Paramount // 2012 // 506 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // November 20th, 2012
Cleveland -- the hottest destination on TV
Based on a quick count, Betty White is on her third wave of success in television, a rare feat achieved by few stars of the small screen. She rose to prominence with The Mary Tyler Moore Show (which gave her enough clout to get her own short-lived Betty White Show) before disappearing until The Golden Girls became something of a sensation. When that show stopped at the start of the Clinton years, White kept working but didn't have another prominent role in pop culture until her appearance in the R-rated comedy Lake Placid. That flick demonstrated that White could poke a bit of fun at her image as a stodgy older woman, and that paved the way for her pop-culture resurgence as the first decade of the twenty-first century wound down. From hosting SNL to an appearance in a Snickers commercial, White seemed to be everywhere, and this ubiquity culminated in a rare third shot at sitcom glory with Hot in Cleveland. This third season continues the shows formula of wacky situations and humor gleaned from the love lives of older women. Though Season Three likely won't encourage new viewership, it does a fine job maintaining the show's standards.
The basic premise for Hot in Cleveland is simple: three older women from youth-obsessed L.A. get stuck in Cleveland. Once they realize that they're still attractive in a city that doesn't have an impossible beauty standard, they decide to stay, renting a house from a caretaker (Betty White). This third season sees the ladies going on a lesbian cruise, giving makeovers, and as always trying to find love.
Betty White is the beating heart of Hot in Cleveland. She turned 90 in the middle of this season, and I'm not sure anyone can quantify what about her is appealing. Part of it is that she doesn't act her age. She's chatty, catty, and sassy; she might as well be 25 for how she acts. However, she's not someone who's trying to act like a young person. There's no way that she tries to dress or talk like the youth of today. It's more like she's youthful in spirit, and for some reason that makes her punchlines (however sitcom-standard) hit with more force.
It helps, of course, that the rest of the main cast are industry veterans. Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendi Malick blur the lines between character and actress; all three are attractive older women who've spent too much time in L.A. Since that fits their characters personally, it gives their storylines an extra bit of "oomph" as well.
The best part of the show, other than White, is the guest stars. This season includes just about one famous guest star per episode, and they're all perfectly cast. Whether it's Rick Springfield as a Rick Springfield impersonator or David Spade as a hair stylist, the one-off guests are amazing this season. Regular recurring guests, like Huey Lewis, are also well served by the sitcom format.
This DVD set is also nothing to complain about. The twenty-four episodes of the third season are split over three discs. Each episode is filmed in the usual three-camera sitcom setup (though digitally instead of with old-school film) in front of a live studio audience. These 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers look like good contemporary broadcast television. Colors are bright, the image is clean, and there are no serious artifacts to mar the presentation. The set also offers 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks, though the surround treatment is overkill for a show that's heavily based on dialogue with few opportunities for surround usage.
The set's lone extra is the behind-the-scenes episode, "Some Like it Hot," which, as in previous seasons, runs the length of an episode and was aired during the season's initial run. It's included here on the last disc.
There's a reason that the traditional sitcom format doesn't rule the airwaves like it once did. In a competitive entertainment market that also offers serious drama and innovative comedies in various modes, the stale-seeming style of the sitcom can seem antiquated. Though Hot in Cleveland does some fun things with the formula, watching all twenty-four episodes in a short span of time wouldn't do much to help the show if you think it's too formulaic.
Hot in Cleveland: Season Three doesn't up the ante on TV Land's surprise-hit sitcom, but with Betty White at the helm and a host of interesting guest stars, the show delivers the goods for its third time out. Though extras have declined slightly in comparison to previous sets, the presentation here remains strong enough to recommend a rental or a purchase.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 506 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode