The Cleveland Show Review
I wanted to like The Cleveland Show. I really did. It seems Seth MacFarlane has more of a split fan base nowadays, but I really do enjoy his work. Current Family Guy can be pretty hit or miss, but I’ll always have a nostalgic place in heart for the earlier seasons. I think American Dad is a great show overall and probably his best work. I figured I would be bound to enjoy The Cleveland Show with all of that in mind. Well… turns out you can’t always just assume you’ll continue to find gold if you keep looking in the same spot. Sometimes you find coal. On to the The Cleveland Show review.
The Cleveland Show follows Cleveland from Family Guy as he moves from Quahog to his hometown Stoolbend with his son, Cleveland Jr. If you’re a long time viewer of Family Guy, you’re probably aware of the fact that Cleveland and his ex-wife Loretta split up because she slept with Quagmire… Which brings me to the thought of how the hell Cleveland could remain best friends with a guy that gave his wife the ol’ smash and dash, effectively destroying his marriage… But that’s besides the point. The point is that a single Cleveland moves to Stoolbend, Virginia and finally marries his high school crush, Donna. She has two kids of her own, Roberta and Rallo, so along with Cleveland Jr. they form a brand new, happy family. Well, maybe not the happy part. At least not initially. They all learn to get along eventually and develop stronger relationships with each other as the show goes, however it does take some time and they still have their ill moments towards each other regardless.
Let’s take a lot a look at the characters.
Overall Rating: 64/100
Voice Acting: C
Art Animation: Typical MacFarlane animation in the same exact style as Family Guy and American Dad
Premise of Show: Cleveland from Family Guy moves to a new town with a new family and basically turns into Peter in what is essentially a black version of Family Guy
Episode Length: 21-22 minutes
Network/Where to Watch: Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, Netflix, Hulu
Episodic or Continuity? Episodic
Characters in The Cleveland Show
Cleveland Brown (Voiced by Mike Henry)- The main man himself. Wildly different from his quiet, monotone-speaking counterpart in Family Guy, his version in The Cleveland Show illustrates him to be more of an outspoken, energetic guy with a wide array of tones to his voice. His new personality is actually pretty similar to Peter from Family Guy, although he’s not nearly as mentally challenged and overall has better morals, which perhaps makes him a bit more likable. While he can be selfish at times, generally speaking he is a pretty polite dude to most people.
Donna Tubbs Brown (Voiced by Sanaa Lathan)- Cleveland’s old high-school friend and wannabe sweetheart. The both of them rekindled their connection and got married at the start of The Cleveland Show when Cleveland moved back to his hometown Stoolbend, Virginia. She was previously married to Robert, Cleveland’s high school rival, with whom she had two kids with, Roberta and Rallo. While she is quick-tempered and is overall a pretty feisty lady like Cleveland’s ex wife Loretta was, she is also more understanding and sensitive.
Cleveland Brown, Jr. (Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson)- Cleveland’s real son who came with him from Quahog. He went through a complete re-design with his character when transitioning from Family Guy to The Cleveland Show. While in Family Guy he was depicted as being very hyperactive and athletic, his rendition in The Cleveland Show portrays him to be extremely obese, awkward, and all around lazy. He speaks with a peculiar, high-pitched tone of voice. Later episodes him reveal him to be non-religious, but not exactly atheist either. That trait alone draws connections to Brian from Family Guy, but overall his character has the most similarities to Chris as far as the Griffins go, considering they are both ‘the fat and socially awkward teenage son’ of the family.
Roberta Tubbs (Voiced by Reagan Gomez-Preston)- Donna’s 15 year old biological daughter and Cleveland’s step daughter. She is a popular high school student and acts exactly as you would expect a stereotypical representation of popular students to act; self-centered, a bit of a bully, social media obsessive, and more concerned with appearing cool to her peers rather than doing the right thing. She is dating a white wannabe thug by the name of Federline Jones, who is a direct reference to Kevin Federline down to their style, mannerisms, and attitude. Even though she is mostly selfish and remains emotionally distant from her family, she does have a softer side and has shown on numerous occasions that she does really care about the ones close to her.
Rallo Tubbs (Voiced by Mike Henry)- The five year old biological son of Donna which makes him Cleveland’s step son. He is essentially the Stewie of The Cleveland Show; he’s very advanced for his age and a child prodigy of sorts. While he isn’t exactly a genius like Stewie is, his vocabulary still far exceeds that of a normal 5 year old’s. He has more of an aggressive personality and much like a typical child his age, he is very selfish and wants things his way all the time. Some of his less than favorable personality traits stem from his real father, Robert, who is selfish, arrogant, and a liar. Despite how negligent Robert is to him, Rallo still views him as a bit of a role model. It takes awhile for him to warm up to Cleveland and Cleveland Jr. being new additions to the family, but he eventually forms somewhat good relationships with them and learns to respect their company.
The Cleveland Show follows the same exact family sitcom format as MacFarlane’s other two shows, Family Guy and American Dad. Episodes will usually center around a main storyline involving some of the main cast, the ‘A’ plot, while a secondary storyline involving the other members of the main cast is present to break up the main storyline, the ‘B’ plot. Many shows have done it and many shows will continue to do it. While MacFarlane found success in both of those aforementioned shows with that format, The Cleveland Show largely fails to replicate that magic. A lot of it just seems done before. It’s your typical sitcom situations with different, uninteresting characters in a different, but familiar setting. I understand that it’s hard to be original in the realm of adult animated sitcoms, or just sitcoms in general because there are so many of them. However, originality aside… As long as the situations are executed correctly then it doesn’t matter how cliché they are. Unfortunately, The Cleveland Show fails to execute most episodes as well as it should.
While The Cleveland Show isn’t absolutely terrible by any means, I really can’t see how anyone could possibly prefer it over Family Guy and American Dad. It almost seems like they took out the failed jokes from those two shows that didn’t quite make it to the final cut and just threw it in The Cleveland Show as if they were saying, “There… We tried.” I mean the show does have it its redeeming moments and some jokes are genuinely pretty funny, I will admit I have laughed on a few occasions… HOWEVER, those moments are few and far between. In a hit or miss type of a show, it is definitely most often a miss. A lot of it comes down to the characters just being flat out unlikeable. Part of what makes MacFarlane’s other work so much better is that he actually creates interesting characters (for the most part) that have good chemistry amongst one another (for the most part). Some of Family Guy’s main cast can be pretty damn appalling nowadays, but some of them still have good chemistry together like Brian and Stewie, Peter and the guys, etc. While American Dad has their chemistry with pairings such as Roger and Stan, Steve and his friends, etc… Well, The Cleveland Show has none of that. Most of Cleveland’s friends are annoying besides Terry. Lester is a racist redneck whose obese wife Kendra has a cringeworthy voice. Holt isn’t as funny as his character could be, same with Tim the bear. Cleveland Jr. is so beta it hurts to watch. Donna is generic black sitcom mom #142. Roberta is a typical teenage brat. Cleveland himself is basically just a toned down version of Peter now, much different from his reserved, monotone self from early Family Guy. Rallo is probably the best character on the show in my opinion as he provides the most laughs along with Cleveland, but when two characters out of your main cast are the only ones who aren’t just awful… You have a problem.
One shining positive amidst the sea of negatives is that The Cleveland Show actually does touch on some deep issues on occasion such as divorce, broken marriages, the kids’ way of coping with those issues, etc. so the show isn’t entirely just shallow comedy; it has a little depth to it. Seeing as how the whole premise of the show was only made possible through the divorces of Cleveland and Loretta along with Donna and Robert, that fact would lead you to believe that those topics were bound to get discussed at some point. These issues don’t get brought up all the time, but when they do they are often handled relatively well given the usual nature of the show. I would say The Cleveland Show actually deals with those mature themes better than Family Guy does, which isn’t really saying much though considering Family Guy is pretty awful with those types of things. A lot of that is due to the main cast of Family Guy being morally wrong, unethical people that makes it hard for the audience to care about their well being. On the contrary, the main cast of The Cleveland Show appear to be genuinely good people for the most part despite their flaws. While they may not provide the same laughs as the Griffins do, it is easier to care about them more on an emotional level given that they’re actually decent people, in result making their sad situations a bit more empathetic. That just might be the only thing that The Cleveland Show has over Family Guy, so I will give them that. With that being said though, I’m not really tuning into either show to watch deep problems get handled in realistic ways, I’m watching these shows for laughs and only laughs. So at the end of the day… The Cleveland Show handling such themes better than its counterpart is a pretty trivial point.
Technically speaking, the voice acting isn’t bad. There are some legit voice actors in the cast and they do their job in displaying their character’s emotions. Some of the actual voice inflections they chose for the characters are just SO damn annoying though. I realize that is a personal opinion, but I feel that opinion holds valid for a lot of other people as well. Cleveland Jr.’s voice is pretty bad. Kendra’s voice is unbearable. Lester has your stereotypical redneck voice, which is annoying to me. Tim the bear has an unlikeable voice, and I guess Seth MacFarlane agreed because he stopped voicing him after the third season. Despite really liking Jason Sudeikis as an actor, I found Holt’s character and his voice to be irritating. The list goes on. I do like Cleveland’s new voice though because it gives him some more character, plus his laugh can be pretty funny. On the topic of things I like, I almost forgot to mention the aspect I probably like best about the show… The theme song! I gotta admit, it’s a catchy theme song. The music in The Cleveland Show in general isn’t bad for a sitcom, it’s your typical MacFarlane fare. It does lack a lot of the big, impressive musical numbers that Family Guy often has though. But yeah, that theme song. Catchy stuff. I don’t know though… When looking back at a show, the first positive aspect that comes to mind shouldn’t necessarily be the theme song. That’s probably why I gave it the rating that it has.
Final Verdict: In the end, The Cleveland Show is far from the worst adult cartoon I’ve ever seen. It has its fair share of laughs and redeeming qualities. If you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s work, you will probably find some enjoyment here and there. It is however, in my opinion at least, the least enjoyable out of the three MacFarlane animated sitcoms. The whole thing just seems unnecessary, really. Cleveland was fine as a side character and a good balance to the group of guys in Family Guy; he didn’t need his own show. If anything, a sitcom based around Quagmire would have been a better idea for the sole purpose of switching up the typical dysfunctional family formula that Family Guy, American Dad, The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers and so many other shows do. It is what it is though and obviously nothing can be changed. For being a black Family Guy clone, The Cleveland Show hits some right notes, some bad notes, and a lot of shaky notes along the way. I can’t see why I would ever choose to re-watch this series rather than just watch classic episodes of Family Guy and American Dad if given the option, but if I was at a friend’s house and they turned this show on, I wouldn’t exactly be mad. I would just sit in silence and watch the mediocrity that played before me. Because that’s exactly what The Cleveland Show is. The definition of mediocrity. This ends The Cleveland Show review, up to if you want to indulge in this mediocracy of a show.