Best Episode of the Season: The Cleveland Show Season 4

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Season Analysis: The Cleveland Show was starting to lean too hard on the fourth wall breaking by Season 4.  It wasn’t that it was unfunny so much as it was pointless.  Other than that, the show remained an essentially agreeable half hour.

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“The Fist and the Furious”
It is the nature of every episode of basically mediocre shows like The Cleveland Show to not stick out one way or the other.  To break out requires a new or uncommon element, such as a guest voice appearance by the indispensable Bryan Cranston.  Cranston voices Dr. Fist, whose name sounds creepy if you are inclined to think of it that way, but it is amusing that the show never really calls attention to that element.  The One Who Knocks brings the right mix of badass gravitas and vulnerability to the role of a man trying to escape his past during which he got mixed up with the mob.  It turns out that he is in Witness Protection, and it also turns out that his original name was Green-Jarvis Ben-Ellis, only because that sounds funny, not because it has anything to do with the football player.  This episode also works as a cartoonishly heartwarming tale of the deeds of friendship, in which Cleveland shoots Dr. Fist to prevent the mob from killing him and then successfully performs surgery on him by doing it Operation-style.

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Best Episode of the Season: The Cleveland Show Season 3

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Season Analysis: Has there ever been a show more satisfied with being slightly better than mediocre than The Cleveland Show?

“There Goes El Neighborhood”

There weren’t really any episodes of The Cleveland Show this season that would really qualify as particularly great examples of the television medium.  Thus, my criterion for picking “El Neighborhood” as this year’s best was more or less that I remembered laughing at it more than any other episode this year.  It did show some ambition, in that it continued the storyline from the previous episode (Cleveland, Jr. marrying a Latina girl to get her a green card) on a show that otherwise lacks serialization.  But if forced to pinpoint what really made this episode work, I would have to say, “I doñ’t know,” i.e., when Cleveland is confronted by his new Latina neighbor Choni (voiced by the intensely Latina Rosie Perez) regarding his insensitivity to Latino culture, he starts pronouncing all his n’s as if they had tildes over them, and overcorrection regarding pronunciation is always funny.

Best Episode of the Season: The Cleveland Show Season 2

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“Murray Christmas”

It is a modern-day saw that fat people are the last group that it is politically correct to make fun of, but Jews are not too far behind in this regard.  This speaks to the tradition of (often self-deprecating) comedy in Jewish culture.  Because of that tradition, Jewish humor has a knack for showing up just about every area of the comedy world, even a usually Jew-lacking cartoon like The Cleveland Show.  The characterization of Rallo as too smart for his age, but not really, has generally served The Cleveland Show well, and it did so particularly with this episode as the Carl Reiner-voiced Murray taught the previously ignorant regarding Judaism Rallo about Hanukkah.  Rallo provided chuckles with his misconceptions about Jews, and his friendship with Murray ended up being surprisingly and gratifyingly sweet-natured.

Next up: Desperate Housewives

Best Episode of the Season: The Cleveland Show

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“Brotherly Love”

“A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Someone should’ve told you not to f*** wid me”
And thus Cleveland, Jr. threw down the gauntlet in his rap battle with Kenny West.
Kanye West’s ego plays a big part in why he is so entertaining.  Ironically enough, when he is able to put that ego aside, he is refreshingly entertaining … even though he is already entertaining in the first place.  I guess the difference is just that he is refreshing, and that is good enough.  I am still not entirely sure that Kanye did in fact put his ego aside for his guest appearance on The Cleveland Show as Kenny West, but he was convincing enough.  It is generally a bad idea to rely on guest stars, but Cleveland has been at its best when employing them.  The spitting melee between Kenny and Cleveland, Jr. was the moment I was convinced that The Cleveland Show, which had been flailing about in search of an identity in the beginning of its run, did indeed have some promise.  The breakout character has been Cleveland, Jr. (he is appropriately described by his father, who is still not sure whether his son is an idiot or a genius) and Cleveland will rise or fall according to the strength of his storylines in the near future.

Next up: Family Guy