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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season One
The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season One
Fox // Unrated // September 28, 2010
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted October 28, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Show

TV spin-offs are a tricky breed. For every "Frasier," there's a "Joey" waiting in the wings. The alchemy that makes some series great doesn't always translate when beloved characters wander away and start fresh. Some of it is timing; in the afterglow of immensely popular series or even while the original show is still on the air, executives feel the best way to capitalize on audience sentiment is to quickly provide a facsimile of that which was adored. More often, it's simply greed: if the viewers ate up Show A, bought all the merchandise and helped keep it on the air for years, then they'll treat Show B the same way, right?

At first blush, Seth MacFarlane's viciously satiric, often unseemly "Family Guy," with its expansive cast of characters, wouldn't necessarily seem ripe for expansion (indeed, many initially assumed the MacFarlane-co-created "American Dad" might be as far as it went, series-wise). But in the seventh season of "Family Guy," the seed was planted (specifically in the episode "Baby Not on Board"). And while the popular characters of baby Stewie and family dog Brian might seem most suited for a spin-off, it was secondary character Cleveland Brown who got the call.

"The Cleveland Show" premiered in September 2009, preceding "Family Guy" on Sunday nights on Fox. Created by MacFarlane, Richard Appel and Mike Henry (who also voices several characters, including Cleveland), the series, now in the midst of its second full season (with a guaranteed third season, which was ordered in June 2010), focuses on Cleveland Brown's life in his hometown of Stoolbend, Virginia. He's married to his high school sweetheart, Roberta (voiced by Sanaa Lathan), father to the dim-witted Cleveland Jr. (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) and stepfather to Donna (originally voiced by Nia Long for the initial 13-episode run; voiced since by Reagan Gomez-Preston) and the wise-cracking toddler Rallo (also voiced by Henry). When he's not spending time at the homestead, Cleveland's hanging out with his pals: Tim (voiced by MacFarlane), a German bear; Lester (voiced by Richardson), a clueless redneck and Holt Richter (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), a douchey hipster who still lives at home.

Cleveland's clan is closely modeled on the one found on "Family Guy" -- there's the doltish husband; the loving, if exasperated, wife; the mouthy children -- with a similar zest for cutaway jokes, topical humor and a penchant for boundary-pushing punchlines that might send some scrambling to change the channel. Yet, much like "Family Guy" and the granddaddy of 'em all, "The Simpsons," there's a heart and warmth (often obscured, but it's there) at the center of every episode. Cleveland Brown may be a bumbling dunce, but he loves his wife and kids, which helps temper some of the more outrageous moments.

As with most brand new shows, "The Cleveland Show" doesn't roar out of the gate and immediately hit its stride. Fortunately for the show's creative team, they knew they had a 22-episode order up front (the series was originally slated to be a midseason premiere, but was held until the fall of 2009), which didn't force them to cram a shortened season with too much character development. Instead, "The Cleveland Show" finds its way slowly, gradually settling into a comfortable rhythm that, by the final episodes, felt more like its own thing than merely a carbon copy of "Family Guy." (Put it this way: any show that can wrangle guest stars like Kanye West, Arianna Huffington and David Lynch is doing OK for itself.) Thus far, the second season has steadily improved upon the first. "The Cleveland Show" manages to find that elusive middle ground between raunchy and relatable, giving viewers appealing characters capable of supremely goofy behavior.

The first season of The Cleveland Show spans four discs (episodes one through seven are on disc one; episodes eight through 12 are on disc two; episodes 13 through 17 are on disc three and episodes 18 through 21 are on disc four), which contain all 21 episodes of this spin-off's freshman outing. The episodes are playable separately or all together on each disc. The quartet of DVDs is housed in a single, purple keep case which slides into a cardboard slipcover (that sports, naturally, a very tactile mustache for one Mr. Cleveland Brown). The "digital clips" disc is stored in its own, separate envelope (see bonus features section for more details). Here are brief episode synopses, along with details on the commentary tracks found on each episode of the first season.

"Pilot"
Following Peter Griffin's destruction of his house -- for the last time -- and his divorce, Cleveland Brown packs up his son, Cleveland Jr., and leaves Quahog, bound for California and a job in baseball. But, a fateful stop in his hometown of Stoolbend, Virginia, permanently alters Cleveland's plans. (Commentary with creators/actors Mike Henry, Seth MacFarlane, Rich Appel and producer Kara Vallow. Henry contributes a separate, in-character commentary as Cleveland.)

"Da Doggone Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance"
Cleveland struggles to ingratiate himself with his new step-children, Roberta and Rallo. He tries to take Roberta to a daddy-daughter dance at school, although his poor treatment of the family pet causes some problems.

"The One About Friends"
Cleveland is eager to find his son, Cleveland, Jr., some friends. When he tries to include Lester's son, Ernie, calamity ensues and Child Services becomes involved, much to Lester's displeasure.

"Birth of a Salesman"
With a little help from his neighbor Tim, Cleveland lands a job at Waterman Cable, where he reunites with his high school pal Terry (voiced by Sudeikis) and contends with the creepy boss. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, writer Kirker Butler and retake director Stephen Robertson.)

"Cleveland Jr.'s Cherry Bomb"
Cleveland's concerned that Roberta and her boyfriend, Federline Jones, are going to have sex, so he tries to preach abstinence. In the process, Cleveland Jr. winds up taking a pledge of chastity. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, director Mike L. Mayfield and actor Kevin Michael Richardson.)

"Ladies' Night"
Donna and Cleveland aren't on the same page when it comes to spending time together or with friends. Meanwhile, Cleveland Jr. runs for student council president, with help from the politically savvy Rallo.

"A Brown Thanksgiving"
A controversial episode that drew fire from some activist organizations (for reasons better left unexplained, so as to preserve some elements of surprise), Cleveland celebrates Turkey Day with his new family, including Donna's peculiar Auntie Momma. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, director Matt Engstrom, actors Craig Robinson and Kym Whitley.)

"From Bed to Worse"
Cleveland and Donna desperately try to make the most of it when Roberta and Cleveland Jr. go away on a school field trip (where Cleveland Jr. must come to his step-sister's rescue), but Rallo has other plans.

"A Cleveland Brown Christmas"
Once more, Cleveland finds himself at odds with his step-children, this time accidentally blabbing about Rallo's real father. Neighbors Tim and Arianna must also reconcile for the holidays. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, writers Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller and actor Corey Holcomb.)

"Field of Streams"
Cleveland and his high school pal/co-worker Terry reminisce about their glory days on the baseball diamond, as well as tangling with a nemesis from back in the day, and Cleveland seizes an opportunity to teach his son about the game. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, writer Aaron Lee and director Ian Graham.)

"Love Rollercoaster"
Roberta (and Cleveland Jr.) learns important lessons about body image, while Cleveland and his drinking buddies squabble over a new invention that could revolutionize getting drunk. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, director Ron Rubio and actor Kevin Michael Richardson.)

"Our Gang"
Cleveland tries to take a bunch of delinquent teens under his wing, and enable them to sell cookies instead of drugs. Once the group crosses paths with a violent gang, Cleveland's plans go awry.

"Buried Pleasure"
Cleveland tries to help the romantically frustrated Holt, who finds solace with a blow-up doll, but not before suffering at the hands of the not-as-she-seems Jane (voiced by guest star Stacy Ferguson, better known as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas). (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, writer Julius Sharpe and director Ian Graham.)

"The Curious Case of Cleveland Jr. Working at the Stool"
Cleveland decides it's time for his son to get a real job and earn his keep, so he finagles a position at his favorite watering hole, where Cleveland Jr. rapidly finds his niche, pleasing the owner, Gus (voiced by guest star David Lynch. Yes -- that David Lynch.).

"Once Upon a Tyne in New York"
A frequently postponed honeymoon for Roberta and Cleveland in New York City is sidetracked by Cleveland's insistence on bringing along his old baseball coach (and his drinking buddies) in an effort to reunite his coach with a long-lost love. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, director Mike L. Mayfield and actor Kevin Michael Richardson.)

"The Brown Knight"
Cleveland's manliness is questioned after he and Donna survive a mugging, but the footage from a security camera shows his peculiar reaction to the event. Meanwhile, Rallo and Roberta tangle over a pair of jeans that Roberta wants, even if means twisting the truth to freak out her brother.

"Gone with the Wind"
A bit of a cross-over episode, as "Family Guy" mainstay Quagmire (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) arrives in Stoolbend to deliver some tragic news. Elsewhere, Roberta puts Cleveland on a new diet after some troubling test results come back. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, director Ron Rubio and actor Sanaa Lathan.)

"Brotherly Love"
Cleveland and Terry are mistaken for male strippers during what they think is a routine cable installation, while Cleveland Jr., in a bid to win a girl's hand, challenges local rap star Kenny West (voiced by guest star Kanye West) to a rap battle. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, producer Kara Vallow and director Anthony Agrusa.)

"Brown History Month"
Cleveland gets an early start on celebrating Black History Month, which opens Rallo's eyes to history, even as Cleveland engages in a war of words with his redneck neighbor, Lester.

"Cleveland's Angels"
The arrival of a riverboat casino sends Cleveland's gambling fever into overdrive, but he's soon in too deep and it's up to Roberta and her friends to bail him out of trouble.

"You're the Best Man, Cleveland Brown!"
The first season concludes with Cleveland discovering what a will potentially holds for him and his son, while his parents announce plans to return to Stoolbend and remarry, which causes some consternation for Cleveland. (Commentary with Rich Appel, Mike Henry, director Justin Ridge and actor Frances Callier.)

The DVD

The Video:

Presented as originally broadcast on Fox, "The Cleveland Show" arrives on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Befitting a recently created show, there's scarcely a nit to be picked with this image. Crisp, vivid and clean, these 21 episodes look utterly immaculate, displaying terrific saturation and sharp, bold lines that never stutter. A great-looking DVD presentation.

The Audio:

"The Cleveland Show" doesn't make too much use of its English, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (although the '70s-inspired theme song fills in the surrounds nicely). That said, the dialogue is heard free of distortion or drop-out and the effects/score don't overpower what's being said. As with the image, a presentation in line with a recently created show. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras:

The supplements are spread across all four discs of this first season set, with the "bonus feature" of uncensored and/or unaired scenes seamlessly branched within episodes that have them. Here, broken out by disc, are the extras, aside from the commentaries noted on the episode synopses above, and the bonus disc loaded with "digital clips to go."
Disc 1: Deleted scenes for "Da Doggone Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance," "The One About Friends," "Birth of a Salesman," "Cleveland Jr.'s Cherry Bomb," "Ladies' Night" and "A Brown Thanksgiving."
Disc 2: Deleted scenes for "From Bed to Worse," "A Cleveland Brown Christmas," "Field of Streams," "Love Rollercoaster" and "Our Gang."
Disc 3: Deleted scenes for "Buried Pleasure," "The Curious Case of Cleveland Jr. Working at the Stool," "Once Upon a Tyne in New York," "The Brown Knight" and "Gone with the Wind."
Disc 4: Deleted scenes for "Brotherly Love," "Brown History Month," "Cleveland's Angel" and "You're the Best Man, Cleveland Brown"; the 24 minute, 35 second featurette "Meet Cleveland" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the two minute, 51 second music video for Earth, Wind and Fire's "Get Your Hump On This Christmas" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the five minute, 28 second making-of featurette on "Get Your Hump On This Christmas" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) and the 45 minute, 10 second table read of "Brotherly Love" (presented in anamorphic widescreen), which features guest stars Kanye West and Tariji P. Henson.

Final Thoughts:

TV spin-offs are a tricky breed. For every "Frasier," there's a "Joey" waiting in the wings. The alchemy that makes some series great doesn't always translate when beloved characters wander away and start fresh. Some of it is timing; in the afterglow of immensely popular series or even while the original show is still on the air, executives feel the best way to capitalize on audience sentiment is to quickly provide a facsimile of that which was adored. At first blush, Seth MacFarlane's viciously satiric, often unseemly "Family Guy," with its expansive cast of characters, wouldn't necessarily seem ripe for expansion. And while the popular characters of baby Stewie and family dog Brian might seem most suited for a spin-off, it was secondary character Cleveland Brown who got the call. As with most brand new shows, "The Cleveland Show" doesn't roar out of the gate and immediately hit its stride. Fortunately for the show's creative team, they knew they had a 22-episode order up front (the series was originally slated to be a midseason premiere, but was held until the fall of 2009), which didn't force them to cram a shortened season with too much character development. Instead, "The Cleveland Show" finds its way slowly, gradually settling into a comfortable rhythm that, by the final episodes, felt more like its own thing than merely a carbon copy of "Family Guy." Recommended.

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