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The guys behind 'The Cleveland Show'

The 'Family Guy' spinoff aims to be 'kinder, gentler' than its edgier counterpart.

September 20, 2009|Greg Braxton

If you mixed "Family Guy" with "The Cosby Show" you might have something close to "The Cleveland Show."

Three years after the exit of "The Bernie Mac Show," which was based on the family of the late comedian, the network is launching "The Cleveland Show," an animated comedy about an African American family. The series will join Fox's live-action African American sitcom "Brothers" as the only other broadcast network series centered on a minority family.

Of the two series, "The Cleveland Show" would seem to be the more provocative. The comedy is a spinoff of "Family Guy," the successful comedy from Seth McFarlane that has sparked more than a few controversies. The lead character, who is black, is voiced by a white guy. And many of the writers that made "Family Guy" an edgy sparkplug for humor are lending their talents to the new series.

However, the producers of "The Cleveland Show" are stating up front that they are not looking to ruffle any feathers. In fact, their goal is almost the opposite.

"In the words of the first President Bush, we're determined to make a kinder, gentler 'Family Guy,' " said executive producer Rich Appel. "We're still leaving plenty of room for the distinctive tone of 'Family Guy,' but there will be a stronger sense of family."

"The Cleveland Show" revolves around the character Cleveland Brown, best friend and neighbor of "Family Guy" Peter Griffin, who decides to move back to his hometown in Virginia with his 14-year-old son Cleveland Jr. to marry his long-lost love, Donna. Executive producer Mike Henry voices Cleveland while Sanaa Lathan is the voice for Donna.

Henry, who also was one of the key people behind "Family Guy," called the new show "funny and sweet. We're not trying to push any envelopes. We're not trying to be shocking or mean. We will tell more family stories."

Henry is not anticipating too much backlash for voicing the character of a different race. "Personally, I know who I am and where I'm coming from," he said. "A lot of people know where I'm coming from. I feel I'm a conscientious person." He added that he's already changed some jokes that might be culturally insensitive.

The network has expressed confidence in the series: The show has been renewed for a second season.

What if it doesn't connect with viewers?

Quipped Appel, "We're just going to have to shove 35 more episodes down America's throat."

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greg.braxton@latimes.com

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