October 01, 2009

TV: The Cleveland Show (Fox, Sun 8:30)

Spinoff from Family Guy, in which Cleveland Brown (voiced by Mike Henry), tired of being overlooked and not taken seriously, packs up with 13-year-old Cleveland Jr.(Kevin Michael Richardson) and leaves Quahog. They wind up in Cleveland's home town (Stoolbend, Virginia), where Cleveland reunites with and marries high school sweetheart, Donna (Sanaa Lathan). She's got two kids of her own, which makes them "the black Brady Bunch," says Cleveland, "except that I'm not a gay architect and my son's not sleeping with my wife."

Some of creator Seth MacFarlane's trademarks are immediately recognizable -- the many pop culture references, the talking animals (Cleveland's new neighbors are bears, voiced by MacFarlane and Arianna Huffington) -- but the show has a sweeter tone than either Family Guy or American Dad. It may be the first MacFarlane show in which the central family actually seems to love one another. There are also a lot fewer cutaways to non-sequitur jokes than there are on Family Guy, which is disappointing if you like Family Guy and a huge relief if you don't.

I am a big fan of Family Guy, and I kinda miss the cutaways and the meandering "plot? what plot?" style. I'm curious, though, to see what a MacFarlane show with more conventional plotting looks like (and I'm weirdly delighted by the prospect of Arianna Huffington as Mrs. Bear), so I'll keep watching for a few weeks.

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