7 p.m. Friday on WFLD-Channel 32
The Cleveland Show
7:30 p.m. Sunday on WFLD-Channel 32
To be honest, I was hoping it would be Stewie who'd make a break for it. I'd like to see Seth MacFarlane's demonic baby finally crowned dictator of at least the tri-state area, if not the world. But this "Family Guy" spinoff doesn't focus on Stewie, or the talking dog, or perma-bachelor Quagmire, or even Mayor Adam West. It's Cleveland Brown -- the mild-mannered deli owner who would be voted least likely to succeed-- who's movin' on up.
"What the hell? He's getting his own show?" grouses Stewie in the first episode. Indeed.
But the creator of "Family Guy" and "American Dad" seems to know what he's doing. He reportedly signed a deal with Fox worth $100 million, making him television's best-paid writer and producer. (He's single. I checked.) And Fox renewed "The Cleveland Show" for a second season before the premiere even aired.
If Fox trusts MacFarlane, that's good enough for me.
But if you're not a "Family Guy" fan, stay far, far away from "Cleveland." The new show is more conventional and warm-hearted -- but only slightly. If I had to sum up the humor in one word, it would be "random." The first episode references the Regal Beagle, President Obama, genital mutilation and Gene Hackman. (Thankfully, not all at once.)
Newly divorced Cleveland heads back to his hometown (Stoolbend, Va.) and romances his high school crush, Donna (Sanaa Lathan). In no time, Cleveland's attracted a gaggle of pals, too: a redneck, a short guy, and a religious talking bear. The bear's wife, also a talking bear, is named Arianna and is voiced by Arianna Huffington. Random, yes?
So far my favorite character is a teenager named Federline Jones, voiced by Jamie Kennedy. About time he resurrected "Malibu's Most Wanted's" B-Rad.
Cleveland may be an unlikely hero, but he's endlessly more enjoyable than the gentlemen of Fox's other new comedy, "Brothers." I suppose you could say that the show has admiral goals -- to pay homage to the art of the insult, and to break new ground in paralysis humor -- but it's uncomfortable to watch.
Michael Strahan, a former New York Giant, plays Mike Trainor, newly retired football star. Daryl Mitchell plays Chill, his wheel-chair-bound brother, who is bitter about Mike's success. He has nonetheless capitalized on Mike's fame by opening a restaurant decorated with his memorabilia.
They don't like each other. Mike makes fun of Chill for being paraplegic. Chill makes fun of Mike for having a gap between his teeth. I am worried that Chill will run out of offensive jokes first.
Their mother (CCH Pounder) wants the two to reconcile. Their father (Carl Weathers) seems to be around mainly so his sons can mock his worsening dementia when they get tired of sniping at each other.
Why one star? I gave the show half a star star because of Mitchell, who was a regular on "Veronica's Closet." In 2001, he suffered a spinal injury in a motorcycle crash, but didn't give up acting. I happen to be a huge fan of his work in 1999's "Galaxy Quest." The other half a star goes to Strahan, who is adorable.
The show, not so much. "I know he's an ass, but he's my son and I love him," says Mom at one point. You, of course, have no such obligation.