You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Cleveland Show

"Family Guy" spin-off ought to fit right in with Fox's animation block.

Voices: Cleveland Brown, Rallo, others - Mike Henry Donna - Sanaa Lathan Roberta - Reagan Gomez-Preston Lester, Cleveland Jr. - Kevin Michael Richardson Tim - Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane has won a loyal following among young guys by mixing satire of family sitcoms with wild, rapid-fire non sequiturs — the latter made possible by the wonders of animation. Spun off from “Family Guy,” “The Cleveland Show” is completely of a piece with his earlier efforts — employing a volume-over-quality strategy that assumes if you’re not laughing now, rest easy, another gag will be along momentarily. It’s an acquired taste, but in fundamental commercial terms, it ought to fit right in with Fox’s animation block.

“Cleveland” does broaden the MacFarlane franchise in two ways: First, it’s set in the South (Stoolbend, Va., to be precise), picking up redneck jokes where “King of the Hill” left off; and its hero Cleveland Brown is an African-American, though he’s voiced by a white guy (Mike Henry, who co-created the show with McFarlane and Rich Appel), which might seem more outlandish if this cartoon weren’t so, er, cartoonish.

In the premiere, Cleveland takes off with his son Cleveland Jr. for California. On the way, they take a detour into Virginia, where he promptly reconnects with an old high-school flame (Sanaa Lathan), who has two surly kids.

Voila, Cleveland has his own instant blended family, which includes stepson Rallo (also Henry), whose afro is bigger than the rest of him; and teenage Roberta (Reagan Gomez-Preston), who in the second episode Cleveland has to accompany to a father-daughter dance.

The rudimentary plots, however, are secondary to the madcap flourishes, which are hit and miss. OK, it’s kind of funny in the second half-hour to hear Cleveland Jr. describe his first day at school as “terrible — worse than an ABC comedy,” or a nasty potshot at Jennifer Aniston’s love life. But then there’s a ridiculous spoof of Halle Berry’s Oscar acceptance speech with no discernible rhyme or reason to it. Oh yeah, and one neighbor is a talking bear with a Russian (I think) accent, presumably because the dog talks in “Family Guy” so, well, why not?

For those who buy into the MacFarlane formula — a running commentary on all things pop culture, complete with naughty jokes that play off double entendres like “Cleveland Jr.” — this is all riotous fun. For the rest of us, it’s a bit like Dane Cook’s stand-up act — a reminder that what tickles current teens and twentysomethings is often markedly different from the satirical material that amused their parents.

Much like “Family Guy,” “The Cleveland Show’s” best attribute is actually its cheeky, catchy, wryly nostalgic opening theme. As for the three-episode preview that followed, watching those felt a little bit like running into a talking bear.

The Cleveland Show

Fox, Sun. Sept. 27, 8:30 p.m.

Production: Produced by Persons Unknown Prods., Happy Jack Prods. and Fuzzy Door Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Seth MacFarlane, Mike Henry, Rich Appel; co-executive producer, Kirker Butler; producers, Jonathan Green, Gabe Miller, Kara Vallow; animation producer, Brandi Young; supervising directors, Anthony Lioi, Albert Calleros; director, Lioi; writers, MacFarlane, Appel, Henry.

Crew: Music, Walter Murphy; editor, Kirk Benson; casting, Linda Lamontagne. RUNNING TIME: 30 MIN.

Cast: Voices: Cleveland Brown, Rallo, others - Mike Henry Donna - Sanaa Lathan Roberta - Reagan Gomez-Preston Lester, Cleveland Jr. - Kevin Michael Richardson Tim - Seth MacFarlane

More Digital

  • Tye Sheridan

    Tye Sheridan Starring in Survival Thriller 'Wireless' From Steven Soderbergh for Quibi

    Quibi has ordered another show with notable Hollywood talent attached: scripted series “Wireless” starring Tye Sheridan with Steven Soderbergh on board as executive producer. In the made-for-mobile-screens thriller, a smartphone has a central role. Sheridan (“Ready Player One,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”) plays a self-obsessed college student who is stranded in the Colorado mountains after he crashes [...]

  • Instagram

    Instagram Testing Hidden Like Counts Globally

    Like counts will be disappearing from Instagram all over the world starting this week: The Facebook-owned photo sharing service is extending its test of hiding like counts to all of its territories, Techcrunch was first to report Thursday morning. Instagram began hiding like counts for a subset of its users in Canada this spring, and [...]

  • Ted Sarandos - Netflix

    Ted Sarandos Says Disney Plus Launch Changes 'Nothing' for Netflix

    Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos claims he’s not getting distracted by huge competitors — like Disney — rumbling into the company’s streaming turf. The exec was asked what has changed for Netflix with the Nov. 12 launch of Disney Plus, which the Mouse House boasted as having signed up over 10 million users so [...]

  • Game Awards OrchestraThe Game Awards, Show,

    Game Awards 2019 to Play on 53 Cinemark Screens Alongside 'Jumanji: The Next Level'

    This year’s Game Awards, recognizing the top video games, creators and esports of 2019, is coming to the silver screen. In a three-way partnership, the Game Awards, Cinemark Theatres and Sony Pictures are teaming on a superticket program pairing the Dec. 12 live simulcast of the 2019 Game Awards in 53 Cinemark locations with a [...]

  • Lilly Burns Tony Hernandez

    Jax Media Soars by Amplifying Unique Voices of Auteur TV

    Jax Media has emerged during the past few years as one of television’s busiest and buzziest production companies. The New York-based company headed by four partners — Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns, John Skidmore and Brooke Posch — has an enviable track record of scouting new voices and executing stylish shows on a less-than-stratospheric budgets. The [...]

  • Variety Digital New Leaders

    Execs From Endeavor Audio, Group Nine Among Those Leading the Way in Digital

    Every year, Variety seeks to identify the next generation of leaders in the entertainment business, looking for representatives in the creative community, film, TV, music and digital. This year’s group has a heavy New York focus: We selected executives from forward thinking companies such as Spotify, Group Nine and Endeavor Audio, as well as writers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content