The Cleveland Show Season 4 Review “The Wide World of Cleveland Show”

On this week’s “The Cleveland Show,” the writers decided to throw caution to the wind and take a look at “The Wide World of Cleveland Show,” a freewheeling, take-no-prisoners equal opportunity offender in the mold of classic button-pushing episodes of “South Park” and “The Simpsons.” I like it when a show goes for broke and treats a show like it may well be its last, though these days, one can only imagine how far too far is.

I mean, I have heard some remarkably racy material on network TV recently, and most of it isn’t coming from the usual offenders, like the occasionally cringe-inducing graphic murders on the likes of “CSI” and “Criminal Minds.” I’m talking about shows that are just as popular, but in a different area altogether: comedy.

You know things are getting questionable when you hesitate to reference something in a review because you know what it is and to explain why it’s potentially offensive would mean having to reveal what the hell it is in the first place and explain that so that certain people even get it. Where the explanation of the joke might actually end up even racier than the joke itself, in other words.

Indeed, I’m halfway convinced the reason so much of this stuff is passing muster with the censors is the fact that they don’t even get what’s being talked about enough to know that they need to censor it. Whitney Cummings is a particular repeat offender in this area, with “2 Broke Girls” and “Whitney” both inducing me to raise my eyebrows in “Did they really just go there?”-shock and awe with jokes about…um, naughty sex stuff, shall we say? (Cough, cough…can’t speak…choking! Okay, fist things first, um…I mean, first things first. Moving on…)

Of course, these days there are few more reliable offenders than Seth MacFarlane’s empire of animated filth and wisdom, the trifecta of trash that is “The Cleveland Show,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” I’ve heard that even “The Simpsons” and “South Park”-creators loathe the MacFarlane stuff and try to distance themselves as much as possible from all of that. Though I’ll allow that both shows may be much politically and intellectually superior on the whole, MacFarlane’s stuff is proudly and unabashedly low-brow. They could care less about proving a point or making a morality play of some kind- they just aim to make you laugh, no matter what depths they might have to sink to.

This week, “The Cleveland Show” reminded me of that old bit Conan used to do where they’d pick a random locale, like Kentucky or Belgium or what have you, and just tear them a new one for the hell of it. I mean, why not? That’s the same tack “TCS” took and for the most part, some amusing targets were hit. Even those that didn’t reach their targets still got an “A” for effort, adopting the-proud-and-honored Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker adage of: “If you throw enough at a wall, something’s bound to stick, eventually.” Enough did, so we got a “Cleveland Show” for the vault, arguably one of the best ever.

Part of that was just the fun and novelty of seeing Cleveland and Co. in a variety of different guises. First up, we got “Las Noches Gordas de Cleveland,” a Spanish-themed “TCS” complete with a Quinceañera for Cleveland, Jr. (plus the saddest Mexican Hat Dance ever), a faux-commercial for Consuela’s new perfume “No!” and a super-catchy musical number featuring a guesting Sofia Vergara, who is still sexy, even in cartoon form, I must say. Is there nothing she can’t do? (Looking good at the SAG awards, babe.)

A few casually lobbed jokes later (Faves- Australia: “Boomerang goes the Dynamite!” & Greece: “That’s a gay flag.”), and it was off to Italy for more Mob-based jokes than you could shake a Soprano at. Cleveland was the “Godfather,” with one of his henchmen played by Gus, aka David Lynch, which cracked me up for some reason; and another pal nicknamed “Tiny Pussy” (that may qualify as a single entendre on this show). Both of C’s boys were vying for the throne, with CJ planting a bomb in Rallo’s tricycle (!) and Rallo threatening the owner of Men’s Wearhouse with “He’s gonna like the way he looks…without a head.” (LOL.)

As Cleveland read “Don’t Sweat on Small Stuff,” Rallo labeled CJ a “mouth-breathing canola-sucker!” before Cleveland hit him with a “Silencio!” (possible “Mulholland Drive” reference, given who’s on the show…). Meanwhile Donna was “just beating on a rug,” as one does in Italy, I guess. That was just random enough to make me laugh, so I didn’t mind that the segment ended on a cliffhanger of sorts that was never resolved.

Not that it would have mattered if I had been upset by it, as evidenced by the most devastatingly on- target joke of the night, for those of us who make coin reviewing TV shows. After the, um, rug-pulling, non-ending of the segment, Cleveland, in host mode, taunted: “I’m going to a message board to complain because I’ve got nothing better going on in my life and I invest too much in TV characters.” Guilty as charged, but not complaining, either!

Next up was the spot-on German segment, “Das Cleveland Showzen,” which was basically the show’s take on the incredibly adaptable Hitler-themed scene that wily people have been dubbing all sorts of wacky things into for at least the last few years. (For example: this and this.) This one was basically cracking wise on the fact that all the writers on the show are Jewish, which obviously wouldn’t have gone over well in Nazi Germany. It was indeed “Heil-arious!”

I believe the final segment was my overall favorite, though, as it was packed to the brim with in-jokes for fans of Japanese culture. From Asian Roberta’s subtitled harajuku girl giggles to Cleveland’s Hello Kitty lunchbox to CJ’s diaper-clad competitive eater to Tim’s “revised” eyes, no cliché was left untouched, but hilariously so. I even laughed at the inevitable Godzilla joke (“Hi, I’m Mr. Zilla and I’m a registered sex offender…the bad kind.”), though the other, more subtle one, with people being instructed to run at the camera like there was a disaster going down was even funnier, I thought.

Funniest line went to Gus: “Hush, friend. I’m trying to watch a game show that could turn into porn…there it goes. Yuck.” (Speaking of jokes it would be hard to explain…)

Of course, the robotic Clevetron was likewise a boon for hilarious line readings, but I’ll pick two and be done with it: “I’m just a robot standing in front of a boy asking him to love me” and “I would have done anything…even butt stuff.” (Finally, a joke that requires no explanation…let’s hope.)

Funny stuff, all around, if occasionally silly and alright, obvious at times. But you know there’s a reason clichés become clichés, right? Because they still work in a pinch. “The Cleveland Show” ain’t Shakespeare- hell, it’s not even “Top Secret”– but what is, really? Sometimes even those lowest common denominator-types still get the job done. What can I say? I’m a cheap date.