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Too cool for 'Hot'

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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 back in the '70s like a tween girl loves Taylor Lautner today. (I could not, however, walk around my hardscrabble Gary, Ind., hometown with the One Day at a Time lunchbox. That, my friends, 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 where she could announce her second marriage in AARP magazine.

That's right. She's one tough Boomer.

But Bertinelli's new sitcom for TV Land, Hot in Cleveland, is not quite that steamy. It has the pedigree — Bertinelli 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 & Grace co-star Sean Hayes.

Still, the show's first episode feels flat, packed with typical jokes about three beautiful, middle-aged Los Angeles ladies who discover 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, airing at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on TV Land, to see if these comedy TV veterans can work some magic. And get infected by Bertinelli's spirit by checking out our conversation here.

I saw you describe this somewhere as Sex and the City meets the Golden Girls.

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, its gotten to be men-centric.

All due respect to Betty and the other Golden Girls, but you guys are way hotter.

(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.

Comic actress Lisa Ann Walter used to talk about loving New York because men thought she was sexy there.

I'm a size 6 — that's considered really big here in L.A., but a six 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.

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?

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.

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?

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. We've got a lot of knowledge and we're going to share it … even if the kids roll their eyes a little when we do.

The best shows you aren't watching

As somebody who is still trying to catch up on old Damages episodes, I get it. Nobody, not even a guy who gets paid to watch television, can keep up with all the interesting shows out there. So here are two suggestions:

Breaking Bad, season finale at 10 tonight on AMC: Centered on an ex-high school chemistry teacher who turns to cooking meth to fund his cancer treatments, this series is really about the slow curdling of a man's soul when he decides to enter a bad business for a good reason. In the season finale, former teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is trying to save his partner, a former student on the run after two drug dealing rivals were killed. By Walt. I know.

The Tudors, airs at 9 Sundays on Showtime: Troubled star Jonathan Rhys Meyers hasn't gained weight to play the beefy King Henry VIII, but he still perfectly embodies the erratic, egotistical, brutal ruler at the end of his reign. Now on his 6th wife (given a passionate life by guest star Joely Richardson), Henry faces allegations she is a heretic Protestant. A lush soap opera for intellectuals.

Too cool for 'Hot' 06/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 11:05pm]

    

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