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Turning up the heat

'Cleveland' charms auds

The ladies of “Hot in Cleveland” are settling in nicely to Stage 20 on the CBS Radford lot.

Judging by the hugs and giggles on the set and the belly laughs coming from the studio audience during a taping last week, TV Land appears to have hit the sitcom bull’s eye with its first original laffer. The cabler certainly thinks so, having picked up another 20 episodes after the show’s third airing.

Stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White have had a strong rapport since the pilot, according to “Cleveland” creator and exec producer Suzanne Martin.

“By the time we wrapped the pilot it felt like they’d been doing this show for seven years,” Martin said. “I’ve never had so much fun on a sitcom.”

There’s a very clear “Golden Girls” vibe to “Cleveland,” and it’s not by accident. Martin’s inspiration for the show was spurred in part by the death of “Golden Girl” Estelle Getty in 2008. As she watched the TV tributes to Getty and the show, Martin thought that there had to be room on the air for a contempo spin on the theme of femme friendship and women looking to reinvent their lives.

Thus was born “Cleveland,” which revolves around three friends from L.A. who get stuck in the city on a stopover and decide to stay when they realize that they’re considered hot stuff by the locals. White is perfectly cast as the feisty groundskeeper of the home they rent.

Martin initially developed the idea for “Cleveland” with producer Lynda Obst, but they both knew it would be a tough sell to demo-obsessed networks. Some time later, Martin brought it up along with a number of other ideas in a meeting with Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner of Hazy Mills Prods. Hayes pounced on the “Cleveland” concept and in short order the project was set up at TV Land.

Martin had a long run on “Frasier” during the heyday of half-hours, followed by a few short-lived sitcoms of her own. Now she’s one of the many network alums living it up in cable, where successful original comedies are still extremely rare.

“Cable is the new fun thing out there for (writers),” Martin said.

Martin gives the credit for the show’s success to her troupe.

“It’s always about the actors,” Martin said. “The most you can ever do with a good script is attract a great cast. We have a great cast.”

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