When the TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland begins a run of new episodes at 10 p.m. Wednesday, it will start with some extra drama. The first episode will air live.
No film. No tape. No retakes. Excellent opportunities for on-air bloopers, unscheduled bursts of actors’ laughter, and maybe a curse or two. Just look at blooper reels from the show, especially the ones where Betty White’s reactions set off other performers.
That’s part of the potential fun, isn’t it? But it still has to work on a basic level, including whether the show gets on and off the air in time. So there is ample pressure on Andy Cadiff, director of Wednesday’s episode, Buying the Pharmacy.
Doing a live show, Cadiff says, takes a little different mental approach from taped efforts. With regular tapings, “We always have the sense that there’s a live audience there, but we have two, three hours to tape our show. We have fun with the audience. If we screw up, we have fun with it. We can always go back.”
For the live show, he said, “We’re doing a play. The curtain goes up … and we’re doing the play straight through.”
Still, he said, “These ladies are so talented, that once they set their mind to what the goal is, they’re going to accomplish it.”
The ladies are, of course, Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves as three West Coast women who have relocated to Cleveland, and White as a local resident with a smart mouth and a colorful past.
Wednesday’s episode, which features William Shatner and The Office’s Brian Baumgartner as guest stars, continues a previous story about an illegal business Elka (White) and her friend Mamie (recurring player Georgia Engel) have been running.
“We’re going to rehearse a little bit differently,” Cadiff said in a telephone interview. “We’ll probably do more rehearsal than we usually do. We’ll do the kind of rehearsal you do with a play when you’re preparing for an opening-night performance. Which means we’ll do run-throughs straight through.”
Live or not, Hot has been a special experience for Cadiff.
”I’ve been very, very lucky in my career to work on some really great shows with great people. But this show is kind of an embarrassing luxury of riches. The four ladies are as talented as any women in television. … It seems like a cliche to say that they love each other, but they’re the most generous of women. They truly like each other, sincerely. They have each other’s back. They’re so skilled that, for me, it’s like, stand back and stay out of the way.
“People who guest-star on the show always comment that … it’s so much fun, it’s a very welcoming show. And we have a cast that trusts our writers. If there are some bumps along the road, something doesn’t seem to be working, nobody panics. They always trust the writers to fix the problems in the script.”
What, then, makes an unhappy set? Without naming names, Cadiff said, “I’ve been in situations where the writers have no regard for the opinions of the actor or director. It’s almost dictatorial blindness. …
“And the worst situation is usually when the star is the kind of person who is not a team player. Not a generous person, and so wrapped up in themselves that everybody has to adjust their rhythm to this person’s quirks, personalities and just basic selfish behavior. It hasn’t happened a lot, but when it has happened, it’s something I’ve extricated myself from very quickly.”
Yet he said the audience rarely picks up on when there is a lack of off-camera chemistry.
“When the bell goes off, everybody shows up and does their job,” he said. “But I would like to think that the real chemistry between the ladies on Hot in Cleveland just makes the show that much better.”