Pilot Light: FOX's 'Cleveland Show'
The second installment of Pilot Light, our ongoing look at the first episodes of new shows coming your way next season, focuses on "The Cleveland Show," the "Family Guy" spinoff that will join the network's Sunday animation block this fall.
Standard disclaimer: These aren't reviews -- in a lot of cases, pilots aren't completely finished products yet. But we do want to offer our impressions of the new shows, now that we've seen more than just a few clips.
On to "The Cleveland Show," then.
What it is: Cleveland Brown (voiced by "Family Guy" regular Mike Henry) and son Cleveland Jr. (Kevin Michael Richardson) leave Quahog and return to his hometown of Stoolbend, Va., where he settles in with his high-school sweetheart, Donna (Sanaa Lathan), and her two kids, Roberta and Rallo (Reagan Gomez-Preston and Henry again).
Who's making it: Henry and "Family Guy" impresario Seth MacFarlane co-created the show with "FG" and "Simpsons" veteran Rich Appel.
What to look for: "Family Guy" fans will recognize more than a few conceits in "Cleveland" -- talking animals (in this case, a couple of bears who live next door), cutaways, frequent pop-culture references and some occasionally crude humor. But it's also more of a love story, and Cleveland and Donna seem like a genuinely sweet couple.
What pops: Henry and Co. have made Cleveland a fully realized character. Rallo is the Stewie stand-in here and, like his counterpart, gets the most outrageous lines.
What doesn't: As with "Family Guy," you don't have to wait more than a few seconds for a fresh joke, but there's a definite hit-and-miss quality to some of them.