Maybe Cavemen isn't as bad as the media says it is
A few critics have actually said good things about Cavemen. Surprised? Yeah, well apparently it's not as uncommon as we might think. As this New York Times article details, there have been positive reviews of the show, but they've been mostly overshadowed by the enormous negative press it has received since before its premiere.
From the beginning, the hastily-produced pilot lead to critics thinking Cavemen was just a show relying on thinly veiled racial humor, with the cavemen standing in for African-Americans. Then they started talking about what a terrible idea the concept was (if it's funny for a thirty second commercial, that doesn't mean it's funny for thirty minutes). But was the show doomed from the start? Did all the negative publicity lead to more negative reviews of those early episodes than they could have rightly earned?
The creators admit that the early pilot focused a bit too much on the so-called "racial" jokes, explaining "you want to give almost equal time ignoring the fact that they're cave men," but "you don't want to walk away from the jokes that can be told because they're cave men." Some critics have essentially admitted that the bad press negatively influenced their opinion of the show. So what's the deal? Is Cavemen bad or did it just get a raw deal? The creators aren't optimistic of a renewal with the ratings slide the show has seen, but say they do get boosts of encouragement from the rare positive trickle that comes through.
While I had seen the premiere, I hadn't been that impressed with it. I tried not to go in with a negative pre-opinion, but found it relying a bit heavily on the "race" card. I did feel it had some redeeming qualities. So in writing this article, I went to ABC.com and watched the two episodes available there.
I will say that I still enjoy the relationship and differing personalities of the three main characters, which I think is the show's strength. Just as Seinfeld was an ensemble about that foursome, this is a piece about these three very different cavemen. And they have found a better balance between using the caveman angle and ignoring it, just as they intended.
In "The Shaver," the main storyline focused on Nick's obsessed conviction that there is a shaver nearby (a caveman who shaves his body hair to pass as a homo sapien), the secondary storyline involved the normally polite and proper Andy's unexpected problem with road rage being an extreme turn on for a neighbor. That's a pretty standard plotline that could have been seen in any number of sitcoms, and probably has been. "Rock Vote!" is even better as it focuses on the boys responding to a burglary at their house and facing an upcoming election. There's a lot of good political humor here and the strength is in the characters and their interrelations.
Unfortunately, I fear what improvements have been made are too little too late for Cavemen. It's still not comedy gold, but neither is it a terrible show. It's a buddy show about three roommates who just happen to be cavemen. And it's actually better than some other shows on television. Yeah, I said it. But I said it after actually watching it. Nick is consistently obsessed with his caveman heritage, which is a huge part of his character, but that's just one aspect of the show.