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TV Review: The Cleveland Show

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The
Cleveland Show
is simultaneously inventive and familiar in how it chronicles the
adventures of a loving and garden-variety dysfunctional American family. The
second episode lets us get to know the interpersonal dynamics and challenges
Cleveland faces as he seeks to ingratiate himself and command respect in his
newly blended family.

It
is easy to root for the character, Cleveland. Like many adults, he does not
enjoy putting on the mask adulthood requires, but, as with the rest of us, he
does try to rise to the occasion that age inevitably poses. (Granted for men, these
days, effort seems to be all that matters.) Cleveland fumbles at first. He
would rather buy off his step children, Regina, who he tries to appease with a
pair of cubic zirconium earrings, and Rallo, who he tries to win over with a
new dog. He seems most uncomfortable parenting his own son, Cleveland Jr., perhaps
as he sees in his son his own tendency to avoid conflict and
active-passivity. What is most refreshing and wry is how Cleveland tackles his own
disappointment in his son's shortcomings.

Cleveland
refers to his son's dumb decisions as "curious," a far more clever
and gentle response than his more misanthropic comedic counterparts, be it
Larry David, Homer Simpson or Cartwright, might offer their kinder. As the prototypical
comedic, buffoonish dad character goes, Cleveland falls in the well-intentioned
variety. He feels bad about running over his step-children's dog, revolted by
his friend eating the dog, and clear-eyed about how the kids will react, even
if it was a mistake. His goal is not to subvert growing up at any cost, only do
right if it is the only way out. Cleveland is more of an every man, capable of
good and bad acts, despite having a heart that beats.

There
are moments and characters that are not as earnest. The show's otherwise
traditional format is broken up intermittently by catty, biting sketches ridiculing
celebrities. The jabs are on point but easy, like how pop star John Mayer, actor/Bono-to-be Brad Pitt, and several other famous males all share one thing in common: dating then dumping Jennifer Aniston. Some of the other potshots made in hindsight over yesteryear's inconsequential news are mocking the deceased Indie musician Kurt Cobain's questionable judgement in sleeping with train-wreck Courtney Love, and Halle Berry's tear-strewn acceptance speech over being the first black female actress to win an Oscar. 

Overall,
The Cleveland Show is funny and, for lack of a better word, true. When Rallo compliments
Cleveland for being supportive during this vulnerable time in Rallo's life, and
then blows his nose on Cleveland's shirt, it hilariously and accurately conveys
how children, like adults, can be, as the French say, mechante. The writers also
deftly demonstrate how humans do dumb things well. Cleveland Jr. makes a
concerted effort in becoming a bathroom attendant, oblivious to the nine
zillion other options he can pursue in making a niche for himself at a new school.
With both boys, Cleveland buoyantly steps in, as he does with Regina, when her
own father neglects to do so. He is rewarded, successfully wining over Regina and Rallo, not to mention a growing audience fan base.