Fox // 2011 // 476 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 9th, 2013
Get your moustache in gear.
Meet amiable Cleveland Brown (Mike Henry, Family Guy) and his wacky offspring! Previous widower Cleveland Brown is now married to his second wife, Donna Tubbs Brown (Sanaa Lathan, Contagion), and has two stepchildren in sixteen-year-old Roberta (Reagan Gomez-Preston, Jerry Maguire) and feisty toddler 'Rallo' (also Henry). Cleveland's biological son, the religion hating Junior (Kevin Michael Richardson, Open Season 2), also lives with the Brown family. Cleveland works as a cable television repairman/installer and spends his time sitting around a bar with friends like Tim the Bear (Seth MacFarlane), redneck Lester (also Richardson), and wannabe Holt (Jason Sudekis, Hall Pass). Get ready for some outrageous misadventures that will make you thankful you're not an animated character with The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season Three!
The Cleveland Show is a spinoff of Family Guy, a series that has never endeared itself to me. Both shows are the brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, who has become a successful writer, actor, and director (Ted), as well as a controversial 2013 Oscar host. MacFarlane's humor revels in being as offensive as network television will allow, joking about anything from backwoods rape and differences in ethnicities to "boobies and wieners." Along the way MacFarlane has peppered each episode with dozens of often obscure pop culture references -- TV shows, movies, music, celebrities, and everything in between. Unlike another show of the same ilk, the far superior The Simpsons, The Cleveland Show isn't really interested in heart or morals; it exists only to throw as many jokes at the screen as humanly possible.
I've seen enough episodes of Family Guy to know who the main and secondary characters are. One of Peter Griffith's neighbors and drinking buddies was Cleveland, a laid back, mellow goober who got his own spin-off. I'll admit that, to my recollection, I've never seen an episode of The Cleveland Show; since I didn't like Family Guy all that much, my hopes weren't very high for The Cleveland Show. I'd like to tell you that in the interest of a well rounded review I spent a few hours reading up on the back story, but I thought it'd be more interesting to just jump right in and see how it goes.
While I wasn't exactly sure who everyone was (there's a talking bear who acts like a human, for reasons probably explained in the first season), the show was easy enough to understand. Clearly the writers shaped The Cleveland Show as some kind of weird homage to The Cosby Show, albeit an homage that doesn't come close to finding the heart or laughs of that classic sitcom. The show basically features Cleveland Brown as he bumbles his way through various misadventures. There are usually feel good moments at the end of each episode, but it's clear it's not because the writers want you to feel good but instead they're trying to parody 1980s sitcoms.
The voice actors all do a fine if only serviceable job of bringing the characters to life. Mike Henry voices the nasally Cleveland Brown and the jive-talking stepson Rallo, who is clearly patterned after Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. Henry is the best thing in the show; the rest of the actors (Richardson, Gomez-Preston, Lathan, et all) don't make a huge impact. Even co-creator Seth MacFarlane's role as the lumbering bear feels muted. B-list celebrities pop up once in a while (including Rashida Jones, Darren Criss, and Fergie) but their appearances aren't half as funny as the writers would have you think.
The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season Three is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfers for each of these 22 episodes look good; colors are bright and black levels are solid. The prints don't feature any damage or defects. Overall Fox has done a nice job on these episodes. The audio mix is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. Not surprisingly, these are mostly front heavy mixes with hardly any directional effects. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly heard and distinguishable. There are no bonus features.
I like a show with a snarky sense of humor as much as the next guy, but there are times when The Cleveland Show skirts the line between satire and being downright mean. MacFarlane is a professed atheist, and his venom against God and religion can be off-putting for those with faith (to say the least). The show also enjoys skewering celebrities (especially actors), although sometimes they get into the act themselves (witness legendary pro wrestler Ric Flair as a wilderness leader, spoofing himself). There are moments that are amusing, but they are usually just novelties; while it's funny to see a celebrity poking fun at their own image, it's not enough to make for a well rounded episode. The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season Three is pretty easy to sit through, but once it's all over you won't feel like your time was very well spent.
Guilty. Nothing more than animated junk food.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 476 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated