Reunions and special guest stars are nothing new to the set of Hot in Cleveland. The TV Land sitcom is known for celebrating stars of the past and letting them do what they do best in front of an audience rabid to see them in action again.
Yet there was something above and beyond this spring when five women from the landmark The Mary Tyler Moore Show got together to share the screen for the first time since 1977. Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman joined Hot in Cleveland regular Betty White and recurring guest star Georgia Engel for an episode that airs this Sept. 4 at 10pm.
The episode is filled with nods to the old show, starting with the title, “Love Is All Around.” It has the quintet of comedy legends playing members of an old bowling team getting together after 40 years, and lines like Moore saying, “Well, I was the one everybody came to see on Saturday nights!”
Engel says even though it was a long time coming, the reunion was worth the wait. “It’s hard to put into words how nice it was to be with all of them,” she says. “Betty and I have kept up with each other over the years, but I haven’t been able to be in touch with the others as much, so to see Mary and Valerie and Cloris joining Betty and me was a real special thing.”
The occasion could have been severely dampened by the recent news of Harper’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis. Moore also has been dealing with diabetes-related health problems. But Engel says the week they spent together couldn’t have been happier.
“Valerie ended up mothering everyone else,” she says. “She was so full of love and taking care of everybody, so Valerie just goes back into her mode of looking out for whoever needs looking out for. She always looked out for me when I came on the show, because I came on during the third year. It was a new thing for me. She was the mother hen taking care of everybody, and that lifted us all up so high. She’s so precious and Mary is so precious. Cloris is such a character. I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.”
To that end, Harper, who wasn’t expected to live past June, is feeling well enough to continue working. She recently was cast in a movie, The Town That Came A-Courtin’, for the UP cable channel, and will be seen on the new season of ABC’s smash Dancing With the Stars.
It was also quite an experience for the regular Hot in Cleveland cast, including Jane Leeves, who called the occasion “surreal.” “I remember in particular there was one moment on the set when all The Mary Tyler Moore [Show] ladies were sitting around the table and talking about the old days and friends and what have you,” Leeves says. “We were supposed to be rehearsing, but the whole set got quiet and you saw people sort of slyly pulling out their cellphones and just videoing the whole thing because it was quite magical to see them fall back into their chemistry.”
Photo: Courtesy of TV Land