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

    Wednesday, May 25

    Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "It Was All A Dream" (BET, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    After a much-needed night on the town with his boys and ten too many drinks, Calvin finds himself in a bit of a sticky situation. In a drunken state, he sends sexual text messages to Miranda and invites her over.

    Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "Clean Up Your Act" (BET, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    Cora is fed up with the way the residents have been behaving - not cleaning up after themselves, bickering over the television, leaving the toilet seat up, and foul language.

    The Ms. Pat Show - "Don't Eat That S..." (BET, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    When Junebug gets swindled by a drug dealer, Denise decides to help him get his money back instead of telling Pat and Terry.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 23)

    Wednesday, May 25

    • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!/The Cleveland Show) - Watch Seth on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Jay Ellis (Insecure/The Game) - Jay appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Jon Hamm (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) - Jon is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Amanda Peet (Brockmire/Togetherness/Bent) - Amanda will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Jay Pharoah (White Famous) - Jay appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Sherri Shepherd (Mr. Iglesias/Trial & Error/Sherri/Less Than Perfect/Suddenly Susan) - Sherri guest hosts The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
    • Nick Jonas (Jonas) - Nick is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
    • Hayley Orrantia (The Goldbergs) - Hayley talks about The Masked Singer on Reality Check at 4:30pm.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (February-May)

    ALT= Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series (2022 Release) Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Fourth Season Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release)

    02/08 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Ninth Season
    02/22 - Everybody Hates Chris - The Complete Series (2022 Release)
    02/22 - Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series (2022 Release)
    03/08 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Eight
    03/08 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    03/15 - Head of the Class - The Complete Fourth Season
    03/15 - The Proud Family - The Complete Original Series - Anniversary Collection
    03/22 - The Honeymooners Specials - The Complete Collection
    03/29 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-5 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
    03/29 - Young Rock - Season One
    04/05 - Up All Night - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    04/26 - The Danny Thomas Show (aka Make Room for Daddy) - The Complete Fourth Season
    04/26 - Jackie Gleason TV Treasures - 70th Anniversary Collection (including Honeymooners Rarities)
    05/03 - No Activity - Season Three
    05/31 - Becker - The Complete Series (2022 Release)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    05/24 - Abbott Elementary Star to Host ABC Game Show; Amazon Orders The Hospital
    05/23 - Seth MacFarlane's Peacock Comedy Series Ted Rounds Out Cast; Twisted Metal Comedy Series in the Works
    05/22 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 23, 2022)
    05/21 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fall Broadcast Network Lineups Out; The CW Looking to Get Back Into Sitcom Business
    05/20 - HBO Renews Barry for Season 4; Apple TV+ Comedy Trying Returns in July; Remembering Maggie Peterson of The Andy Griffith Show
    05/19 - The CW Upfront 2022-23: Fall 2022 Schedule; Rick and Morty Returns as Anime on Adult Swim
    05/18 - CBS Upfront 2022-23: Fall 2022 Schedule; Turner Upfront Updates
    05/17 - ABC Upfront 2022-23: Fall 2022 Schedule; Pete Davidson Comedy Adds Edie Falco
    05/16 - NBC Upfront 2022-23: Fall 2022 Schedule; Fox Upfront 2022-23: Call Me Kat and Welcome to Flatch Renewed, Adds Two New Animated Comedies and Three New Dramas
    05/15 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 16, 2022)
    05/14 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Looking at Fall Renewals and Cancellations; Married... with Children Animated Reboot in the Works
    05/13 - NBC Renews 3 Sitcoms, Cancels 2; CBS and The CW Hand Out Orders & Pink Slips; Remembering Mike Hagerty and Sitcom Producer/Writer George Yanok
    05/12 - NBC Orders Lopez vs. Lopez Sitcom for 2022-23 Season; Amazon Renews Upload for Season 3
    05/11 - Disney's Bunk'd Returns June 10 for Season 6; Paramount+ to Be Exclusive SVOD Home of Ghosts
    05/10 - MeTV Network Adds The A-Team for The Summer of Me; HBO Max Renews Two Comedies for Season 2
    05/09 - Never Have I Ever Season 3 Premieres August 12; Netflix's The Upshaws Return in June
    05/08 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 9, 2022)
    05/07 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Saved by the Bell Reboot Canceled; Quantum Leap Reboot Picked Up at NBC
    05/06 - Hulu Comedy Maggie Gets Premiere Date; Chad Returns July 11 on TBS, While HBO Max Series Get Second Runs on TBS and TNT; Remembering David Birney of Bridget Loves Bernie
    05/05 - Freeform Summer 2022 Schedule; The Waltons Return to The CW This Holiday Season
    05/04 - Netflix Orders No Good Deed, from Dead to Me Creator; Cristela Alonzo Returns for New Comedy Special
    05/03 - That '70s Show Cast to Reunite on That '90s Show; Teri Hatcher and James Denton Reunite Again
    05/02 - Antenna TV's Always Mother's Day Marathon; The Real Celebrates Mother's Day with Classic TV Guests
    05/01 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 2, 2022)
    04/30 - SitcomsOnline Digest: The Conners Close to Season Five Renewal; James Corden Leaving The Late Late Show
    04/29 - Fri-Yay: Netflix's Struggles Create Question for the Future of Television; Hulu Acquires Schitt's Creek
    04/28 - Starz Comedy Run the World Returns with More Stars; HBO Max Orders Spin-off of Harley Quinn Animated Comedy Series
    04/27 - Freeform Orders Single Drunk Female Season 2 & New Series While You Were Breeding; Peacock Brings Back Wolf Like Me
    04/26 - The Orville Returns for Season 3 After 3 Year Hiatus; Fox Announces More Stars for Fantasy Island Season 2
    04/25 - Abbott Elementary Finale Hits Multi-Platform Highs; Arnold Schwarzenegger Netflix Series Announces Cast
    04/24 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of April 25, 2022)