The Hot New Stars of MTV Networks: Betty White, Ed Asner

MTV Networks began the  10-day winter press tour in Pasadena Wednesday, but perhaps mindful of the average age of the TV Critics Association membership. Rather than present any flashy young stars of its mother network – or anything from MTV for that matter – it presented the most elderly stars currently working on TV, appearing on sitcoms of its related networks, TVLand and CMT.

Betty White, who turns 89 this month, of course, was queen of them all. The star of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” who has so upstaged her fellow cast of female sitcom veterans, though, pooh-poohed her reheated celebrity.

But there was also George Segal , 76, and Jessica Walter, 69, coupled up for another  new TVLand sitcom, “Retired at 35.”

And Ed Asner, 81, sat among the cast of his new cable sitcom, “Working Class” playing up his cantankerousness and snarling about his fellow senior sitcom stars.

“Betty White’s in the building,” he confided in hushed sarcasm. “I hope I get to touch her.”

For her part, the comic actress whose career has spanned the history of TV said she’s felt overexposed lately. “What is this Betty White business? This is silly. Really, it is very silly. You’ve had such an overdose of me lately. Trust me. I think I’m going to go away for a while.”

But not any time soon.

“It’s hard for me to say no to a job because you spend your career thinking if you say no, they’ll never ask you again,” said White, a child of the Depression. But she added: “I’m trying to cut down. I really am.”

It was, in addition to the deaths of just about the rest of the cast of “Golden Girls,” a gig hosting “Saturday Night Live” that got the ball rolling again. It was a stint demanded in a campaign waged on Facebook, whom she thanked on that show though she added it was “a terrific waste of time.”

“That was a line that was written for me,” she admitted, “and I would have said it myself, but I didn’t know what Facebook was. And I still don’t. I’m sorry.”

“It’s true,” said one of her costars on “Hot in Cleveland,” newlywed Valerie Bertinelli (a relative youngster at 50). “She doesn’t own a computer.”

“I don’t have a computer because I get a lot of mail,” White says. “But I can stack those in stacks and throw this stack out without answering, and then I get to this stack. But if I punched the button and stored something in a computer, I wouldn’t sleep at night wondering what was stored in there.”

Finally, she admitted, “I’m a technological spaz.”

Still her presence on the show makes it easy to snare big name guest stars, says executive producer Suzanne Martin. For the new season, that will include Mary Tyler Moore, Bonnie Franklin,
Melanie Griffith, Wayne Knight, Carl Reiner, Sherri
Shepherd, Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Lovitz

“I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t love to work with Betty and want to work with Betty, so that makes it a lot easier when we make the phone calls to people.”

When the other octogenarian actor  of the morning panels was asked the secret of his own longevity, Ed Asner said “I think talent has something to do with it. I’d like to lay claim to that. I figure that I’m in

that middle stage there of aging.  You always need a few, you know, droplets so that the youth can be compared to you. So I’m in that middle stage prior to becoming Mickey Rooney or Betty White. So it’s a gradual — it’s a gradual step up.”

Asner says his career was helped immeasurably when his voice (and some think, his image) was used in the animated hit “Up.”

It remade my career,” he says. The producers of his CMT sitcom, “Working Class,” he adds “would have paid attention me” without that (though they denied it).

The show’s star and executive Melissa Peterman (of “Reba”) told him of effect he’s had there.

“My son came on the set and saw you and  wondered why you looked different than you did in the movie,” she said, referring to the curmudgeon in “Up.”

But Asner denied any resemblance. “Actually, if you want to know who Carl really looks like,” he said, someone pointed out Martin Scorsese at the Golden Globes last year. “He is a dead ringer for Carl.”

“Working Class” starts Jan. 28 on CMT; the first 10 episodes of the second season of “Hot in Cleveland” start Jan. 19 on TV Land, accompanied by “Retired at 35.” A second 10 episodes of “Hot in Cleveland” start  June 15.

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