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TV Review: The Cleveland Show – “Hot Cocoa Bang Bang”

On the second season finale of FOX’s The Cleveland Show, Cleveland Brown (Mike Henry) and family travel to San Diego Comic Con to premiere Cleveland’s comic book he has labored on for years, Waderman. The story is inspired by an incident in high school where Donna (Sanaa Lathan) fell in a fountain, and while Cleveland was removing his shoes and socks, someone else rescued her. At the event, Donna is disturbed to learn that an old Blaxploitation movie she made entitled Hot Cocoa Bang Bang, also the name of this episode, in which she bares her breasts, is screening. Speaking to director Robert Rodriguez (of Sin City and Grindhouse fame, voicing himself), she tries to get the film to go away, but he refuses, so Waderman and Cocoa take Rodriguez on.

This episode is quite a bit of fun, poking the humor in a number of different genres, including comic books, sci-fi, Blaxploitation films, and others. Besides the obvious bits about Cocoa, Cleveland Junior (Kevin Michael Richardson) realizes that Comic Con is now used by broadcast networks to promote any number of shows that have no business being at the event, and so plays off of the event itself. Junior raises an army of geeks to try to take back their convention, leading them in a bloody war for control of Comic Con. Ironically, while the geeks wear costumes from Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, Batman, and others, it is the network execs that display actual sci-fi abilities, such as a killer alien stalk that shoots out of one man’s mouth. So perhaps Comic Con is the right place for executives, after all?

While confronting each stereotype, The Cleveland Show uses their elements to battle them. For instance, while Donna is trying to stop Cocoa from seeing the light of day, she falls back into the Cocoa character. This lets the audience in on the joke, proving no one at The Cleveland Show is actually against the conventions they go after, but rather, are fans of them. It’s an ironic sort of humor, and one Seth MacFarlane, co-creator of The Cleveland Show, as well as creator of Family Guy and American Dad, does well.

Any series that visits Comic Con would be remiss without sticking in some fun cameos, and The Cleveland Show does not miss the opportunity. A number of actors lend their voices to play versions of themselves in brief sequences, including Danny Trejo (Machete), Emily Deschanel (Bones), Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica), and Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse). In perhaps a coup of coups, The Simpsons‘s Comic Book Guy (Hank Azaria), a nerdy character from another cartoon that also airs on FOX, pops up in what he himself dubs the “Worst. Cameo. Ever.”

Although Seth MacFarlane struggles for originality with three simultaneous series on the air (on the same night on the same network, no less), each of his shows does have a unique perspective. To find out what The Cleveland Show‘s is, tune in next fall when the series begins a third season on FOX.

About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com