We all know that the Animation Domination block on FOX has been on somewhat of a slide in recent years. The glory days with the Holy Trinity of The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama have long since passed and sadly attempts to improve the variety of the block (such as with Sit Down, Shut Up) have not ended well. Nowadays, we have The Simpsons and an hour and a half of Seth McFarlane for company on Sunday nights.
Last season it was the turn of Cleveland Brown, a side character in Family Guy, to strut his stuff in his own spin-off show. There was rampant speculation at the time on whether or not he was worthy of such an accolade. Yes, it’s true that on Family Guy, he plays a deathly boring character whose only reason for existing was to be the butt of jokes (as if he needed any worse luck when it came to bathtubs). However, with his own show, Cleveland has been forced to add a bit of depth to his character, although he does so at the expense of everyone else in show.
The key to any good show is the interaction between the characters. In most shows, said characters normally have personalities distinct enough that they bounce back and forth off each other. A great example is The Inrcredibles, where the family members constantly clash with each other as their different powers take flight.
In The Cleveland Show, you have the typical “nuclear” family; husband, wife & kids. So far so much the same as Seth’s other two shows. You have Cleveland’s biological son, a simpleton who never has much to say, his adopoted daughter who seems to exhibit some of the worst traits of being a teenager and his adopted son, who acts like a much brasher version of Stewie from Family Guy. Donna would seem to be a good match for Cleveland in terms of character, but she has yet to have near as much airtime has him.
As for Cleveland’s buddies, let’s just say they all have one defining trait and we’ll leave it at that.
Which leaves us with Cleveland himself. What has changed about him in his transition from side-characters to main protagonist? Well for one, he has a lot more screen time, so he has a heck of a lot more talking to do. Besides that, he is still somewhat hard to pin down. He’s a devoted husband and father, but he is not averse to getting them into obscure situations that involve, say, a shootout.
He displays a higher level of intelligence than previously, although that may be the result of actually being more involved with the show. He is an optimist at heart, always looking for the good in folks, although that does not preclude him from having negative opinions which he does dispense when it suits him.
As the centre of the show, he naturally gets involved in a lot more activities than his family, and he has some genuine funny moments. The fact that he even displays a lighter side (perhaps even a colourful one) is a significant indicator that he is the most developed character on the show.
Cleveland Brown is, however, not a decent enough reason on his own to watch The Cleveland Show. The girlfriend and I gave up at the second ad break last Sunday, simply because the effort required to stay up didn’t justify the awesomeness that is sleep. If you, however, enjoy a show with only one half-decent character, The Cleveland Show will do the job.