Friday, September 25, 2009

Fox Fall Pilot Review - The Cleveland Show - Premieres September 27; ION Adds More Ghost Whisperer

The Cleveland Show Cast

The Cleveland Show - Sundays 8:30PM ET/PT on Fox
Premieres Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 8:30PM ET/PT

Rather than attempt to explain the premise of The Cleveland Show myself, I thought I would let the words of the show's main voice actor, Mike Henry (voice of Cleveland), explain it.

"Cleveland has kind of had enough in Quahog - he kind of realizes that he wants his own friends, his own sidekicks, his own stories. So he sets out to California to make it in a way that we'll have to keep a secret until the show starts, and then he ends up somewhere else, which we'll also keep a secret until the show starts. But he basically goes home – he goes to his hometown in Virginia and rekindles an old high school flame."

The above explains this show far better than I could. I'll go ahead and warn you, though, that if you're one of the people who detests both of Seth MacFarlane's comedies (Family Guy, American Dad), you can stop reading *now* as, though the show generally has a cohesive pilot (that, as a bonus, usually makes sense) it is still very clearly a Seth MacFarlane show.


Cast Details:

A word of caution here: Because of the animated nature of this show, none of the cast will be physically present in any episodes, and many characters may rotate in-and-out based upon the needs of the episode. Also, as is common in animation, one voice actor may provide the voice for multiple characters.

* Mike Henry as Cleveland, Rollo
* Sanaa Lathan as Donna
* Reagan Gomez-Preston as Roberta
* Kevin Michael Richardson as Cleveland Jr., Lester the Redneck
* Seth MacFarlane as Tim the Bear, English Father

Mike Henry (Cleveland, Rollo) performed stand-up and improv and acted in commercials for several years before meeting Seth MacFarlane in 1995. Henry was a writer and producer on Family Guy for the series' first six seasons. He voices many of the characters he created, including "Cleveland," "Cleveland Jr.," "Herbert," "The Performance Artist," "Consuela" and "The Greased-Up Deaf Guy." His additional acting credits include Scrubs, Gilmore Girls, Yes, Dear, American Dad! and Robot Chicken. Henry and his brother are the creators of the internet-based series Kicked in the Nuts.

Sanaa Lathan (Donna) was recently seen in Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys alongside Perry, Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard. In 2004, Lathan earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the revival of the Broadway classic, A Raisin in the Sun. She later reprised her critically acclaimed role as "Beneatha Younger" in the television adaptation of the play alongside Sean Combs. Lathan's most recent credits include her NAACP Image Award-nominated roles in Something New and Nip/Tuck. She previously starred in Out of Time, Alien vs. Predator, Brown Sugar, Love and Basketball and The Best Man.

Reagan Gomez-Preston (Roberta) and her mother, at age 14, made a trip to Los Angeles with Dateline documenting their journey for an episode about young actors. Within a few of weeks of landing in Los Angeles, she had booked the remake of Freaky Friday with Shelley Long. Shortly after, Gomez-Preston landed a starring role on the Robert Townsend series The Parent Hood, and with his guidance and support, she co-wrote one of the series' most-watched episodes on teen rape. Her other TV acting credits include Love, Inc., Carmen: A Hip Hopera, ER, That '70s Show, JAG and One on One. Her feature film credits lead roles in Never Die Alone opposite DMX, Love Don't Cost a Thing and Beauty Shop with Queen Latifah. Gomez's additional film credits include the independent films Doing Hard Time and Trois 3: The Escort.

Kevin Michael Richardson (Cleveland Jr., Lester the Redneck) is no stranger to animation. He has voiced hundreds of characters for films, commercials and video games, including Family Guy and American Dad! Richardson was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his work as The Joker on the animated series The Batman. He has also voiced characters on The Boondocks, The PJs and The Penguins of Madagascar. His feature film roles include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Matrix III and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Richardson starred in the television series The Knights of Prosperity and recently appeared in the drama series The Cleaner.

Recurring Cast Members include Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad!) as Tim the Bear, English Father, Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live), and Arianna Huffington (author & columnist).


Pilot Plot:

Episode #1: "Pilot" (Airs September 27, 2009)

After Peter (Peter Griffin, from Family Guy) destroys his house one too many times, Cleveland has had enough and decides to move to California with his son Cleveland Jr. Along the way, Cleveland decides to stop in his old hometown of Stoolbend, VA where he meets an old high school love interest and hits it off.


Analysis:

Here's the thing about this: As a self-contained episode, this program was OK. The episode feels something that would be consistent in tone and quality from the early years of Family Guy, before the show got consumed with cutaway gags and time-filling jokes that run on for too long. It really does harken back to a time before Family Guy lost its way.

On paper, I should really like this show. But there's this nagging feeling I keep having when watching. Perhaps it's because they took the 2nd least interesting character from Family Guy (really, is there any character less interesting than Meg?) and gave HIM his own show. This, at least in the first cut of the pilot, is even referenced in a line by Stewie before Cleveland & son drive off into the sunset, with Stewie remarking in shock that it's *Cleveland* getting his own show?

Also, a note: The first quarter of the episode – the expositional cold open - at least in the version I viewed, *is* set-up as seemingly your usual Family Guy adventure. It has the same musical transition, your usual Family Guy characters (Quagmire, Joe, Peter, Stewie, Brian, et al.), and doesn't become The Cleveland Show until the main theme hits a few minutes in. You'll know when the transition occurs as the show suddenly shifts from full-frame to widescreen in a nice effect.

Pilots often aren't the strongest episodes of a series, and do tend to get better. This episode left me neutral, so there IS room to grow from here.


Conclusion:

I was a huge fan of the show that Cleveland Show is replacing. I absolutely adored King of the Hill, and it's the second show cancelled largely due to Fox's own ineptitude (the list would have been three had they not backpedaled on Family Guy itself). When Fox wants a show to die, it schedules it in the 7-8 PM hour on Sunday nights. They did this to Futurama and they did it to King of the Hill. King of the Hill was one of the best animated comedies I've ever seen, and I can say there WILL be a contingent of viewers who, missing King of the Hill and wary of Seth MacFarlane's growing stranglehold of Fox, will be unusually cool to The Cleveland Show due to its origin and timeslot alone.

But, there's a lot of potential here, and it'll be interesting to see in which direction things go. The Cleveland Show is a nice detour from the madness that is your average episode of Family Guy, but I've yet to see evidence of how they're going to sustain this show beyond a few episodes. Yes, there are new characters to play off of. But you can't really get away with simply making the show a clone of Family Guy (nor American Dad!), and I'm not sure if Cleveland is an interesting or dynamic enough character to be the focal point of a weekly television series. Of course, they've turned simple background characters into stars of popular spin-offs before - that's the genesis of half of 1970s television right there! Still, I'm neutral at best about the ability of this show to be interesting, good, or funny long term. Consider me "cautiously optimistic."


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Funniness: 4/5
Watchability: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth on 09/25/09

Discuss the show after you watch it on Sunday, September 27 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • Fox.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Cleveland Show Photo Gallery


  • Preview:





    ION Television will be adding another hour of Ghost Whisperer starting Monday, Oct. 5. Ghost Whisperer currently airs Mon-Thurs at 8pm and also Wednesdays at 9pm. The series has done so-so in the ratings and is not doing as well as Criminal Minds or NCIS. But still they will add another airing on Mon-Thurs. The new airing will be Mon-Thurs at 7pm, so it will now air back-to-back on Mon-Thurs from 7-9pm, and yes Wednesdays it will be a triple shot from 7-10pm. Ghost Whisperer at 7pm will be replacing Reba, which will move to 4-5pm, as we mentioned. So Reba won't get to air for two hours after all.
    Anyway, as for Ghost Whisperer, if this doesn't help its ratings, I can see ION removing the 8pm hour and airing something else.
    View our full ION Television October 2009 schedule.


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Friday, November 15

    American Housewife - "Flavor of Westport" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Katie teams up with Oliver in hopes of growing her lasagna-making endeavor from hobby to serious business venture. Meanwhile, a bout of writer’s block forces Greg to look at new career opportunities. When a young YouTube sensation enlists Greg’s help to ghostwrite his memoir, Greg is pushed out of his comfort zone.

    Fresh Off the Boat - "Practicum?!" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    When Evan starts to behave more like a typical eighth-grader, Jessica worries that his future as doctor-president may be in danger. Meanwhile, Eddie has decided on Allen Iverson as his “hero” subject for an essay, sending Louis on a mission to prove that he’s just as worthy of that title.

    Raven's Home - "Crewed Up" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    When Levi starts hanging out with a new group of friends, Booker has a vision that leads him to believe that they're up to no good and tries to steer Levi away from them.

    Just Roll With It - "Family Squabbles" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    The Bennett-Blatts are invited to be contestants on "Family Squabbles," a game show that tests a family's knowledge of one another.

    Gabby Duran & the Unsittables - "Olivia Gone Wild" (Disney Channel, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    When Dina hires self-proclaimed supersitter Susie Dustman to watch Olivia, Gabby's jealousy drives her to go toe-to-toe with the rival sitter for her sister's affection.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 11)

    Friday, November 15

    • Shia LaBeouf (Even Stevens) - Watch Shia on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Lil Rel Howery (Rel/The Carmichael Show) - Lil Rel appears on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Tig Notaro (One Mississippi) - Tig visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Cobie Smulders (Friends from College/How I Met Your Mother) - Cobie is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Kristin Chenoweth (Trial & Error/Kristin) - Kristin appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Lea Michele (The Mayor) - Lea is a guest on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Patrick Stewart (The Blunt) - Patrick stops by The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish/Girlfriends) - Tracee is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Lena Waithe (Master of None) - Lena appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi dishes about her new book The Unqualified Hostess on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Tony Hale (Veep/Arrested Development) - Tony talks about Disney+'s Forky Asks a Question on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
    • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/Cafe Americain/One Day at a Time) - Valerie appears on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
    • Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Jeff talks about his new Netflix comedy special on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
    • Autumn Reeser (Entourage/Complete Savages) - Autumn talks about Christmas Under the Stars on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
    • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Wilmer is a guest on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (September/October/November)

    My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season Life with Lucy - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season

    09/03 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 9th Season
    09/03 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Fifth Season
    09/03 - The Goldbergs - The Complete Sixth Season
    09/03 - Single Parents - The Complete Season One
    09/03 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Second Season
    09/04 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete First Season
    09/10 - American Dad! - Volume 14
    09/10 - The Jetsons - The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray) (WBShop.com)
    09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One
    09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume Two
    09/17 - Friends - The Complete Series (25th Anniversary)
    09/17 - Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season
    09/19 - Angel from Hell - The DVD Edition
    09/19 - The Guest Book - Season 1
    10/08 - Leave it to Beaver - The Complete Series
    10/08 - Life with Lucy - The Complete Series
    10/15 - Mom - The Complete Sixth Season
    10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 1
    10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 2
    11/05 - The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang - The Complete Animated Series
    11/05 - Laverne & Shirley in the Army (Animated Series) - The DVD Edition
    11/05 - Letterkenny - Seasons 1 & 2
    11/05 - Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
    11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season (Blu-ray)
    11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Limited Edition)
    11/19 - The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
    11/19 - The Kominsky Method - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    11/14 - Antenna TV's Classic Christmas Collection and Christmas Through the Years; TBS Orders a Fifth Season of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
    11/13 - 2019 A Very Merry MeTV Lineup; Ricky Gervais Returns to Host Golden Globe Awards
    11/12 - CBS Midseason 2020 Plans Include FBI Spin-off; E! Brings Back The Soup
    11/11 - NBC Midseason 2020 Schedule; The CW Announces Midseason 2020 Lineup
    11/10 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 11, 2019)
    11/09 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fresh Off the Boat Coming to an End; Weeds Sequel in the Works
    11/08 - Fri-Yay: Thoughts on Netflix's Living with Yourself; ABC Orders More Episodes of American Housewife and Bless This Mess
    11/07 - COZI TV's Thanksgiving Weekend Unexpected Guests Marathon; MeTV Salutes Veteran's Day with M*A*S*H
    11/06 - Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family & Good Times on Dec. 18; NBC Orders More Superstore Episodes
    11/05 - ABC 2019 Holiday Specials and Episodes; E! Sets Date for Reality Sitcom
    11/04 - Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas Schedule for 2019; Showtime to Debut New Comedy On-Demand Before Premiere
    11/03 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 4, 2019)
    11/02 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Casting in Place for Punky Brewster Reboot; Happy Days Cartoon Spinoffs to Arrive on DVD

    11/01 - Fri-Yay: Thoughts on BoJack Horseman Season 6; Netflix Sets Dec. 5 Date for V Wars
    10/31 - Will Arnett to Host Fox Lego Series; Lil Rel HBO Comedy Special Gets Premiere Date
    10/30 - HBO Max Announces Lots of News and Series, Including Library Series The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Looney Tunes and More
    10/29 - ABC Gets Full Seasons of mixed-ish and More; The Facts of Life Stars Ready to Light Up Lifetime on Christmas
    10/28 - Fox Midseason 2020 Schedule; The CW Picks Up Full Seasons of Both Fall Freshman Series

    10/27 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 28, 2019)
    10/26 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Lizzie McGuire Reboot to Include Original Cast; New DVDs for The Mindy Project and Step by Step
    10/25 - Fri-Yay: Sunnyside Becomes the Season's First Cancellation; Maureen McCormick to Co-Host HGTV Christmas Special
    10/24 - Antenna TV's Sabrina & Samantha Witch-O-Ween Marathon; Remembering TV Producer Al Burton of Diff'rent Strokes, Charles in Charge and More
    10/23 - CBS Renews Freshman Fall 2019 Class; Fox Schedules 9-1-1 Spin-off for Midseason 2020
    10/22 - Fox Schedules Comedy Christmas Event; CNBC Gets A-Rod to Get Celebs Back in the Game
    10/21 - Fox Picks Up 2nd Season of Bless the Harts; Remembering Bill Macy of Maude
    10/20 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 21, 2019)
    10/19 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Sunnyside Becomes First Casualty of 2019-2020 TV Season; Our Miss Brooks Arrives on DVD
    10/18 - Fri-Yay: Is It Time to Lower Our Expectations for Sitcom Ratings?; Antenna TV's Dennis the Menace Thanksgiving Weekend Marathon
    10/17 - Raven's Home Gets 4th Season on Disney; Nick Orders More All That Episodes
    10/16 - Sunnyside Pulled, Will & Grace Back Early; CBS All Access Comedy Returns for Season 3
    10/15 - Sarah Silverman Returning to HBO with Late Night Series; Craig Ferguson to Host ABC Game Show
    10/14 - ABC Gears Up for Halloween with Specials and Sitcom Episodes; truTV Comedy Returns for Season 5