As I mentioned last week in my May Finale Blues blog, the culmination of May sweeps is a hard time for me. But, my end of May malaise is not just due to the sudden withholding of my regularly scheduled programming. I also grieve for the loss of a few beloved shows that have finished their television runs and are going to that big boob tube in the sky. Some losses are expected and can be prepared for such as the series finale of The Office or 90210 but, other losses come like a swift unexpected punch to the gut due to the last minute ruthless decision making that comes with the network upfronts. Nothing was worse than the triple loss of Jack Bauer (24), Jack McCoy (Law and Order), AND Jack Shephard (LOST) in the bloody May Sweeps of 2010.
In some cases you can see the writing on the wall even if the official word doesn’t come until much later. Touch and Red Widow simply were not going to see another low rated season on the air. Then there were those bubble shows that when you lined them up against other shows on the same network, seemed like they had more than a decent shot at a renewal. NBC’s Guys With Kids was definitely low rated but, so were Whitney, The New Normal, Go On, Parks and Recreation, and Community. A case could be made to keep or kill any or all the shows due to NBC’s dire ratings straits. The old wisdom was ‘They can’t cancel everything!’ but NBC most certainly did in bouncing all but Parks and Recreation and Community from their line-up to start fresh with their comedy line-up and giving Guys With Kids, Whitney, The New Normal, and Go On their walking papers.
Losing Guys With Kids (and Deception and CBS’s Golden Boy) stung, but those cancellations combined were not as big a blow as the sucker punch cancellation of the underappreciated The Cleveland Show. It received no ‘official’ cancellation announcement from FOX but, an ‘unidentified FOX source’ claimed there are no new episode orders and no slot on FOX’s Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 programming schedule.
While never quite reaching the level of Family Guy, The Cleveland Show was an enjoyable entry into the MacFarlane Empire. Many described it as the ‘Black’ Family Guy yet I found Cleveland Brown to be a more sympathetic and cuddly befuddled TV dad than Peter Griffin. We followed Cleveland through adventures in bonding with step-kids Roberta and Rollo, understanding his complicated son Cleveland Jr., and hanging with his gang of misfit friends — including a talking bear. MacFarlane, who never shies away from tackling controversial or taboo subjects head on, didn’t flinch away from touching on race issues with the show. One of my favorite episodes tackled the thorny issue of what it means to be and act black, as examined in the great season three episode ‘The Men in Me’. In the episode, after being called out on his open Justin Bieber adoration, an embarrassed Cleveland examines just who he is in the black and white scheme of things. MacFarlane deftly moves from the cheap and easy jokes to dig into some nice pathos about learning to love and accept who you are and not buy into racial stereotypes. When The Cleveland Show wanted to be deep, it could be deep.
Alas, it’s come to an end. No more funky, fun, groovy psychedelic opening credits with Cleveland nasally crooning ‘My name is Cleveland Brown’. Due to the nature of the production of animated shows, there was absolutely no way for producers to do a proper series finale. Thankfully, at least, with The Cleveland Show existing in the same TV universe as Family Guy and American Dad, Cleveland Brown can return to his old job as Peter Griffin’s ‘black guy’ friend on Family Guy. Hopefully Donna, Roberta, Rollo and Cleveland Brown, Jr. will all make the trip back to Quahog to help keep things interesting. Meg could use a gal pal in Roberta, and the hijinks that Rollo, Stewie, and Brian could get into could be pretty amazing.
The Cleveland Show
The New Normal