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'The Cleveland Show': Fat suit makes for a nice change of pace

January 11, 2010 | 12:34 pm

Cleveland_LoveRollercoaster_0020FThe battle for Sunday night on Fox continues. This week “The Simpsons” took over with the help of its 20th anniversary superspecial, but it couldn’t completely shove the Seth MacFarlane toons off the schedule (that’ll happen next week for the “25” and “Human Target” premieres). “The Cleveland Show” snuck in with a new episode at the 9:30 p.m. slot and continues to prove itself as more than just a lead-in to “Family Guy.”

Cleveland Jr. is still the Meg Griffin of “The Cleveland Show.” He just wants to do some online research for his science project but is bumped off the computer so Rallo can chat with all the people looking to make friends with a 5-year-old boy and so Roberta can post Facebook pictures of herself in a bikini. This spawns a hilarious comment on Facebook by Cleveland, and yes, Betsy can suck eggs.

Roberta lives on the other side of the spectrum from Cleveland Jr. She’s popular and attractive. Attractive enough to get special treatment, better grades and strange propositions from her teachers. But then she tries to use her womanly wiles on Mrs. Ecks (voiced by "Glee’s" Jane Lynch). Mrs. Ecks tells Roberta that she needs to live a few days in a fat suit so she won’t end up like Pamela Anderson, Kirsten Dunst or Meg “the Joker” Ryan, and Tyra Obama is born.

Roberta reenters school as Tyra and sees how life is for the un-hot. Her attempts to be sexy are met with “The Cleveland Show” trademark vomiting. In fact, the only friend she finds is Cleveland Jr. They decide to work together on Cleveland Jr.’s rocket for the science fair to defeat the nerd bullies. Somewhere around installing the TIE fighters, Cleveland Jr. falls in love with his stepsister in disguise.

Cleveland himself is just a B story in his own show tonight. He and the guys decide they should invent a new product. The two-necked beer, magnetic button jeans, and hot wings gloves are all vetoed in favor of the Rollercoaster: a beer coaster with wheels for easy sliding. Unfortunately, Cleveland learns that he shouldn’t go into business with his friends. Especially with a product that has already been invented. Though if anyone knows where to find out where to get one of those Alan Alda voiceboxes, let me know.

Cleveland does step up from his side story to tell Roberta she needs to fix the mess she’s made with Cleveland Jr. as Tyra before pushing her over and trampolining off her stomach. Roberta tells Cleveland Jr. she’s moving to Alaska, home of fish, energy and crazy people, with her father Iron Man. It was a nice touching, character-driven ending that may have sacrificed some of the extended gags that “The Cleveland Show” normally uses to fill its time. A nice change of pace, though I’m looking forward for more insanity when we next see the Browns.

Obscurest/most possibly offensive reference -- Without “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” there was a lot less to pick from, so I decided to combine my obscurest and most possibly offensive references together. When Mrs. Eck showed off the fat suit to Roberta, she got caught in a Fupa/Poopa loop. I admit, I had to look up Fupa online. I’m not going to tell you what it means, but it does work for both.

Through line -- “The Cleveland Show” continued the MacFarlane tradition of great musical numbers. “Family Guy” has gotten Emmy nominations for its songs “My Drunken Irish Dad” and “You’ve Got a Lot to See.” “American Dad” had probably my favorite musical number about the Log Cabin Republicans, but that might be challenged by the new song from “The Cleveland Show.” When Cleveland Jr. tells his dad he’s fallen in love, he describes it as falling deep into the ball pit at their pizza parlor which leads into the romantic tune “Balls Deep,” featuring Scotty Pippin. Nice work.

-- Andrew Hanson


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Photo credit: Fox