Here's the thing; Valerie Bertinelli is so much cooler than her new TV show.
I'm not just saying that because I crushed on her in the '70s like a tween girl loves Taylor Lautner today. (I could not, however, walk around my hardscrabble hometown of Gary, Ind., with the One Day at a Time lunch box. That would have been suicide.)
But she followed her status as the cutest teen on '70s TV by: marrying Eddie Van Halen when he was a rock god, kicking him to the curb when his addictions got out of hand, writing a book 'fessing up to her own addictions and losing enough weight to unveil a killer bikini body at an age when she could announce her second marriage in AARP magazine.
That's right. She's one tough boomer.
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But Bertinelli's new sitcom for TV Land, Hot in Cleveland, is not quite that steamy. It has the pedigree — Bertinelli, 50, joins Frasier alum Jane Leeves, Just Shoot Me vet Wendie Malick and comedy legend Betty White in an old-school, filmed-live sitcom executive produced by Will and Grace co-star Sean Hayes.
Still, the show's first episode feels flat, packed with typical jokes about three beautiful, middle-age Los Angeles ladies who discover that men in Cleveland have different (I didn't say lower) standards. Get Bertinelli on the phone and she's so upbeat, even a crusty critic winds up pulling for her ("This is how I grew up," she says of trading quips with co-stars before a live audience. "I feel like I'm home.")
So keep an eye on Hot, which premiered Wednesday, to see whether these comedy TV veterans can work some magic. And get infected by Bertinelli's spirit by checking out our conversation.
Question: I saw you describe this somewhere as Sex and the City meets the Golden Girls.
Answer: Well, it used to be when you thought about great comedies, you'd name Golden Girls, Alice, Maude, One Day at a Time — all these life stories of women who everyone was really interested in, and found funny and smart and couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen to them next. It's been a long time since we've seen something like that in comedy. Somehow, it's gotten to be men-centric.
Q: All due respect to Betty and the other Golden Girls, but you guys are way hotter.
A: (Laughing loudly) Thank you very much! But I'm (comparing) the strength of these characters, their funny bone and just having a strong voice. Wendie and I were talking about this yesterday; we're usually playing characters where we have to support a man. Now we have these amazing people, men coming to support us.
Q: Comic actress Lisa Ann Walter used to talk about loving New York because men thought she was sexy there.
A: I'm a size 6; that's considered really big here in L.A., but a 6 is small everywhere else. It's mostly about really being comfortable with who you are. The show plays into that, too. These women are enjoying the life they're building someplace else because they're accepted more for who they are and held to task when they act differently.
Q: You always seemed like the stable one in your first marriage, but your memoir, Losing It, showed you had your own problems with addiction and infidelity. Were you just a good actress?
A: To a certain degree, and then it got to a point where you could see it all over me. You get very good at hiding your emotions and keeping things in, and I'm learning not to do that. The more I open my heart and free myself up, my acting gets better. What is that old saying, "You're only as sick as your secrets?" When you don't have any more secrets, you're not sick anymore. I may verbal vomit a little bit too much, but at least it doesn't stay inside me anymore Oh man, that analogy was just horrible.
Q: No worries. I think about stars like Mick Jagger showing us a new way to live at 70; are you doing that for baby boomers?
A: Well, I'm on the cover of AARP magazine because that's who we are. We're a big group of people and we're not going to be put out to pasture.