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Wendie Malick Looking Out for Birthday Girl Betty White

With "Hot in Cleveland" returning for its second season Wednesday (1/19) and promotional demands picking up as well, Wendie Malick acknowledges that she, Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli tend to watch out for their cultural phenomenon cast mate, Betty White, who turns 89 Monday (1/17).

"That's kind of the rule of thumb. We're all here to look out for each other. Look, we know we're in the presence of a national treasure here, but she's a strong one. She's a tough broad, I have to tell you," Malick says.

"She's got some kind of constitution. The woman lives on hot dogs and French fries. I was trying to get her to eat salad with grilled salmon, and my husband said, 'Will you stop? Whatever she's been doing is obviously working.' Maybe red licorice is the secret to a long life."

The hit status of "Hot in Cleveland" is a welcome surprise to the series team. "We all knew it would be a long shot because there were so few pieces about mature women. But you had to know at some point something would have to work because there are so many baby boomer women out there who are reinventing ourselves, who are starting new chapters of life."

With a guest star roster including Mary Tyler Moore, Bonnie Franklin, Carl Reiner, Tim Conway, Melanie Griffith, Peri Gilpin, Joe Jonas and Jon Lovitz, the hitcom also has a few twists on the way. Among them: Malick's character, ex-soap star Victoria Chase, is headed for a stint on daytime's "All My Children" toward the end of the month in a first-of-its-kind exchange between a prime-time show and a daytime show on different networks.

"It is so confusing," says Malick — who requested being billed as Victoria Chase in "OLTL" credits, rather than as Wendie Malick. "We're having trouble keeping track. OK, this is a show within a show. Now I'm playing a character who is playing a character."

She doesn't know what the soap writers have in mind for her as yet. "I'm completely putting myself at their mercy. It will be interesting to see what they come up with, knowing the dynamic between Victoria and Susan Lucci. She did a cameo on our show in the season finale, where she accepted an Emmy on my behalf" — thus filling Victoria with chagrin — reminds Malick.

She'll be shooting "Hot in Cleveland" and "One Life to Live" at the same time, "double teaming a little. I know they'll try to shoot all my things at once. I'll rehearse a few hours on my show, then shoot a few hours with them."

It's a time squeeze most actors would love to have. "Oh, yes," acknowledges Malick. "You really want to be a little too busy."

IF YOU ASK US: The trend toward film and TV producers figuratively wiping their feet on other people's sensibilities with crude and profane titles needs to stop. "Dinner for Schmucks" caused widespread flinching not only because it was a terrible movie, but because its coarse title was splattered all over billboards, bus stops and other places that were in our faces. The audience doesn't get to flip the channel on those, folks. When "(Bleep) My Dad Says" became a CBS series, the fact the offending word was masked in alternate keyboard symbols did not keep it from being a new low in network pandering. Now Paul Weitz is getting ready to make a film with Robert De Niro and Paul Dano based on Nick Flynn's best-selling memoir, "Another Bull—— Night in Suck City." Here's hoping they opt for a title change. When adults pay to watch a movie, it's one thing. But putting rude, crude and vulgar words before a mass, multi-media audience where, yes, there are children watching just shows a lack of respect.

A NICE SEGUE: Phylicia Rashad, who won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for "A Raisin in the Sun" in 2004 — and an Image Award for reprising her role on TV in '08 — is now getting ready to direct a production of the beloved Lorraine Hansberry work in L.A., for the Ebony Repertory Theatre company at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. It opens in March. The one-time Mrs. Huxtable of "Cosby Show" fame, who did fine work in Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls" last year, just seems to rise to loftier heights as the years go by.

HELLO, GORGEOUS: Considering the sexy makeover being planned for "Charlie's Angels'" go-to guy Bosley in the upcoming series reboot, there's either going to be a major change in the chemistry between him and the Angels, or perhaps they're planning to make him gay? As casting notices have it, rather than the avuncular Bosley played by the late David Doyle in the 1970s, today's Bosley will come complete with a "Peter Pan smile and GQ looks" — including six-pack abs. He's "charming, funny and knows how to dress to impress."


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