The TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland is about three women–played by Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, and Valerie Bertinelli– who relocate from L.A., moving into a charming old farmhouse in Ohio. The rent is crazy low to the California natives, but the house comes with a “catch”–Betty White is the crotchety caretaker. (She tells them she cooks breakfast and gives advice, “Like Drama on Entourage.”)
That’s a real house in Cleveland that appears at the beginning of most of the episodes:
When the show first came out, I immediately thought of the 30 Rock episode when Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon is thrilled to discover that in Ohio, she’s mistaken for a model because she’s “too thin.” She tells Jack that she wants to move there and he says, “Oh, Liz, we’d all like to flee to the Cleve!”
The sitcom’s creator Suzanne Martin wanted a big, Victorian-era porch where the women could gather: “It is the antithesis of what our characters knew from their life in Los Angeles, a symbol of the slower, more gracious lifestyle that our characters discover in Ohio,” production designer Michael Hynes told the L.A. Times.
“I suggested a porch swing in addition to chairs, because the swing is the ultimate throwback to a Norman Rockwell-like past that we all get nostalgic for,” Hynes said.
Here’s how the living room looked in the pilot when they first saw the house and it was empty:
The furniture and fabrics were pretty basic during the first season, sometimes changing from episode to episode. There was a leather chair here in one, for instance:
Then it disappeared and a pale green velvet armchair took its place as the sets slowly evolved and became more feminine:
During the first season there was also a dining area in the living room that you can see behind Wendie Malick:
By the second season, the walls were less green, more blue. A large window had appeared to the right of the front door, and the green velvet chair was replaced by a red one:
Production Designer Michael Hynes explained, “The (second-season) mandate was to update the interiors as a nod to all of their tastes, while staying mindful of the fact that they are in Cleveland, not Hollywood.”
Set Decorator Maralee Zediker added that the more feminine furnishings were meant to reflect “women who want to celebrate their new life in a traditional city, but whose ideas about style have been shaped by a half a lifetime spent in a very design- and trend-conscious metropolis.”
The dining room became its own separate room in Season 2:
The kitchen may be my favorite set in the house, and it has changed the least. Here’s how it looked in the pilot episode:
The floor looks like old linoleum but is actually a pattern painted onto the studio’s concrete floor.
Hynes told the L.A. Times about the backstory they were working with for the farmhouse kitchen:
“The Victorian-era original had been updated with new appliances including an enameled Magic Chef oven in the 1930s, and then it got its Dishmaster sink faucet and a GE combination icebox in the 1950s.”
Just a few changes from the first season to the second. For example, the framed poster above the butcher block was replaced by plates, and there’s a new wall hanging in the stairwell (above Valerie Bertinelli’s head).
Have you seen the show? I watched most of the first and second seasons while taking screenshots for this post and it was better than I expected.
It’s fun to see all the guest stars who pop up on the show, like Carl Reiner as a love interest for Betty White’s Elka, and Bonnie Franklin as Melanie’s potential mother-in-law (she played Bertinelli’s mom on One Day at a Time.)
My favorite guest star was Mary Tyler Moore, who turned up as Betty White’s prison mate. She drew a big “M” on the wall of their cell, and when Elka asked what it stood for, she growled, “Murder!”
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