There’s not much question about why viewers tuned in to see the premiere episode of Hot in Cleveland. That would be a certain 88-year-old woman named Betty White. It turns out that she isn’t really tied to the show’s future. Could the sitcom continue without her?
Hot in Cleveland is TV Land’s new original series that stars sitcom veterans Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves, and Betty White. The three younger women star as ladies from L.A. who are on a flight bound for Paris, but get stranded in Cleveland. They find that they’re more appreciated by the men in the Midwest and decide to stay. They move into a house that comes with a sassy caretaker (White).
Originally, White was only set to be in the pilot episode. But, once her star got white hot earlier this year, TV Land worked to find a way to make her a series regular. They offered the octogenarian a less rigorous shooting schedule and other incentives. As White told Entertainment Weekly, “They were making all these concessions where I felt like a heel if I said no… So I guess, let’s face it: I’m easy.”
White agreed to appear in all ten of the first season’s episodes, yet isn’t obligated to return if or when there’s a second season. Most actors get locked into multiple season contracts but that’s not the case here.
The premiere attracted 4.75 million viewers, the largest audience in TV Land history. Episode two fell to 3.37 million but that’s still number that makes the cable channel execs very happy. Unless the ratings keep falling, it looks likely that the series will be renewed. Endemol recently made a deal to distribute the series internationally.
TV Land will surely want to hold onto White if they can but will have to negotiate a new contract for season two. Will the cable channel be able to afford her? At her age, will she want to do it?
What do you think? Could Hot in Cleveland survive without Betty White? If necessary, would you sacrifice Bertinelli, Malick, or Leeves to keep her?
Image courtesy TV Land.