Cavemen: Her Embarrassed of Cavemen (series premiere)
There's been a considerable amount of morbid curiosity surrounding Cavemen. Would it transcend its bad buzz and go on to be a seven-season television institution? Or would it wind up on the flop-heap of history? The answer after the jump...
The short answer, for those of you only interested in that sort of thing:
It's a flop. A major flop. The kind of flop that makes Steven Bochco feel okay about Cop Rock again.
The most serious charge leveled against Cavemen prior to its premiere was that it was essentially a collection of poorly conceived black jokes masquerading as "cavemen" jokes. You'll be happy to know that the revamped pilot has completely fixed that problem. Well, that is, of course, unless the following stereotypes made about cavemen in the series are also commonly made about African Americans:
-- White racist southerners think they look alike.
-- Dating a white blond woman is seen by many in the community as a "betrayal of the race."
-- Cavemen are considered by some to be "sexually superior" and it's thought that the women who date them do so because cavemen satisfy them in a way that their own race cannot. It's almost as if, once you go <word associated with cavemen>, you never go <word that rhymes with cavemen>.
As a liberal progressive brought up in the northeast, I'm unaware of whether or not these are racial stereotypes. I can't imagine, though, that ABC would allow a show on their airwaves -- no matter how popular the string of commercials that led to the genesis of this show might have been -- that would offend so many of their thinking viewers.
Just for the sake of argument, if the show did indulge in such blatant cavemen-for-black offensiveness, you might be wondering how racially insensitive it is. To that end, I've constructed a "Racial Insensitivity" chart, from 1.0 to 7.0 (note that the "Racial Insensitivity" chart is, much like the warp scale, confusing and poorly thought out).
1.0 -- "White People Do This/Black People Do That" jokes on BET''s Comic View.
2.0 -- Anything that precedes the phrase "that's just the facts about affirmative action, folks" on a conservative radio program.
3.0 -- The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer.
3.5 -- Nute Gunray.
4.0 -- Any movie produced prior to 1960 that has not been released from the Disney Vault.
5.0 -- Don Imus.
6.0 -- Bill O'Reilly.
7.0 -- Michael Richards.
If (and that's a big IF), the studio, the actors, the writers, the directors, the producers, and the network were dumb enough to let these brainless stereotypes double as "jokes" with no satirical purpose behind them, then I would say Cavemen would rank about a 4.2 on my scale. But come on, how could something as stupid as that happen in modern America?
Okay, I've got my tongue a little in my cheek here. In all honesty, the racial considerations are probably the least of this show's problems. Just to name a few:
1) I hate it when reviewers say "it wasn't funny", because funny is so much a personal taste that it almost renders the criticism meaningless. With that in mind, let me say this about Cavemen: it wasn't funny. At all.
(And believe me, I feel lame saying that, but there's no way I can justify a recurring joke about the outlandishly named products at IKEA. Not in 2007.)
2) Nick, the "thinking man's caveman", is tremendously annoying. He steals money from his friends and makes them feel bad about their romantic choices all while "working" on a dissertation that he'll never finish. I guess he's supposed to be the show's amoral Barney-type caveman. Maybe on paper he came off as a likeable rapscallion. In practice? I imagine an afternoon watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be less annoying.
3) The central joke of the commercial -- seeing tech and pop-culture savvy cavemen navigate our world -- just doesn't manage to stretch to a half hour. While you'll forgive a predictable and easy joke in a commercial because it's only 15-30 seconds of your time, this show is asking you to give it 30 valuable minutes a week. In return we get jokes as hard to see coming as The Rock's acceptance of his daughter at the end of The Gameplan. Even if the jokes were funny this would be asking a lot.
4) Just how ugly the character design is. I know they're sticking to the look of the commercials, but really, if I wanted to spend my time with four stomach-churningly ugly humanoids, I'd watch <editors note: "The View" joke that was originally written for this space was omitted. Please feel free to insert your own group of four ugly people here.>
What are the plusses?
1) It's only 22 minutes. They could have made it an hour long dramedy set at a whacky lawfirm. Actually, now that I think about it, a show about an Unfrozen Cavemen Lawyer might be a lot funnier than this one.
2) If you were an aspiring television comedy writer but were worried that it was too hard and required too much talent, this show might provide inspiration for you.
Maybe I'm being too hard on this show. Maybe all you can expect from a sitcom based on a series of commercials is a few weak and predictable laughs. Maybe. As always, I'm open to different thoughts -- did you laugh uproariously throughout the episode? Did you see no racial overtones at all? Did you watch the show without wishing for some sort of disease that rendered you blind and deaf for thirty minutes every Tuesday night at 8 PM? If so, tell me in the comments and explain to me why I'm getting this all wrong.
All I can say is that I can't wait until Thursday. I need some Office sorbet to get this taste out of my mouth.
|Getting a root canal||147 (18.1%)|
|Watching a series entitled "The World's Most Boring Operas"||157 (19.4%)|
|Being set on fire||269 (33.2%)|
|Jay, you're being ridiculous, I actually liked this show!||238 (29.3%)|