, there are worse ways to spend half an hour.

    Keep up the good work--don't forget to bust 550-AM's chops every now and then.