Well, we all knew this day would come. When something pure and excellent in the world of animated comedy would eventually get tapped in an attempt to make more money and multiply. It happens with the best of things: Macaroni and Cheese becomes Spider-Man Shaped Mac and Cheese, iPhone brought on the Gphone, and Family Guy brought on American Dad (which isn’t all that bad) and now The Cleveland Show. One of these things are still great (looking at you, web-shaped macaroni), but sadly the rest come across as poor knockoffs, and truly miss the point, especially the spin-off about Peter Griffin’s affable-yet-slow neighbor, Cleveland Brown.
Mike Henry, who writes for Family Guy and voices Cleveland, is now leaving the show, and taking his voice with him. With Seth McFarlane as one of the hottest and highest paid TV writers in Hollywood today, Fox was easily talked into a second spin-off to the twice canceled series about a family from Rhode Island.
The show starts like any great episode of Family Guy, the whole gang is there, even Jennifer Tilly (who has been absent in recent episodes), and Cleveland decides it’s time for he and his son to leave Quahog and return home. We still get about 10 minutes of Peter, Stewie, and Brian to act as a nice transition into this new and scary world, but it doesn’t help. All those 10 minutes do are force you to long for more episode of Family Guy.
In leaving Quahog, Cleveland spends time with his son, who is no longer the thin, hyperactive child he was in previous episodes, and is now a sloth-like obese child who’s mannerisms mirror those of “Chris Griffin meets Theo Huxtable”. There are still plenty of jabs at society and popular culture, there’s even a classic FG cutaway about a man with an eyebrow comb over.
The Browns meet up with a new family, including a saucy wife, annoyingly rebellious-while attractive-teen daughter, and a talking toddler (sound familiar?). The major difference between Stewie and the new baby is that this new baby talks jive and LOVES the ladies, both of which Stewie doesn’t. The Clevelands meet up with new friends to the show, a racist hillbilly, a douche midget (played by SNL’s Jason Sudeikis) and a giant talking bear that spreads the word of Jesus. As funny as these characters may sound, they don’t come across as chuckle-worthy in the pilot.
Overall, the show feels like a watered down, black Family Guy, which would be great, if they weren’t going for easy stereotypes and spoofs of old Cosby Show plots. The humor isn’t as punchy or natural, and the characters certainly aren’t as likable. If you’ve always felt that Family Guy or American Dad was too fast-paced and not racially diverse, then come September 27, The Cleveland Show is right up your alley. Otherwise, don’t bother.