DVD Review: FOX’s Clever ‘The Cleveland Show: Season One’

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CHICAGO – What’s the best animated program on Sunday nights? Sadly, it hasn’t been “The Simpsons” for years and the most-recent reigning champ, “Family Guy” has been like a tire with a pinhole leak over the last few seasons, slowly becoming less creative with each passing episode. No, the most consistent and creative cartoon on the evening is the spin-off “The Cleveland Show” and the show’s first season is now available on DVD.

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0

When FOX announced that “Family Guy” would be joining the hallowed halls of programs with their own spin-off, I think most of us raised an eyebrow at the possibility of Cleveland Brown anchoring his own show. He was always a scene-stealer on “Family Guy” but secondary characters are usually so for a reason — they’re not designed to be primary ones. Little did we know that Mike Henry was going to take a group of writers easily as talented as the ones sitting at Seth MacFarlane’s table right now. Animation is all about the writing and the writing on “The Cleveland Show” is top-notch.

Henry voices Brown, a man who has moved from Quahog, Rhode Island to Stoolbend, Virginia for a little country humor. Cleveland finds a new wife (Sanaa Lathan), a stepdaughter (Nia Long, replaced by Reagan Gomez-Preston), a wisecracking stepson (Henry again), and brings his own son Cleveland Jr. (Kevin Michael Richardson). Cleveland has two friends (Jason Sudeikis voices both) and even a bear voiced by MacFarlane.

The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season One
The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season One” was released on DVD on September 28th, 2010
Photo credit: Fox Home Video

“The Cleveland Show” is far-from-perfect but it’s more consistently clever and generally more likable than “Family Guy” has been in the last sub-par season. It feels a little like Henry took the warmth from “Family Guy” when he headed down to Virginia, leaving “Family Guy” a bit too cold at times last season. Sometimes “The Cleveland Show” goes for the cheap gag but it more often that not uses its characters and their situations for humor instead of a dirty joke or pop culture reference.

“The Cleveland Show” was buried under the wave of high-quality freshman programs in the 2009-2010 season including “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “The Good Wife,” and more. It’s not as accomplished as some of its classmates but it deserves a look (and had it debuted a year later in the horrific 2010-2011 freshman crop would be considered one of the top new programs).

The FOX program looks great in HD but their parent company has chosen not to release the show on Blu-ray, probably assuming that “standard is good enough” for animated programming. It’s a shame. All 21 episodes are presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on four discs.

Special Features:
o Commentary on Select Episodes
o “Meet Cleveland”
o “Get Your Hump On” Music Video
o The Making of “Get Your Hump On” with Earth, Wind & Fire
o The “Brotherly Love” Table Read With Kanye West and Taraji P. Henson
o Deleted Scenes
o Uncensored Audio and Uncensored Scenes on Select Episodes

‘The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season One’ is released by Fox Home Video and features voice work by Mike Henry, Sanaa Lathan, and Jason Sudeikis. The show was released on September 28th, 2010. It is not rated and runs 472 minutes.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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