Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"White" Hot in Cleveland

Jane Leeves, Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, and Wendie Malick are "White" Hot in Cleveland!

What do you get when you take four award winning TV stars – most noticeably the currently hip and trendy Betty White – and put them together in a brand new TV sitcom? I suppose we’ll find out tonight at 10 PM (channel 38 on Brighthouse cable here in Orlando) when TV Land network debuts its very first original sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” about three lovely ladies who discover that despite their “over 30” age bracket, they are considered attractive to the opposite sex in the working class city of Cleveland, Ohio. Together, they rent an old home which comes complete with caretaker, Betty "White Hot" White.

The show will be filmed in “real time” with multiple cameras and a LIVE studio audience harkening back to sitcoms of yesteryear (and the current live “Saturday Night Live”). Jokes will have to actually be funny, or the audience simply won’t deliver – a recipe for old school reality TV. True, the audience will most likely be given the typical cues – “Applause” and “Laughter” signs, but even the most well-trained audience will not roll on the floor with laughter unless they are truly moved to do so.

So, who’s that girl?

Betty White:

Her more recently well known role was that of ditsy Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls,” 1985 to 1992. However, I remember her as the spicy Sue Ann Nivens who worked as a TV cook demonstrator (picture, Martha Stewart) from 1973 to 1977 on the “Mary Tyler Moore” show (photo at left). White actually began appearing in movies in 1945 (according to IMDB) and starred in “Life With Elizabeth,” a sitcom which ran from 1952 to 1955. She eventually had her own “Mary Tyler Moore” spin off show, “The Betty White Show”, which ran from 1977 to 1978. She made numerous appearances playing a variety of roles in nearly every popular show, including “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Fame,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Mama’s Family,” “The Love Boat,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Suddenly Susan,” “Ally McBeal,” “The Ellen Show,” “Providence,” “King of the Hill,” “Everwood,”… and whew! ... the list goes on and on! More recently, Betty White hosted “Saturday Night Live” after a fan campaign on facebook. She did not disappoint and was hilarious. The years have given her a brave new attitude and she will boldy and unabashedly go where few actresses will follow -- making raucous jokes and using foul language no one expects from a sweet little old lady of 88 years of age.

Valerie Bertinelli

Bertinelli began her career as a child actress in 1974 at the tender age of 13 in an episode of “Apple’s Way,” a serious TV drama series created by Earl Hamner Jr. , the creator of “The Waltons” (according to The next year, she landed the role of the sweet, but not so innocent Barbara Cooper in the hit show, “One Day at a Time,” which ran from 1975 to 1984 and also starred Mackenzie Phillips as her sister, Julie (photo at right). In 1997, she joined the cast of “Touched by an Angel” as angel Gloria until 2003 when the show was eventually cancelled. However, I primarily remember her for her famous marriage to Eddie Van Halen at age 21.

Wendie Malick

If you watch cartoons, you have probably heard Malick’s easily distinguishable bossy voice. Though not always listed, she is credited as the voice of Berdeen in “Bratz” and Principal Folsom in “Fillmore!” Her more famous non-animated acting roles include that of Martin Crane’s girlfriend, Ronee during the last season of “Frasier” from 2003 to 2004; and that of retired model, sex pot Nina Van Horn on “Just Shoot Me” 1997 to 2003 (photo at left). She also had a regular role as Judith Tupper Stone in the USA TV series “Dream On” (1990-1996). Malick made her acting debut in 1978 and played Dr. Brigitte Blaine in the serious short-lived 1983 TV show, “Trauma Center.” Typically cast as strong, bold, bossy, and oversexed, Malick made numerous appearances in over 100 TV shows and movies, including “Mike Hammer,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” “Hunter,” “MacGyver,” “LA Law,” “Empty Nest,” “Baywatch,” “Law and Order,” and “Pushing Daisies.” You can find a complete list on

Jane Leeves

I first remember seeing Leeves in an episode of “Seinfeld” in 1992 where she played one of Jerry’s numerous girlfriends, Marla Penny, a virgin. However, she actually made her film debut in 1983 as a dancer in “The Meaning of Life” and even appeared in several episodes of “The Benny Hill Show” as one of Hill’s Angels from 1983 to 1985 (according to IMDB). Making her way across the pond to America, she was eventually cast as an extra in “Murder, She Wrote” in 1987. This helped launch her American career, her thick British accent and gorgeous cute looks helped her land a regular part on “Throb,” which ran from 1986 to 1988. Although she is best known for her recent long running role as Daphne Moon Crane on “Frasier,” 1993 to 2004 (photo at right), Leeves had numerous appearances on popular shows such as, “Mr. Belvedere,” “Red Dwarf,” “Murphy Brown,” and “Desperate Housewives.” She also frequently voiced cartoon characters, such as the ladybug in “James and the Giant Peach,” “Garfield,” and “The Simpsons.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reminded of “What If’s?” in
There's Something About Mary

Ted and Mary awkwardly date after reuniting as adults after 13 years since high school. In the end, the guy gets the girl, and the girl gets her knight in shining armor.

This week, hidden among the complex menu of the “On Demand” TV shows is the movie, “There’s Something About Mary.”

TV On Demand
Channel: 304 Brighthouse Orlando
Network: FX
Movies: About Mary

Originally released in 1998, the movie speaks of the eternal unrequited love it seems we all carry buried within our hearts. While in high school, a dorky young man, Ted, falls for Mary, a radiantly beautiful girl, and though he manages to win her over through his valiant defense of her disabled brother, a romantic relationship never truly comes to fruition. The two go their separate ways until thirteen years later, when Ted bravely decides to hire a private investigator and get in touch with Mary to see where life has taken her and “what if,” by chance, there’s still some spark – and some chance -- between them. Despite believing that she now has four children with different fathers, weighs 250 lbs, and is on her way to get married in Japan, he is still determined to go with his heart and seek her out in Miami. Now, that’s love, baby! Writers Ed Decter and John Strauss’s plot is one that even William Shakespeare would have been proud to have written.

There’s really nothing to pick apart in this movie.

From a girl’s point of view, it’s a winner on the romantic, teary eyed, “that’s so sweet,” point of view. Face it girls, we all want to be Mary. We all want to be “that girl,” the girl who everyone is in love with, from superstar Brett Favre to the pizza delivery man. We all secretly hope for a knight in shining armor: a wonderful guy out there who’s been harboring an obsession over us for a dozen years who’s willing to fight for us.

From a guy’s point of view, the movie offers over-the-top hilarity in every scene – from the zipper incident, to the jail cell, to the mistaken hair gel – to the subtle comedic details, such as the family portrait featuring Mary’s Dad in a giant afro. Men like the idea that Ted is an “average” guy, that he makes mistakes, takes bad advice, is far too trusting, and really isn’t special in any way shape or form other than simply being “a nice guy.” Despite his average appearance and mid career “haven’t-gotten-there-yet” stage in life, he “gets the girl” in the end, anyway.

The cast is thoughtfully chosen and packed to the brim with comedic talent, with Cameron Diaz as Mary; Ben Stiller as Ted; Matt Dillon as sleezy private detective Pat; Lee Evans as the crippled architect; Lin Shaye as golden girl Magda; W. Earl Brown as Mary’s brother Warren; and Chris Elliott as hive-struck Dom. More familiar faces pop up in each scene. Even Magda's dog Fluffy is adorable!

The music score is well derived, and cleverly complemented by a pair of narrating strumming minstrels, guitarist/singer Jonathan Richman and drummer Tommy Larkins, who change instruments throughout each appearance and become an integral part of the plot at the end of the picture.

Directors Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly (the Farrelly Brothers) have carefully staged each scene to be both entertaining and sweet. The movie is set in picturesquely lush and colorful Miami, FL.

The On Demand movie runs roughly 2 hours and is sprinkled with short commercial breaks, mostly trailers for other comedy movies. On Demand has fewer commercials (knock on polyvinyl chloride plastic) and you have the added advantage of watching it when you want, rewinding, and pausing when needed.