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August 22, 2014

Cavemen: Her Embarrassed of Cavemen (series premiere)

by Jay Black, posted Oct 2nd 2007 11:41PM
If there were an over/under on when this should would be cancelled, I would have bet 21 minutes into its first airing.(S01E01) There have been a few monumentally bad attempts to entertain in the history of show business. Star Trek 5, Howard the Duck, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Flops are fascinating once you consider the enormous amount of effort that goes into creating a piece of entertainment. From the writers and actors all the way to the gaffers and the caterers, it's stunning to think of the thousands of man-hours spent working on something that you have trouble spending 30 minutes watching.

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.


What would you rather be doing other than watching Cavemen?
Getting a root canal147 (18.1%)
Watching a series entitled "The World's Most Boring Operas"157 (19.4%)
Being set on fire269 (33.2%)
Jay, you're being ridiculous, I actually liked this show!238 (29.3%)

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gregg

You can't be serious?! This show rocks (no pun intended). Three cavemen living in modern society is funny, period. Racially charged jokes...are you kidding. You are digging way too deep. They are freaking cavemen living in a world of sapes. Prejudice against them has nothing to do with black people. I'm a black guy and I find nothing wrong with this show in that respect. As a matter of fact I'm more offended by BET crap and black sitcoms that make fun of white people. That is just as bad as the most red neck crap white people can come up with against blacks accept white bigotry is not allowed on TV and there is never going to be WET (white entertainment television). Why, because it would just be wrong and so is BET. Back to the actual Cavemen show. This show is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the monotony of non creative shows such as the blahfice aka the office, friends, carpoolers..(wow don't even get me started on that garbage). I don't know about you but I'm just really sick of all these office related shows. Hey we work at an office so funny. Cavemen is different. I wish everybody would quit giving retarded shows like ER and Greys Anatomy such good ratings and bashing shows like cavemen that are just meant to be funny. Every show is not some deep thinking drama or for adults only dirty joke junk. Cavemen is solid, funny, inventive, different and made for a wide audience.

December 05 2007 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hugh

I think it is such a case of piling on when folks say how bad this show is. There is so much horrible stuff on tv, and this show actually isn't half bad, although not as good as the brilliant commercials, because how could you sustain that for half an hour. lighten up and get over yourselves, folks. You're just patting yourselves on the back for your "taste" by saying the show is awful.

November 05 2007 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pat

You're all a bunch of dumb douches. This show was hardly worse than ANY episode of According to Jim, Yes Dear, 2.5 Men, etc. Stuff your heads back up your pretentious asses.

October 05 2007 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave

I didn't pick up on any of the racial undertones, and I usually catch those right away (thanks to Dave Chappelle). The jokes were lame and the characters are even more lame.

But it is still better than Desperate Housewives.

October 04 2007 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Montgomery Lopez

I wrote a quick review on my blog about why I liked Caveman but the more important question was about the caveman weatherman. Who was he? I want to say its Will Ferrell. Take a look at my blog to see the picture I posted. Tell me if I am correct or out of my mind.

http://monsterscifishow.wordpress.com/2007/10/04/am-i-the-only-one-that-liked-caveman/

October 04 2007 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron P

This show is awful. I think a comedy show based on the AFLAC duck would have been better!!!

October 04 2007 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Willy

We watched it just to see what it was all about. It was all about awful. I didn't even crack a smile.

October 04 2007 at 7:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matt

Just posting another comment so my computer will remember my password. Hate that e-mail confirmation BS.

October 03 2007 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Gross

I actually enjoyed this show and I think that people WANT to hate it rather than giving it even the smallest chance. Almost every one said within 7 minutes, they were disgusted. Well, 7 minutes is not that long to really experience something.

I didn't think it was a great episode, but the concept is funny and quirky, and it was funny how the cavemen riled each other up and played off each other.

If you can look past the idea that the show isnt supposed to be about real life and it is supposed to be just funny in a "what if this happened" type of way, I think this show has potential to place the characters and reactionary characters in the oddest and most unlikely situations, which is satirical and unexpected.

Yes, the show was clunky and the characters were a little stiff and the IKEA-type scenes were out of place, but the scenes where the characters were playing off each other (ex: racquetball scenes) were enjoyable and funny.

We should embrace new concepts and unexpected ideas, even mediocre ones just for the sake of bringing new ways of innovating TV and the TV sitcom.

Another interesting point is that maybe ABC thought people would tune in because of the hype. Then viewers would hate the show, but then watch Carpoolers and then think Carpoolers was amazing because of course people would compare the two shows. It's an odd strategy, but I wouldn't blame them for syncing into social psychology.

October 03 2007 at 11:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matt

Jay you're fuckin hilarious. I couldn't have said it better myself. Bravo! About 21 minutes into the half hour I had thoughts about piercing my jugular with an ice pick. Unfortunately I don't own an ice pick.

October 03 2007 at 11:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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