[08/14/07 - 11:37 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Cavemen" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.

And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

(Tuesdays at 8:00/7:00c this fall)

The network's description: "Cavemen is a unique buddy comedy that offers a clever twist on stereotypes and turns race relations on their head. Inspired by the popular Geico Insurance commercials, the series looks at life through the eyes of the ultimate outsiders - three modern cavemen - as they struggle to find their place in the world. Joel, his cynical best friend, Nick, and easy-going little brother, Jamie, are contemporary cavemen who live in the suburban south and simply want to be treated like ordinary thirty-something guys. Despite their attempts at assimilation, Nick doesn't believe mainstream society will ever completely accept them, Jamie seems to take it all in stride and Joel straddles the middle, torn between his friends, his more traditional values and his loving fiance."

What did they leave out: As previously reported, Dash Mihok's character, Jamie, is being written out in favor of a new one, Andy (Sam Huntington). In addition, the screened pilot itself has been scrapped in favor of a slightly revamped concept - the cavemen now live in San Diego (in lieu of Atlanta) while Leslie (Julie White) - the mother of Kaitlin Doubleday's character - is now the guys' landlord.

The plot in a nutshell: Iconic images from U.S. history - everything from George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River to Truman holding a newspaper declaring "Dewey Beats Truman" - are punctuated by the "Where's Waldo?"-esque appearance of several cavemen. A narrator informs us that despite what we've heard, cavemen have been with us all along... and here is the story of three of them, all roommates in the same dumpy Atlanta apartment complex - Joel (Bill English), the quintessential nice guy; Jamie (Dash Mihok), his dim-bulb brother; and Nick (Nick Kroll), their sardonic layabout friend. Joel, who spends his days as the manager of an Ikea Norskbild store, has recently become engaged to his non-caveman girlfriend Kate (Kaitlin Doubleday). The trouble is he's worried her "good-ol'-boy" father Tripp (John Heard) won't accept having a caveman for a son-in-law. And despite goading from Nick about turning his back on his heritage, Joel hopes an upcoming western-themed barbeque at Tripp's country club (White Neck, natch) will give him the opportunity to get his blessing. There things go as poorly as expected - Katie's boozy mom (Julie White) asks "inappropriate" questions ("Do they like their meat cooked?"), people assume a missing tip jar was taken by one of them and worst of all, a tagging along Nick ends up being the one who bonds with Tripp after crashing his high stakes game of horseshoes. Also along for the ride is Katie's best friend Thorne (Stephanie Lemelin) who makes a play for an unwitting Jamie because of the implied sexual taboo, much to the chagrin of her ex (Travis Schuldt). In the end, despite accidentally being set on fire and made to look even more like a caveman - Joel stands up for himself in front of all the guests and finally wins Tripp's approval as a result.

What works: It's not nearly the train wreck the initial press would have you believe...

What doesn't: ...but it's also not that great either thanks to its reliance on the same joke, which in case you haven't noticed is that the cavemen are minorities, just like African-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc. Whether it be people assuming they can dance, are more prone to criminal acts, have a wilder sex strive or are better at sports, all the stereotypical cliches are here in force. While some gags work (Nick complains about the local news broadcast's token caveman - the buffoonish weatherman), the majority don't (a lengthy discussion on whether cavemen can use the derogatory term "cro-magger" for instance, seems to go on forever) mostly because they relentlessly beat you over the head with the show's concept. It's as if the producers are sitting next to you saying - "You get that the cavemen are supposed to be metaphors for all minorities, right? Did ya?" - on an endless loop. In other words the humor is there, unfortunately there's not much of a show built around it. Unfortunately, the sight-unseen vitriol towards the show (ABC did a show based on a commercial?! The horror! Because it's not like three of the biggest movies of all time are based on a theme park ride.) seems to have derailed any chance the producers have of building one.

The bottom line: It's better than you think, but that's not saying much.

  [august 2007]  


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