TV Land proved one thing with its premiere of Retired at 35 last night: This cable net has got its brand formula down. Like USA before it, with its quirky-light-heroes-solve-cases gambit, the channel – formerly reserved for endless repeats of classic TV (not that I’m complaining about the All in the Family on my DVR) – has nailed what will clearly now become its go-to approach. The hit Hot in Cleveland served up the template checklist: 1. Ridiculous premise that it’s best to accept without too much thinking. (L.A. ladies of a certain age “crash land” in Cleveland on their way to Paris and decide to stay there? Sure, why not!) 2. Make roommates of an unlikely combo of colorful characters sure to clash. (Ladies “must” live with the “caretaker” of their new house, a sassy lady of an even more advanced certain age.) 3. Have absolute comedy pros star in the show, and watch the viewers – and the skilled readings of even the lamest lines – roll in. (That’s you, Betty White; but also you, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves, and Valerie Bertinelli.)
Retired at 35 does all of this. The setup asks you to believe that a harried 35-year-old exec named David (Johnathan McClain) would leave his New York job in a huff and move in with his parents in a retirement community. It’s ridiculous, it’s a little cheesy (dad calls texting “textualizing”? really?), it employs the setup-joke-laughtrack structure we all thought we were so over when we started watching more sophisticated comedy like 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
It’s like something straight out of another of those super-cool single-camera comedies, The Comeback. And yet. I found myself snuggling up to Retired at 35’s comforting rhythms, not to mention loving seeing Arrested Development grande dame Jessica Walter doing her thing (ma’am, you deserved so much better than that grandma role on 90210) alongside Just Shoot Me vet George Segal (who even kinda sold the “textualizing” line). The naughty, adult-humor twist (after all, the audience here is well over 18) gives both Hot in Cleveland and Retired at 35 a distinctive quality that only adds to their odd allure.
I’m not about to quote either one at hip cocktail parties, or put them on my Facebook profile as my favorite shows, but I can think of worse ways of killing off a Sunday afternoon than catching either on my DVR. What did you think, PopWatchers? Am I the only one finding a little bit of guilty pleasure over in TV Land?
On Twitter: @jenmarmstrong