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'Hot in Cleveland' live telecast is a smashing success

'Hot in Cleveland' live telecast is a smashing success
"Hot in Cleveland" actresses Wendie Malick, left, Valerie Bertinelli, Betty White and Jane Leeves at the live taping. (Getty Images)

Martinis clinked at the after-party for the live broadcast of the TV Land series "Hot in Cleveland," with actresses Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves and Betty White celebrating having pulled it off.

"There's nothing like it; this is magical. This is the way TV should be, and this is the way it started with this one over here," Bertinelli said Wednesday night, gesturing toward the 91-year-old White.

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Indeed, 22 minutes of live television is old news for White, who used to do nearly five and a half hours of live television, six days a week on the variety show "Hollywood on Television" in the 1950s.

"It was such fun tonight, because there's an edge and an excitement that I don't think the public could ever realize," White said.

"Hot in Cleveland" premiered on TV Land in June 2010 and is in its fourth season. Wednesday's episode, "It's Alive," marked the show's mid-season return following a hiatus.

"Hot in Cleveland" follows three women -- Melanie (Bertinelli), Joy (Leeves) and Victoria (Malick) -- who give up Los Angeles for a life in Cleveland after their plane makes an emergency landing there. They end up sharing a house with Elka (White).

Eighty episodes later, Wednesday night's installment was the first that was aired live (on the East Coast, anyway) as it was performed. Though the series is normally shot in front of a live audience every week, there is always the opportunity to try it again if a line is flubbed.

That was not the case Wednesday night. And while the pressure was on for the actors ("Can you burn calories when you're nervous?" Bertinelli blurted during a commercial break), the pressure was also on for the studio audience.

"Go ahead and laugh even if you're on the fence," host Michael Burger told the crowd beforehand.

The actors rehearsed for a week, but lines were changing even up to a couple hours before the telecast. To make sure the director had enough angles to cover the action, eight cameras were used instead of the usual four.

The episode opened on a table full of prescription pills, and it's discovered that Elka is running an underground pharmacy with the help of Mamie (Georgia Engel). William Shatner guest starred along with Brian Baumgartner from "The Office."

From a viewer's perspective, the show went smoothly, delivering all the laughs and Elka's risque  jokes as usual. At the end, the actresses broke character and took a joint bow, to the applause and delight of the audience.

"We always have the best audiences," Bertinelli said. She and her co-stars gave host Burger much of the credit for keeping them in a good mood.

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"What the audience doesn't realize is how much a part of the show they are," said White.

Are more live shows on the horizon?

"Now we want to do live all the time," Malick said.

"Of course, our writers might have something to say about that," Bertinelli added.

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