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"Hot in Cleveland" Is First Stop on Tour of TV Land's New Neighborhood
August 25, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller
 
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Anyone else see the growing irony in this? TV Land is a cable network that replays series that once were huge hits on the broadcast networks -- when those networks knew how to regularly schedule the kinds of shows people just never skipped.

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Look at the TV Land schedule and you'll see series like M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Cosby Show and Roseanne. People rearranged their lives to watch series like these. It's a schedule full of hit sitcoms produced for the TV generation -- once a must-have demographic group that eventually aged too much for the broadcasters to care much about.

OK. That has been the strategy since the cable network signed on in the '90s. But since the June premiere of Hot in Cleveland, TV Land has escalated the contest several notches. It has started producing the kinds of series the Old Giants once liked. TV Land plays them to any and all disenchanted "elders" who can't find quite the same satisfaction in what's run today on the networks that used to chase after them.

The broadcast networks want viewers in their mid-20s, explained TV Land President Larry W. Jones in a recent interview. "We're trying to attract a demographic in their 40s."

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Jones said the good ratings for Everybody Loves Raymond after it started running on his network more than a year ago made him think very seriously about producing TV Land's own crop of scripted comedy series that would "tap into a whole world of lifestyle subject matter."

"We put out the word that we're open for business," he said, and his team started meeting with producers. One meeting was with the people behind Hot in Cleveland -- though that show wasn't first on their pitch list. Jones said the producers first talked about a few reality shows before they told him about a comedy featuring four "women of a certain age" who decide to replace their vapid Los Angeles lives for the more the palatable lifestyle in Cleveland.

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Jones sensed a good idea, he said, and ordered a pilot script. When casting started, the decision was made to go with actresses who have a strong record: Betty White (Mary Tyler Moore Show, Golden Girls); Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me); Jane Leeves (Frasier), and Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time).

Cleveland is the kind of series TV Land's research showed disenchanted over-thirties were searching for, Jones said: the multi-camera, live-audience, sharply written program reminiscent of network-level fare before the weight-losers, singers, dancers and sword-swallowers grabbed the spotlight.

"We're not afraid of traditional," he said.

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And many fans of "traditional" seem to like what they have seen. TV Land said 4.4 million people watched the first-season finale last week. After that finale aired, The Nielsen Company estimated the average first-season viewership for Hot in Cleveland as 3.1 million viewers, including 1.4 million adults age 25-54.

And Mediaweek recently reported: "Ignited by Hot in Cleveland, TVLand.com rose to a record 923,000 unique visitors for the month of June 2010 -- up 62 percent from the comparable year-ago month."

Not really surprising, then, that after just a few episodes into its 10-show commitment, Hot in Cleveland was renewed for a 20-episode second season. When it returns, it will be joined by another newly produced traditional sitcom when it returns.

Retired at 35 stars George Segal as the father of a 35-year-old who gives up a pressured New York City life to move to his parents' Florida retirement home. The search for a third series is active, Jones said. Now that the word is out, even more producers are contacting TV Land with offerings. Out of "a large number of scripts," two shows will be turned into pilots and plans are to have the one that wins that race on the air by June 2011.

No, it's not a revolution, this TV Land trend. But when other cable networks, in a desperate search for identity, are sinking into deeper sludge -- guy who eats too much (Man V. Food), the guy who eats the wrong stuff (Bizarre Foods) and dubious dog gastronomy (My Dog Ate What?) -- it's encouraging to know that somebody interprets the word "taste" the way it SHOULD be defined.

 

6 Comments

 

Eileen said:

Unfortunately, TV Land isn't part of my cable package, but I'm thinking of having this channel added. A few years back they offered it free for a week. During that time I was able to watch the "Flip Wilson Show" every night. Now that was humor. Has anyone come up with a better character than "Geraldine"? Hilarious. And, by the way, tasteful. My father used to claim that Flip had the best legs on tv -- male or female.

Shows like Mash will never get old -- they can be watched and re-watched. The characters and story lines were so good one never tires of them.

In a tv world gone reality mad, it's nice to know that TV Land actually cares about their demographic. Nice to see four really talented ladies proving TV Land's point with Hot in Cleveland.

Comment posted on August 25, 2010 2:31 PM


Nathan said:

I'd be a lot more excited by your post, Tom, if I thought "Hot in Cleveland" was any good.

As critically acclaimed as the various single-camera sitcoms are (and as much as I personally prefer them), its easy to lose sight of the fact that the highest rated scripted shows in both the 18-49 demographic ("The Big Bang Theory") and in total viewers ("Two and a Half Men") are old-fashioned mutlicam sitcoms. I don't think TvLand is being original by being old fashioned; I think it's just taking its lead from CBS.

Comment posted on August 25, 2010 7:36 PM


Patrick said:

TV Land of late has been a disappointment to me. They dropped "Star Trek" in November 2008 to air infomercials. Plus, they cut the best scene from one of my favorite "All In The Family" episodes. It's the one where Gloria (wrongly) thinks she's pregnant, and browbeats Mike into getting a vasectomy. TV Land cut the scene where Mike shows up in the doctor's office to get the surgery. They did keep in the scene when Mike comes home after the surgery, and fakes a high-pitched voice. I did that after my own vasectomy back in 2002.

Comment posted on August 26, 2010 10:02 AM


Tausif Khan said:

I am a person in my twenties but I grew up on classic television. I grew up on The Cosby Show and Little House on the Prairie. I love shows that show good character interaction, tell stories which have modicum of truth and make one thing about important things in life. I want to root for well drawn characters. Mash, Cheers, The Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie and Roseanne did just that. I did not care how it was shot. How something is shot should depend on a specific motivation which will enhance the story being told and should be made only if the story can not be told any other way.

Mash was a meditation on the chaos of war. Roseanne was about the real experience and pain of poverty in the suburbs of America. Little House on the Prairie did the same as Roseanne but for rural life in the 19th century. The Cosby Show was intended to teach young families across the country about how to have fun, instill education and life lessons into your children to help children become successful. Old sitcoms and dramas were not about nothing. They were about the most important situations of life. Television executives have forgotten this.

What I enjoyed about these shows is the pain and humor that the show writers mined from real life to tell stories of fictional characters which mirrored real life. Hot in Cleveland does not do that for me. At least it didn't in the beginning. One of the early episodes focuses on their dating lives and placing the characters with their worst nightmare dates. This has been done before but the writers or actors did not make it interesting or unique so I became bored and angry. They were making just another sitcom and not celebrating what was best about the old style situation comedies. I stopped watching. I was also angry that Carl Reiner guest starred in that episode and they did not even mention this in the promos. To me in the beginning it was nothing but silly sex and drug jokes.

I did however catch the season finale and I did see some good improvements. All of the characters had story lines Valerie Bertinelli was worried for a son, Wendie Malick was worried about winning an Emmy, Jane Leeves was wondering how to start a relationship with a son she had never met and Betty White was married to a criminal. None of these things have to do with sex (well sons do but not in the way that either Leeves or Bertinelli were worrying about their sons. They cared about the mother-son relationship) or drugs. The characters were living relatable lives or had stories which were compelling to think about beyond the moment it was shown on television. This is what I feel is best about old sitcoms and old dramas.

Randy Pausch (The Professor famous for his book "The Last Lecture") said in his Virtual Reality class he made a rule that the students in his class were not allowed to make porn. He said that in a class full of boys this rule made the project hard but the creativity that resulted from this rule was amazing. I feel that all television networks would benefit from this rule so that they can focus on making well written shows with relatable characters who engage in situations which make us think a bit more after we turn off the set.

Comment posted on August 26, 2010 2:41 PM


Angela said:

This is the 2nd week your column is about my biggest pet peeves in TV. Last week's column was about whether reality and or facts matter in drama shows to TV viewers. I wrote so long and hard about that, that I never did get my comment up. But my answer is, yes, yes it matters.

This week the question is do TV networks care if there are any shows on TV for someone over 20? The majority of the population is over the age of 50, so networks should care. I was reminded of one of my favorite shows, "Boston Legal". In one of the last episodes, "Juice", Betty White (who guest starred 16 times) decides to sue the networks for killing TV programming for the elderly.

And the show neared its end, comments were made by the characters about how the networks didn't want them anymore because they were too old.

Candice Bergen, age 64; William Shatner, age 79; John Larroquette, age 62; Rene Auberjonois, age 70; and James Spader, age 50 were the show's main characters. What an unusual sight to see on television. (To be fair, there were also actors under 50.)

The show had more than older aged actors to its credit. They had topical subjects that told both sides of the story through the use of the courtroom. For instance, topics such as the role the FDA plays in the use of experimental drugs, news censorship, abortion rights, Alzheimer's disease, Sudan and America's role, whether creationism should be taught in schools, sperm donor rights, Don't ask don't tell, Hurricane Katrina, Guantanamo Bay, the No Child Left Behind Act, and bank home foreclosures.

Yet even with such serious subjects it was fun to watch and I learned a lot. I think it's really interesting that TV Land re-ran this show for quite some time.

I'm really glad Tom brought this news to light. If he's noticed and TV Land's doing something abut it, and the ratings show it, maybe there's hope.

Tausif, I watched the first episode of "Hot in Cleveland" and felt exactly the same as you. My mistake was not going back to give it another chance.

Comment posted on August 30, 2010 1:39 AM


PATRICIA MISCHELL said:

IS THE FLIP WILSON SHOW BACK ON TV LAND? AS THIS SAYS IT IS?

The Flip Wilson Show on TV.com
The Flip Wilson Show is coming back to TV Land in November 2010 so TV Land ... after this show was taken off the air, but I thank my parents (and a TV Land ..

PLEASE ANSWER ME ON THIS. I LOVE HIM AND WOULD LIKE TO SEE HIM BACK ON TELEVISION

PATRICIA MISCHELL

Comment posted on December 14, 2010 12:21 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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