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Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cleveland Show longs to be "BFFs"

     For the third season premiere of FOX's The Cleveland Show, "BFFs," Cleveland (Mike Henry) is forced to reexamine his friendship with Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane), the guy he left behind on Family Guy after getting his own spin-off. Cleveland learns Peter comes to town, but doesn't call. Unable to reach Peter, Cleveland confronts him in person, but Peter says they need to grow apart. Cleveland takes his new friends camping, hoping to form more lasting bonds. But when they are captured by hillbilly rapists, it's Peter who comes to the rescue.

     This is a neat premise because not many spin-offs hark back to their roots all that often. Not only does The Cleveland Show revisit familiar faces and characters from Cleveland's previous series, but it explores what happens to friendship when one moves away. Sure, when the two series do crossovers, it's nice to see the pleasure the characters get from seeing each other again. But what happens when it's not a special event? The Cleveland Show seeks to answer that question, and does so quite well, despite the return to the status quo at the end of the episode.

     "BFFs" is also an incredibly meta episode of the series. Not only does Cleveland talk about Peter, and revisit his old neighborhood, but Cleveland's wife, Donna (Sanaa Lathan), reflects on the housewives of all of the Animation Domination housewives. Also, someone calls Peter "Animation Domination's Peter Griffin."  It's hard to break down the fourth wall more than that.

     There are numerous references to Family Guy, from a picture of Peter and Cleveland with Quagmire making out with Loretta in the background, to Peter's cell phone call tune, to the evil monkey that lives in Chris's closet coming with Peter to save the day. It's a fun treat for those who are fans of both series. For those who aren't, sorry.

     It's a little weird, and not in a good way, that Ric Flair (voicing himself), a professional wrestler, runs the friendship camp that Cleveland and his pals attend. It comes out of nowhere, and there isn't really a reason that the character is Ric Flair. It could be almost anyone, preferably someone more recognizable, and the joke would have the same effect.

     In the B story, Rallo (also Henry) attends a two year reunion at his day care, where Donna is made to feel inferior by the other mothers. Donna enters Rallo into a Quiz Bowl to prove her parenting skills, but learns that there is more to life than the other superficial mothers would have you believe. Mildly amusing, but the whole concept of the day care reunion is out of left field, especially as it is treated like a high school reunion by Rallo.

     Overall, "BFFs" is a very funny episode of The Cleveland Show, better than most weeks. Which makes it a great kick off for the third season. Watch The Cleveland Show Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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