Remote Patrol: "The Cleveland Show"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Last year Entertainment Weekly named Seth MacFarlane the smartest person in television, citing the $1 billion and counting his first animated series, Family Guy, has raked in from DVDs and merchandise.

Not a bad distinction for someone whose limitations are already showing, given all the similarities in character and comedy style between Family Guy and MacFarlane's second series, American Dad!

The long-awaited arrival of Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show seems to confirm that MacFarlane has one creative well, and it's not exactly bottomless.

In the new show, the Griffins' African-American neighbor Cleveland Brown (voiced by co-creator Mike Henry) moves back to his Virginia hometown and marries high school sweetheart Donna (Sanaa Lathan).

Like Lois on Family Guy, she's a devoted mom with a wide bad-girl streak; Cleveland's large, friendless son Cleveland Jr. is in the Chris Griffin role, while Donna's wiseacre toddler Rallo partially fills the Stewie void.

MacFarlane's humor is once again heavy on political incorrectness and random digressions, a combination that's hit or miss even at its best, on Family Guy.

Although Cleveland is ultimately a step up from American Dad!, it just isn't as funny as the original. You can fault diminishing returns, but the show's infantile treatment of racial differences doesn't help either.

"The Cleveland Show"

8:30 p.m. Sundays, Fox

Grade: C