Same jokes different character on The Cleveland Show
The story of Family Guy is a miraculous one: Seth MacFarlane creates a TV show that gets cancelled by FOX, only to be resurrected by fans after finding new life on DVD. But the unfortunate side effect of this success story is that it now seems FOX believes MacFarlane can do no wrong and has granted him two additional animated series, the less-funny American Dad and the newest, completely un-funny addition, The Cleveland Show.
Let me start out by saying that yes, I am a South Park fan, so it’s obvious where my loyalties lie in this “Team Aniston” vs. “Team Jolie” scale battle. Characters like Stewie and Brian (both voiced by MacFarlane) make Family Guy tolerable, but there’s no denying the majority of Family Guy’s jokes come from cut-aways composed of gross-out gags or obscure pop culture references. As Trey Parker and Matt Stone so brilliantly noted, the show could be written by manatees.
Sadly, The Cleveland Show seems to lower the bar even further with corny jokes that feel like they were written by your grandpa. Even worse, it seems to follow the same stale formula as MacFarlane’s other shows: there’s a sassy baby, a talking animal (this time it’s a bear), and the same lame cut-aways that seem to be the only way the writers know how to elicit a laugh.
This time they also throw in a healthy dollop of racism, which they try to justify by making jokes that attempt to poke fun at the same exact concepts that are constantly used in the show itself. They mock “shows made by white people that they think black people will watch” with a parody show called “Dat’s What I Was Tellin’ You Before!” instead of going for the real joke and acknowledging that The Cleveland Show itself is one such show. In the pilot episode, there are dozens of jokes about main character Cleveland Brown (voiced by writer Mike Henry) and his family being black, something that starts out boring and proceeds to borderline offensive as the show continues. Making jokes about black characters isn’t offensive in itself, but when they’re jokes that seem to be leftovers from the first season of MADtv, the lack of originality and poor execution becomes incredibly frustrating.
I wonder how much longer MacFarlane can ride Family Guy’s coattails and continue to convince FOX executives that he’s a genius of animated comedy. Sure, lots of people like Family Guy, less people like American Dad and surely even fewer people will enjoy The Cleveland Show. As one comment on Hulu put it, The Cleveland Show seems like a “poor revision of the same crap.”