Cleveland Orenthal Brown, Sr. is a fictional character voiced by Mike Henry on the animated series Family Guy, and central character in the spin-off series, The Cleveland Show. In the first seven seasons of Family Guy, Brown is a frequently recurring character. As one of Peter Griffin's neighbors and friends, Cleveland is also one of the few recurring African American characters on the show. He was conceived during the seventh-inning stretch of a Cleveland Indians game. His established profession was that of a deli owner. In the earliest seasons of Family Guy, Cleveland frequently appeared alongside his wife Loretta Brown (voiced by Alex Borstein), until their divorce was portrayed in the Family Guy season 4 episode "The Cleveland–Loretta Quagmire". The pilot episode of The Cleveland Show depicts Cleveland's farewell to the familiar characters and settings of Family Guy. The Cleveland Show establishes its setting of Stoolbend, Virginia as Cleveland's childhood home town, and introduces a new family and set of characters supporting Cleveland as lead.
Cleveland is usually depicted as exceedingly gentle, patient, and sweet, and only on rare occasions he has been known to lose his temper and resort to violence. However, Cleveland gets visibly annoyed with racist behavior. He often acts as the voice of caution when other characters hatch harebrained schemes. Cleveland's speech is slow, almost elongated. Various flashbacks give conflicting histories of his speech patterns. In the episode "Death Lives" Peter Griffin met Cleveland in the 1970s and he (Cleveland) was skinnier (and obviously younger), sporting an Afro, but still spoke in the slow manner that he is known for. Likewise, in the premiere of his spin-off, it is revealed that Cleveland talked in a slow manner when he was in high school. In the fourth season episode "Blind Ambition", an out-of-continuity flashback depicts Cleveland as a fast-talking auctioneer when a totem pole falls over onto Cleveland's head, resulting in a slower state of speech. Cleveland is also German.
One of the running gags throughout the series is that Peter's shenanigans frequently destroy the front wall of Cleveland's house, revealing him in the bathtub. He then exclaims: "What the hell?! No, no, no, no, no, NO!" as the upstairs floor tilts and the tub crashes to the ground. In the pilot of his spin-off, this gag was the last straw that convinced Cleveland to leave Quahog. However, even several states away, the Griffins' antics are still seen to cause this event, such as when debris from the missile that Brian, Stewie, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase destroy happens to fall right on Cleveland's new house in the episode "Spies Reminiscent of Us" (Because of the unfamiliarity of the joke to the characters of The Cleveland Show, Cleveland's neighbor Tim the Bear appeared and said "I don't get it"). In "Brian's Got a Brand New Bag", Cleveland's old, and now unoccupied house is destroyed when Peter watches the movie Road House and beats up Brian, which results in a car crashing into the house, and the empty bathtub crashes to the ground. Afterward, Peter says "Oh, that's right. Cleveland moved." In the Cleveland Show episode "Gone With the Wind", the same running gag affects his former wife Loretta Brown, and she winds up dead after breaking her neck on the ground.
Cleveland's bathtub accidents have been caused by Peter's giraffe stumbling backwards into his house, the flying missile as stated above, Peter and Lois trying to move their mentally retarded horse by driving into it, missing, and driving into his house, and other accidents.
Cleveland sometimes will show some sexual deviance or arousal towards attractive women. This is shown in the episode Petarded, when Peter brings 7 prostitutes into his house to get back custody of his kids and prove to child services that Cleveland is an unfit father. Cleveland responds, "Peter! You and 5 of those prostitutes get out!". He also claims to find power sexy and says that if he could date any woman other than his wife, it would be Margaret Thatcher.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane created a cartoon short entitled Life of Larry. The short centered around a middle-aged man named Larry and his anthropomorphic dog Steve. In 1999, when MacFarlane was working for Hanna-Barbara Studios, writing for shows such as Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Laboratory, and Cow and Chicken, he made a sequel to Life of Larry, which Cartoon Network broadcast in 1995. The short caught the eye of 20th Century Fox representatives, who asked him to create a TV series revolving around the characters. MacFarlane received a US$50,000 budget to develop a pilot for the show, which was, as MacFarlane stated in a 2006 interview, "Template:Interp about one twentieth of what most pilots cost".
In three months, MacFarlane created the Griffin family and developed a pilot for the show he called Family Guy.
Writers named the character Cleveland Brown in reference to the similarly named football team, although his last name wasn't revealed until after Family Guy returned from cancellation in 2005. Furthering this connection, a commercial aired during Super Bowl XLV that showed many TV characters wearing NFL jerseys, with everyone in Quahog wearing New England Patriots jerseys except Cleveland, who is wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey in reference to his name.
Mike Henry voices both Cleveland Brown and Herbert, as well as some minor recurring characters like Bruce the performance artist and The Greased up Deaf Guy. Henry met MacFarlane at the Rhode Island School of Design and kept in touch with him after they graduated. A few years later, MacFarlane contacted him about being part of the show; he agreed and came on as both a writer and voice actor. Henry based Cleveland's voice on one of his basketball partners in Virginia. During the show's first four seasons, he was credited as a guest star, but beginning with season five's "Prick Up Your Ears" he has been credited as a main cast member.
During a live broadcast of "Loveline," Seth McFarlane announced that a Family Guy spin-off featuring Cleveland was currently in the works with the studio and writers. The upcoming series was mentioned in the final moments of the Family Guy season 7 episode "Baby Not On Board", with Cleveland telling Quagmire "Did I tell you I'm getting a spin-off". It premiered on September 27, 2009 on FOX, right after The Simpsons. The Cleveland Show is an animated series focusing on the character of Cleveland Brown and his family as Cleveland moves from Rhode Island to Virginia. His newly introduced family includes his high school sweetheart, Donna, who is now his second wife, her 15-year-old daughter, Roberta, and her 5-year-old son, Rallo. Cleveland Jr. also is in the family but is now much fatter than he appeared on Family Guy, and also suffers from astigmatism. Cleveland's neighbors also include a family of talking anthropomorphic bears, a redneck couple and a Victorian-era British family, and one of his son's soccer rivals includes a boy voiced by Kanye West.
Cleveland was officially written out of Family Guy during season eight before The Cleveland Show was broadcast; however, it has been hinted that he might come back for a visit in the future, including the episode "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side", although fantasies and film parodies are generally accepted as non-canon Family Guy episodes. He appeared in a cameo in "Spies Reminiscent of Us", in which he dealt with the indignity of having his new house wrecked in the same fashion as his old one in Quahog, as well as appearing in the season 8 episode "The Splendid Source", where he joins the gang on a road trip to find the source of a dirty joke Chris Griffin told at school. Another idea has been that Peter Griffin and possibly other Family Guy characters will be traveling in the South and make a guest appearance on The Cleveland Show.
Some have criticised the fact that Mike Henry, who is white, is the voice actor for Cleveland Brown. Darnell Hunt, the director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he believed that "the burden of the proof is on the creators of the show to show they have gone beyond the bare minimum that's necessary to address the concerns that black audiences might legitimately have."
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