[24 September 2009]
REASON TO WATCH: Seth MacFarlane continues his slash-and-burn conquest of the Fox Sunday schedule with this “Family Guy” spinoff. Get used to this, by the way. Fox has already ordered a full season.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Cleveland Brown’s wife, Loretta, has divorced him, and so Cleveland (voiced by Mike Henry) and Cleve Jr. (Kevin Michael Richardson) decide to leave town, though not before Peter Griffin (MacFarlane) has demolished his house. Cleveland is heading to California, where, he hopes, his old batting coach Joe Torre will get him started on a new career as a baseball scout.
On the way west, or kind of south, from Quahog, he stops by his old hometown of Stoolbend, Va., where he reconnects with an old flame, Donna (Sanaa Lathan), who’s got a son, Rallo (also voiced by Henry) — a lot like Stewie Griffin of “The Family Guy.” Donna lives next door to Tim (MacFarlane), who’s a fat bear with a voice inexplicably similar to that of “SNL’s” Father Guido Sarducci. And per MacFarlane’s wont, there are a lot of unexpected guest voices throughout, including Taraji P. Henson, Arianna Huffington (who plays Tim’s wife, Arianna) and Kanye West.
BOTTOM LINE: Yeah, sure, I hated myself for laughing. (“Whatsamatter, Gay,” I said to myself. “Are you an idiot, or 14 years old, or both?”) But, hey. I’m sorry. What can I say? I laughed. Not often, or perhaps not often enough, but there was also enough McFarlane-esque gross-out sophomoric tomfoolery to keep even me reasonably entertained for a half-hour. Plus, good ol’ likable Cleveland works well as a leading man.