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September 1, 2015

Sundays With Seth: 'The Cleveland Show' and 'American Dad' Recaps

by Jason Hughes, posted Nov 29th 2010 7:00AM
'American Dad' - 'There Will Be Bad Blood'['The Cleveland Show' - 'Another Bad Thanksgiving']
['American Dad' - 'There Will Be Bad Blood']

Oddly, 'Family Guy' decided to skip the Thanksgiving festivities this year, instead airing a repeat. That left 'The Cleveland Show' and 'American Dad' to hold down the fort on their own in the Sunday Seth MacFarlane empire. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball in a major way, with two of the weakest installments yet for either series.

Both series took on the holiday, though 'Cleveland' only tangentially dealt with it. The episode was more of an exploration of the struggles in keeping the peace with extended family. 'Dad' was basically covering the same material, though to far more outrageous results.

In both shows, the siblings were completely different from one another, and apparently didn't communicate much. Donna's sister Janet is a wild child party girl who laughs at responsibility. Meanwhile, Stan learns that his brother isn't the poor half-Cherokee he's been assuming all these years. Instead, Stan's the poor one.

In a way, I fault 'American Dad' for falling a bit into the trap of 'Family Guy' during its weaker seasons. While there is a kernel of an idea here, the "message," such as it is, is played with a very heavy hand. But most of the episode was more concerned with giving us nonsensical visuals, like the cow literally jumping over the moon.

For continuity buffs, this did reunite the now-married Haley with the Smith family, and firmly brought Jeff into the family unit. Without his brother Rusty to lord his success and wealth over, Stan found a willing and excited replacement in his new son-in-law.

Having Rusty be half Native American simply allowed the writers to take the most obvious route with the parallels to our real history with the Native Americans in the US. After finding out the land Rusty had received upon their grandfather's death -- Stan took the $20,000 instead -- had made him a multimillionaire, Stan simply decided that it should be his and that it was therefore his right to just take it.

Subtle, right?

The problem is that other than acknowledging what happened, MacFarlane appeared to have nothing to say about it. I love humor that employs some satire or makes us look at a situation in a new light, and this didn't really shed anything interesting on the topic. Instead, we had Rusty making stereotypical Native American sounds when laughing or yelling. At least the house was a modern marvel, and I guess we should credit MacFarlane for not having him earn his millions via casinos.

There were also nods to Holiday classics like 'The Thanksgiving Miracle,' utilizing the same stop-motion animation style as 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Year Without a Santa Claus.' The recreation of the Internet video circulating about the two men reuniting in Africa with a lion they had raised in London replacing the men with Roger and the lion with a wolf was pretty funny, but it's a shame the biggest laughs came from the asides. I thought 'American Dad' was better at telling a cohesive story than that.

'The Cleveland Show' - 'Another Bad Thanksgiving'There was more nonsense on 'Cleveland,' like Rallo and Junior spending the family's holiday trip to Las Vegas blowing untold amounts of cash with an escort, while an Asian group mistook Roberta for Beyoncé. Basically, the writers had no idea what to do with these characters, but wanted to involve them in the show. Their only connection was as a parallel to Donna's complaints that her sister Janet was neglecting her kids on this whimsical romp with Holt.

It's funny, see, because she and Cleveland are clearly doing the same thing with their own kids. Right? No, well that's only because it wasn't all that funny. In the end, Janet learned to put Holt's sensitivity above her own impulsive urges, which was a sign of growth.

There wasn't much else going on, though the entire cast, including the various guest characters who showed up this episode, surrounded a gaudy Vegas-style Thanksgiving spread for the closing moments. Even as a parody of old-fashioned 1980s and 1990s sitcoms, this was almost too much stupid.

Of course, I'm sure many of you think these episodes were brilliant, and I'll ask you to make sure you're still not intoxicated from your own holiday celebrations. Each had genuinely funny moments, which in a way is all we really ask of an entertainment show. But both shows have also shown they can be and do so much better than this. 'Family Guy' went through a 'Simpsons'-sized rut a few years back, and only late last season came crawling out of it. I'd hate to see these shows follow a similar path.

Maybe MacFarlane and his creative team are starting to feel the added stress of trying to maintain three distinct shows with three entirely different styles. Before they get burned out, I hope they find a way to re-energize their excitement about them as they have the parent show. Or maybe without the high quality of 'Family Guy,' the other two shows are just looking a little naked this week?

Weigh in on this one, folks? Am I just having a bad week and giving these shows an undeserved hard time, or did they miss their intended marks? Maybe it was as simple as showing how frustrating family can be, and how there's always a bad apple in each one. For Donna's family, the bad apple is Janet. For the Smith family, it's apparently Stan.

'The Cleveland Show,' 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad' air Sundays, from 8:30PM ET on FOX.

[Follow Jason @ultraversion21 on Twitter.]

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This was an awful night for Family Guy/American Dad in my opinion. I'd never seen the Rush Limbaugh thing before, but I have no need to see it again. I'm guessing from the credits that Rush voiced himself, and I think that was the funniest part. These crazy political episodes of the last two weeks need tougher targets and solid conclusions, and both were soft and waffley.

I thought the 'land stealing' idea could have been funny, but they just cut it off with no real payoff. The flashback to Rodger, the wolf, and the mistaken identity was funny--I'll give them that.

November 29 2010 at 1:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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