Friday, January 21, 2011
Wendie Malick Is Hot In Hot In Cleveland
Now this is going to be a real star interview, I thought, as I was led into the hotel suite of Wendy Malick, the compulsively funny star of last season's big sitcom hit Hot In Cleveland.
But Malick had tossed herself on the bed with her coat over her, clearly in some discomfort.
The onset of a cold, I was told, and she plainly sounded hoarse and stuffy.
CTV had flown her in for a day of interviews and since I was last on the list she insisted on plunging on. Now that's sheer professionalism.
Besides, her parents had come in from her hometown of Buffalo and they were waiting for her.
She looked up when I mentioned I'd met her before --on the set of the short-lived 1983 series Trauma Center.
As I remember it had a great cast --including James Naughton, Dorian Harewood and Eileen Heckhart but this hospital saga couldn't decide if it wanted to be St. Elsewhere or a medical Hill Street Blues.
"They added Lou Ferrigno," Malick explained. "And it turned into Hulk time...he's a great guy but we were hoping for another kind of series,you know?"
NBC obliged by canceling the series after just 13 episodes But the experience didn't sour Malick on TV at all.
To the contrary she's since notched over 100 credits as guest star and star on everything from Kate And Allie to The Fanelli Boys to a seven episode dabble on Baywatch to co-star status on Dream On..
"I like to work, no doubt about it," she smiles. "I'd rather be out there exercising my acting skills than waiting for the perfect part."
Which means she's toiled on TV in both Vancouver and Toronto.
"A lot. And I'm sometimes confused about whether I shot something here or in Vancouver."
One credit I remember because I was on the set that day: Zoe Busiek:Wild Card shot in Toronto's east end.
But the perfect continuing part did come along on Just Shoot Me and it ran for 149 episodes (1997-2003) as Malick scored heavily as irrepresible Nina Van Horne.
"Great cast. We all liked each other and it was such a happy companyt.. So many people got married on that set. But after seven seasons it was time to say goodbye.
"No spinoffs for Nina. Her time had come."
Malick scored again in Frasier's last season as Ronee Lawrence and even wound up marring John Mahoney in the series finale.
And now along comes Hot In Clevaland which runs on cable in the U.S. (TV Land) but garners a weekly rating higher than some regular network shows.
In the first new episode of the season 89-years young Betty White stars as Elka who finds herself sharing a jail cell with --who else but Mary Tyler Moore her old sitcom pal from 40 years ago.
We'll also learn how the romance of Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli) is going and what happened to the fortune of Victoria (Malick) and the deportation squabbles of Joy (Jane Leeves).
All four of these "golden girls" actresses sport solid sitcom roots and it shows in they way they gleefully interact with the studio audience.
Hot In Cleveland has been compared to comfort food and Mallick nods in agreement --it sports all the old fashioned virtues of such sitcoms as Mary Tyler Moore and All In The Family while delivering solid laughs.
"Last year we ran for 10 episodes," Malick says. "It was a try out. Now we're up to 20. We shoot three then have a week hiatus for the writers to get caught up.. The other girls, they just slay me with their humor. We shoot one episode a week before an audience on the very lot where Betty thrived with Mary. It's like a coming home party for us all."
The thing is the writers do not want to break new ground --they simply want to entertain. And there isn't a weak link in this foursome. "They are very competitive, always trying to crack me up and it often works,"Malick admits.
"I've got a showy part but Victoria isn't such a caricature. I've met some of these soap divas and after 35 years on the same show they can act an awful like the way Victoria acts. Honest they can."
THE SECOND SEASON OF HOT IN CLEVELAND PREMIERES ON CTV MOND. FEB. 24 AT 8 P.M. AND ON FRID. JAN 28 AT 8 P.M. ON THE COMEDY NETWORK.