The Cleveland Show Season 4 Premiere Review “Escape from Goochland”

The Cleveland Show Season 4 Premiere Escape from Goochland

Last week, in my review of the “Family Guy” premiere,
I commented on how little creator Seth MacFarlane leaned on pop culture references in the episode, and how that was a good thing. Well, it’s no wonder he didn’t do it on that show, as he was apparently saving it for the premiere of “The Cleveland Show,” entitled “Escape from Goochland.”

Stuffed to the brim with pop culture nods, the show at least gets points for being arcane. I mean, Toonces the driving cat? The Warriors? A John Cougar Mellencamp joke? (Okay, that last one was funny: a sign advertised a JCM cover band called “James Lion Canteloupetnet”.at the Northern Aggression Memorial Stadium, no less. Ah, freeze frame jokes, how I love thee.)

This being a Halloween episode, there was also the fair share of horror movie references, starting with a “Saw” and Freddy Kruger combo. My fave was probably the “die!” reference to “Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter”- there was a fan joke if I’ve ever heard/seen one. Well-played, “Cleveland Show.”

Most of the show revolved around Cleveland’s war with his “previously established rival” Chet Butler, sounding like he was voiced by Rob Riggle. (Sorry, it’s not online, so I couldn’t confirm it, but it sounded like him.) He enters giving Cleveland a “big willie,” aka a “wet willie” via one of those big Styrofoam fingers like you see at football games. Cleveland: “I’d recognize that willie anywhere!” LOL.

Our guys lose the big game and Federline, serving as the designated driver of the evening, captures Goochland’s town mascot, a wooden lady (don’t ask). When he wrecks, they’re stuck in town and have to don disguises, Halloween-style, which leads to one of the best visuals of the ep, as we see Cleveland and Co. dressed up as the likes of Papa Smurf (“Smurf you, you butt-smurfers! Am I using that right?”), Inspector Gadget, He-Man, 2-Pac and Katy Perry, the last of which uses whipped cream sprayed from their bikini top as a mode of defense at one point. Of course.

The other big visual gag comes a bit later as the gang jump aboard a freight train loaded with, respectively, rotten fruit, used band-aids, dead animals, fluffy pillows, dirty diapers and syringes. Funny stuff! The gang lands smack dab in the last two, with Tim the Bear getting reprimanded for snacking on the diapers. Eeew!

Meanwhile, Chet rallies the troops: “What do we want?” Troops: “To kill the black guy- but not because he’s black!” (Actually, as fans may or may not know, Cleveland is, in fact, voiced by a white guy, so there’s that further level of meta-pseudo-racism to chew on.)

They corner the boys in Gus’ bar, voiced by an always-welcome David Lynch. On a side note, Lynch killed it with that guest shot as, of all things, a network executive (Lynch hasn’t had the best of luck with them in the past) on FX’s “Louie.” Could it be that Lynch has been a secret comedian all this time? Maybe his next movie will be a full-on- and spectacularly weird, no doubt- comedy. We can long as midgets and coffee are involved, I’m in.

In the end, Gus informs the crew that the wood lady was actually stolen from their town, at the “Ought-three World’s Fair.” What a perfectly Lynchian way to say that. Love it. Also loved that Gus kept shouting, apropos of nothing, “Intern the Japanese!”

Cleveland leads a charge to defeat the interlopers, riding Tim the Bear into the fray (!) Eventually, the lights go off and everyone sprouts (?) red eyes like mole-men (!), allowing our heroes to win the charge. Alrighty then! Gus secures the wooden lady into his trunk at the end, promising: “By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be a canoe.” Ha!

A decent episode overall, with some great visual gags, i.e. the “tramp” costume, the toothpicks gag- “The field is not a hors d’oeuvre!”- and an amusing “C.H.U.D.” joke. Way to keep it left-of-center, guys!
Best lines: “Let’s go kill a horse in the principal’s office!” (Hello, “Animal House” reference!), or maybe: “You’re gonna pay, pal!” (What can I say? I love a good pun.) I also liked the Theremin jokes, and how often do you get to say that? Not often enough, friends. Not often enough.

What did you think? Solid ep, or business as usual? Or does “Cleveland” need to hang it up? Let me know in the comments section!

Mark Trammell is the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s resident entertainment critic-at-large. Check out his work at: and his vid-cast at: And follow him, if you dare, on Twitter at: @rip_mr_gordo