Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Cleveland Show Does Not Rock...

Ever since FOX announced the Cleveland Show, I've wondered why, out of all the characters on Family Guy, they picked Cleveland for a spin-off. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I never found him remotely funny. I felt like Quagmire or Brian would have made much better choices.

No surprise, therefore, that I found the Cleveland Show similarly unfunny. After watching the pilot, though, I wonder if that's the point. Maybe Seth MacFarlane was being conservative and deliberately chose a weak character to limit the damage to Family Guy. The loss of a Quagmire or Brian could have been crippling to his flagship show. Cleveland, far less so.

The choice of Rich Appel to head the project also seems conservative. Appel has written and produced for some impressive shows, including the Simpsons, Family Guy, and Bernie Mac. But he has a reputation for playing it safe, which is death for a racial comedy. Such humor is inherently high risk, high reward. You can't be afraid to offend, or you get lame jokes -- like a wigger boyfriend named Federline Jones -- that offend anyway by virtue of their banality.

If there's a silver lining, it's the way the Cleveland Show has enhanced my appreciation for Family Guy. In a previous post, I dismissed the voice work on the latter, arguing it was the referential humor that really elevated Family Guy. In retrospect, I took that quality work for granted. The Cleveland Show has plenty of cutaways, too -- the Parton family gag was one of the few laugh-out-loud moments of the pilot for me. But the show still stinks because the character voices are so weak, particularly for step-brothers Rollo and Cleveland, Jr.

It's like they're not even trying, which raises one last possibility to contemplate. Some of MacFarlane's die-hard fans, the ones who insist his genius can produce no dud, claim that the Cleveland Show is deliberately cliched and awful. It's supposedly a satire of spin-offs, sort of like how the film Adaptation ends with a satire of bad action movie cliches. They claim the secret goal is for the show to be canceled quickly like Joey and other failed spin-offs of the past.

I guess that's possible...but I doubt it. I think MacFarlane got gun shy and sought to minimize his losses.  The result was this turd of a show.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Big, I never watched FAMILY GUY before this past August, no lie. I'm up quite late/early, and started watching adult swim at 2AM. I watched the multiverse episode on Hulu last night. I expected Cleveland to bomb for the reasons you listed.

Anonymous said...

I've grown bored of Family Guy and American Dad so I didn't even give Cleveland a chance. I guess I kinda hate Seth McFarlane, but then again i've quit watching the Simpsons too, so maybe I just hate cartoons now. The only cartoon show I look forward to watching on Sunday is King of the Hill... but wait, they canceled it and Judge went on to make the horrendous "Goode Family". WTF is with new comedy shows nowadays. Every single new ABC comedy show made me i'll. NBC's Community was impossible for me to watch, 30 Rock seems impossibly convoluted... sigh. On the other hand I love that new Amy Poeler show Parks and Recreation, but why would I watch it when FF is on? Thank god my Sundays won't be boring now that Dexter is back, Entourage is still on and Bored to Death is intriguing me.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anon, I never really got into AMERICAN DAD. I think what got me re: FAMILY GUY was the early version where it was all Stewie wanting to kill Lois. Then it and of fell off my radar, when I had a full-time job, my viewing habits went by my eating a meal schedule. KING OF THE HILL is OK now, but much better for the first five years or so, I can equate with the show because much of my family live in Shelby County KY.

Capcom said...

Didn't catch this how yet. Would have preferred a Stewie show. "Mark my words, when you least expect it, your uppance will come!"

McFarlane has the most sohpisticated voice, and the most sophomoric sense of humor. :-) Like him on FF so far though.

King of the Hill is my fave too!