Hot in Cleveland: Season One (Paramount) – The first original sitcom from nostalgia cable channel TV Land is an almost perfect evocation of the seventies/eighties sitcom style (“Filmed before a live audience”) with contemporary sexual innuendo. Valerie Bertinelli (as cute as can be for 50) is the ostensible lead in this ensemble piece about three fortysomething best friends (Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick complete the trio) from Los Angeles whose Paris dream vacation takes an unexpected detour in Cleveland, where they discover that they are quite the hot commodity. Bette White turns the trio into a quartet as a smart-mouthed caretaker who ostensibly lives in the cottage out back of their rental but spends most of her time trading insults in their kitchen.
There’s nothing new here and that’s part of the attraction: classic sitcom conventions executed by TV pros getting a second lease on primetime life, with a guest cast that includes Carl Reiner (charming as White’s lively suitor), John Schneider, Huey Lewis, Tim Conway and Susan Lucci as herself, plus Hal Linden, Juliet Mills and Shirley Knight signing as parents of the trio (in what I hope will be recurring roles). The show was the high-rated series in the channel’s history and returns this month for a full second season, beginning with the conclusion of the comic cliffhanger that ended the first season.
The two-disc set features all ten episode of the abbreviated first season, plus an extended version of the pilot, a set tour, featurettes and the complete “Lady Pants” commercial featured in the fifth episode, plus the pilot episode of TV Land’s upcoming sitcom “Retired at 30.”
Greek: Chapter Five – The Complete Third Season (Shout! Factory) – I’m not sure why I care, but for all the teen soap opera complications and college escapades of this ABC Family Channel series, I’m a sucker for it. This season charts the final year for sorority sisters Casey (Spencer Grammer) and Ashleigh (Amber Stevens), Casey’s rekindled romance with Cappie (Scott Michael Foster), the head of the show’s answer to Animal House, rich kid Evan’s (Jake McDorman) life after renouncing his inheritance, plus the underclassman adventures of Rusty (Jacob Zachar) balancing scholarship with social activity), Calvin (Paul James) helping a fellow frat brother come out and Dale (Clark Duke) struggling with his commitment to God. There’s plenty of romantic conflict and bonding through the hard lessons of excess and at times it plays like a nighttime teen soap like “The O.C.” in a minor key, but it also acknowledges teen sex and underage drinking as a normal part of the college experience and the fraternity/sorority culture. Also this season, Olivia Munn co-stars as a townie that gives Cappie a tasted of his own attitude in love and sex and Lea Thompson appears as Cappie’s free-spirited mother.
Apparently it wasn’t a big-enough seller for Disney to keep releasing it on DVD so Shout! Factory picks up the slack and presents the entire third season—20 episodes—in a single six-disc collection (previous releases split the seasons in half), plus commentary tracks, light featurettes and a gag reel. According to news reports, Season Four (which just started on the ABC Family Channel) will be the last.
Downtown Abbey (PBS) – Dame Maggie Smith), Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern star in the new British period drama created by Julian Fellowes and currently showing on Masterpiece Classic in the U.S.
Also new this week is Patrick Stewart in Great Performances: Macbeth (2010) (PBS), Funny or Die Presents: The Complete First Season (HBO), ER: The Complete Fourteenth Season (Warner), the BBC youth drama Skins: Volume 4 (BBC), Rules of Engagement: The Complete Fourth Season (Sony), All in the Family: The Complete Eighth Season (Shout! Factory) and Framed (Masterpiece Contemporary) (PBS).