The stars of TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" had a mix of reactions to news that they'll be performing in a live episode of the sitcom, set for 11 p.m. Wednesday (June 19). TV Land executives announced the stunt in November, and in January a nervous anticipation had set in for some of the show's leading actresses.
''My first reaction was I'm absolutely so excited," said Jane Leeves ("Frasier"). "And my second reaction is, 'Oh, good God!' I keep switching back and forth between fear and excitement."
Star Wendie Malick was simply excited.
''I think it's going to really be a boost for all of us," she said in January during the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "It's always fun when the audience is there, and that will just be an audience of many millions."
Valerie Bertinelli was still noodling through the logistics of how the cast and crew can even manage to produce a live episode.
''It takes us two-and-a-half to four hours to shoot our show, so I'm trying to figure out how we're gonna do it in 20 minutes because we've never done it in 20 minutes," she said. "I'm analyzing it. I think too much. I definitely over-think things."
For series regular Betty White, a live show takes her back to the early days of the medium when she hosted a live, local telecast for five-and-a-half-hours each day.
''I'm looking forward to it. I love to do live television because it puts you on an edge where there's a little panic that goes on in here," she said, pointing to her stomach.
''That's the feeling I don't like," Bertinelli replied.
''You said it right earlier: Once you have a job to do, you do it," White said. "You're nervous now, but once you're into the show, I bet you won't be nervous."
''Right, the next six months will just be torture for me before we start rehearsing it," Bertinelli said.
The live season premiere picks up where the winter-season finale left off. Joy (Leeves) discovered that Elka (White) and Mamie (Georgia Engel) started a service for Cleveland's seniors that grew into a storm cellar full of prescription drugs.
Melanie (Bertinelli), Victoria (Malick) and Joy try to help in an episode that will feature mobsters, mistaken identity and special guest stars.
Carol Burnett and Tim Conway will guest star in the June 26 "Hot in Cleveland" episode. And a September episode will feature a "Mary Tyler Moore Show" reunion when Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman and Valerie Harper appear alongside White and Engel.
For the live show, Bertinelli said she hopes the cast can do justice to the script.
''Our writers know what we're capable of and what we're not capable of. Not this one," she said, gesturing to White. "She's capable of everything. They know how to explore our characters in a way that makes a show shine. This show is like comfort food because we're all familiar faces and you look forward to what we're doing these days."
In the future, Bertinelli said, she'd like to try starring in a Broadway show, but only a comedy, not a drama: "I don't know if I could pull my heart out of my chest eight times a week."
And what would White like to take a stab at?
''You know my answer is Robert Redford," she said, eyes twinkling.
''Does he know you're in love with him?" Bertinelli asked.
''If he doesn't by now, he's stupid," White joked. "He wrote me a sweet letter at one point. Funny and sweet. But I've never met him and I would be embarrassed if I ever did because I've taken his name in vain for so long."
Bertinelli and White said they've done single-camera shows in the past, but they much prefer an old-fashioned, multicamera sitcom with a live studio audience.
''The audience brings energy to it," Bertinelli said.
''It's just like live theater," Leeves said. "You're always nervous and that's expected and that helps you."
A Carol Burnett moment
Still, she does have one concern about the live show.
''I'm worried about laughing," Leeves said of the possibility that actors will break character in the moment. White is less concerned.
''You don't want to disappoint the audience because the audience is praying you'll screw up," White said.
''I'm sure there will be a Carol Burnett moment in there somewhere," Bertinelli concluded.