Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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For the Love of God: Stay Away from Cleveland

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 3, 2008

The most ridiculous thing since ridiculous day at the deli, where prices were so low, it was ridiculous

Who says there’s a lack of creativity in TV these days? If real life were a movie–and believe me, it (probably) isn’t–the anarchy created by the writers’ strike would have resulted in the majors taking chances on outsider shows by a bunch of rogue TV producers, ultimately resulting in the freshest, most exciting TV season in ages. In reality, we get censored Dexter re-runs, My Dad is Better Than Your Dad and Cleveland.

No, that picture up there isn’t some hilarious pun on the fact that some random new show shares a title the Family Guy character. They’re actually spinning off a show from Peter Griffin’s black, slow-talking next-door-neighbor, with FG mastermind Seth MacFarlane at the helm. Now, the idea of an animated spin-off, even a successful one isn’t exactly unprecedented–Daria and (arguably) King of the Hill even demonstrated recently how two great shows could be spun-off from another great show, while managing to feel and look completely different from their ancestor.

But, uh, let’s examine the potential upside here. Well, for one thing, it’s not likely to be as bad as a Quagmire spin-off probably would be.

.

.

OK, now let’s examine the potential downside. What exactly is there here to work with? Cleveland is admittedly one of the more loveable Quahog residents, a (usually) wisely underused supporting character who provides genial deadpan relief to his neighbors’ frequent insanity. He’s mild-mannered and he talks slowly. He once had a wife, who peaced out when Alex Borstein got tired of doing her voice, and he has a kid, whose hyperactive one-episode starring role was grating enough was more than enough for the entire series. And that’s it.

So what’s it going to be? Cleveland living the single life? Cleveland trying to get his family back? Cleveland getting his family back, deciding to make a new start, and moving to OH I DUNNO MAYBE SOME RANDOM CITY IN OHIO? Cleveland discovering that he has a brain tumor which leads him to decide to do good works for his remaining days, punctuated by guest singing appearances by James Ingram, who only Cleveland can see? Or just an animated, dramedic insight into modern day African-American suburban life, brought to you from some white guy in Connecticut?

Of course, all this ignores the more pressing issue, which is that Family Guy hasn’t been watchable in itself for years now. The only thing that makes it more bearable than modern day Simpsons is that it didn’t have nearly as far to fall–the only way the show is watchable now, as friend of IITS Andrew Weber has pointed out, is to type “Family Guy” and some random word or name into a YouTube search, guaranteed to give you some random and mildly chuckle-worth gag thankfully divorced from the burden of character and plot. To spin a show off from it at this point would be like Chad Smith leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers to set out on a solo career. Plus, the last time MacFarlane worked with Family Guy progeny, we got American Dad. Enough (hopefully) said.

And the really, really disturbing thing? This isn’t even the scariest looking show FOX is adding to their Sunday Night comedy block. Relative Insanity comes to you courtesy of Jack Black, truly a man with his finger on the pulse of cutting-edge comedy, and Mothballs is the latest brainchild of Dave Jesser and Matt Silverstein, best known for that oh-so-original and oh-so-subversive animated comedy Drawn Together. It’s a brave new world out there, ladies and gentlemen, and I, for one, have never been more excited to actually get back outdoors this summer.

The one way this could work? And I mean the one way? Don’t make it a comedy. In fact, make it as far from comedy as possible. Make it a soap opera. Hell, make it a live action soap opera, starring Forrest Whitaker and Loretta Devine. Make it like Good Times, except with significantly less laughs and significantly more death. In fact, have Peter guest star in the first episode and get murdered by street toughs in the opening sequence. A tearful, black-clad Lois weeps in Cleveland’s arms, and provides the show’s inciting incident by telling him that life is too short, and that he should find his family (who has moved to guess where) and get them back while he still has the chance.

It’s time, sweetie. It’s time to go….TO CLEAVELAND.”

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3 Responses to “For the Love of God: Stay Away from Cleveland”

  1. Anton said

    What if it was like an Afro-American centric Fritz the Cat cartoon. Dark comedy would go well with the whole deadpan thing, and the Family Guy animators have already proven many times how much they like animating hookers, pimps, and various other sexually and spiritually demoralizing scene.

    Or they could do it clay-mation. It worked so well for The PJs.

  2. Victor said

    Chad Smith has a solo career, as actor-comedian Will Ferrell

  3. I truly like the bear, however. The voice reminds me of some character from cartoons in the 70’s, but I cannot place it. The bear pretty much justifies the entire thing.

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