‘The Cleveland Show’: Season 2 DVD review

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Seth MacFarlane shows are animated Marmite – so divisive that they’re practically review-proof. Half the audience love ’em, half the audience hate ’em, and so no matter what a reviewer says, there’ll always be a vocal crowd who’ll take the opposite view.

It’s been the case with his other projects, and The Cleveland Show is aware of this (‘Watch it high or you won’t enjoy it!’ proclaims the tagline for the fake Cleveland Show Movie), but might the adventures of Stoolbend’s moustachioed resident change that?

If Family Guy is creator Seth MacFarlane’s twisted, cruder version of The Simpsons, then The Cleveland Show is his coarse remoulding of The Cosby Show for a 21st century audience.

Both an homage and a spoof of the African-American comedies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, it has a strong focus on family, and a greater emotional core to it than his other shows, brought about by the fact that doughy idiot Cleveland is a much more sympathetic character, and much more of a family guy, than Peter Griffin.

The crudity is toned down just a touch but the absurdist streak is still present, though thankfully the number of ‘This is just like…’ segues created and worn to death by Family Guy are kept to a bare minimum. The comedy is largely on the absurdism of characters rather than the world around them.

While this means it has less bite than the show it broke away from it also means it’s more approachable to those wary of five-minute long chicken fights or references to obscure ‘80s cartoons. Even Tim, the hilarious talking bear, is just an ursine analogue of that comedy staple, the hen-pecked husband.

Season 2 doesn’t have the ‘straight out the gate’ vitality of it’s first year but it’s a strong 22 episode run, with only the odd clunker such as The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Murray Christmas protruding and catching you off-guard. The quality’s high, and in the case of a few episodes, hits something extra special.

To Live and Die in VA is one such episode, as is the season finale, Hot Cocoa Bang Bang; taking a generous swipe at Hollywood’s pillaging of geek culture with more sci-fi references than Leonard Nimoy’s CV, and a Golden Globe’s worth of celeb cameos. Even The Simpsons‘ Comic Book Guy has a scene, an appearance sure to please animation fans everywhere.

It’s not just an example of a great episode, but of the kind of show The Cleveland Show can be when it gets everything right; capable of occupying the comedic vacancy somewhere between the families of Quahog and Springfield: cruder than The Simpsons, less obtuse than Family Guy, and with the potential to satisfy both audiences.

It’ll always have its critics, but Season 2 of The Cleveland Show is the closest MacFarlane has yet come to something that’ll please everyone.

Extras: Deleted and uncensored extended scenes for each episode, and commentaries by the cast and crew. Standard stuff all of it, and though amusing, it’s nothing that’ll have you rushing for repeat viewings.

Released on DVD on Monday 30th January 2012 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

> Buy the boxset on Amazon.

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