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TV Review: Never Judge A Show by Its Pilot – Cavemen

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My first impression of Cavemen was that this was going to be a train wreck. I had this strange urge to look at this show the same way a rubbernecker has to slow down and look at a horrible accident. Someone at a major television network wanted to take a successful commercial campaign and develop it into a TV show.

The Geico insurance TV commercials feature a commercial spokesman saying that "Geico dot com is so easy a caveman could do it." We then see two modern day cavemen watching the commercial and being offended that Geico has stereotyped them as primitive and stupid.

The commercial campaign is successful but I really can't see turning that into a weekly series with a blatant message about intolerance. People don't watch TV to hear a message. That is Basic TV writing 101. I'm not saying that you can't have a message, but it has to be subtle. Bewitched had a subtle message about tolerance towards people who are different and towards mixed marriages. The Munsters pilot had a similar message when they showed intolerant neighbors who didn't approve of "those people that moved in next door." Science fiction shows like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone had strong messages about intolerance but none of their examples were ever used as part of their promotional campaign.

Another reason that I think viewers are going to be turned off by this show is because the actors Jeffrey Daniel Phillips and Ben Weber, who people loved in the commercials, are not in the show (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips does play a minor character named Maurice). I certainly don't want to compare these cavemen to other characters who have been played by multiple actors like Darren Stephens (Bewitched), Hannibal Hays (Alias Smith and Jones) or even the Duke boys (The Dukes of Hazzard). I can only imagine that some executive said, "We can put the wig and makeup on any actor and the audience won't know the difference." History has proved otherwise.

I saw the pilot and I can hear my college television production teacher say, "What’s the point?" First you have to buy into the premise that cavemen have lived among us since the beginning of time. The opening credits feature a montage of cavemen throughout history. Anything would be better than the chosen premise — time warp, thawed from an iceberg, or cloned caveman DNA. The main characters Joel Claybrook (Bill English), Andy Claybrook (Sam Huntington) and Nick Hedge (Nick Kroll) are three metrosexual cavemen who share an apartment in the city.

Joel is the reasonable and responsible roommate who supports the other two. Joel works at an IKEA-type store called Norsbild. I can't think of a more unfunny setting than an IKEA. That setting is only good for three, maybe four jokes and they were used up in the first two episodes. Nick is the intellectual snob. Unlike Frasier Crane or Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (M*A*S*H), who people enjoy seeing fall off their high horse, Nick has no horse. He acts like the world owes him a horse to fall off of and he blames the homo sapiens for keeping him down. People don't care for that personality type in real life, why would they want to see it on TV? In the pilot Nick sponges off Andy. I had to live with a roommate like that in college, so why do I want to see that on TV? Andy is the sweet but naive roommate who is willing to do anything to be liked and accepted by his roommates and the homo sapiens. Andy just broke up with his girlfriend so he also has rebound issues.

This is the reason why Mr. Whipple, Madge the manicurist, or the Maytag repairman never had a TV show. This is also one of the few times that I am sorry that I never judge a show by its pilot.

I watched the next episode. Deadbeat Nick can't come up with his share of the rent. Joel gets him a job at his store as a replenisher but Nick would rather sit around all day and download music than work. Again, I don't think TV audiences want to see a college educated person working in the service industry not doing their job because they find the work or work in general beneath them. TV sitcoms should be an escape from that reality. When Nick gets fired he plays the "cave card" for lack of a better term. While all of this is happening, Andy is trying to befriend a girl who is afraid of cavemen. Each attempt to win this girl over becomes more like stalking. Once Andy does win her over, the roommates scare her off by acting like cavemen, grunting and pounding their chest. In essence they're perpetuating the stereotype, but I guess since they own it, it's okay.

Years ago All in the Family successfully showcased the stupidity that is bigotry by having the lead character act like a real bigot using real ethnic slurs. The audience laughed at Archie Bunker and his narrow view of the world. Cavemen attempts to poke fun at the way people treat minorities by creating a fake minority. When creating a fake minority, where do you get your inspiration? I can imagine that several minority groups have to be offended by the way the show presents the issues of intolerance and acceptance. The way these issues are presented (I'm sure with no offense intended) can be seen as mocking the struggles that real minority groups face even today. Of course the bigger issue here is that the show offends everyone’s intelligence.

Instead of quoting the show I will quote two different friends who said at two different times, "I liked the show better when it was called It's About Time."

Stay tuned.

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About Tony Figueroa

  • Angela

    The show is funny, everybody we know is watching it. Who cares about messages and policital correctness. A sitcom is supposed to be funny and it is funny. And, “I can hear my college television production teacher say, “What’s the point”, give me a freakin’ break. What do college television production teachers know about television anyway. If they were any good, they would be producing television and not teaching it. Just like the old saying. What’s the point??? Why does it have to have a point. The writing is good, the actors are awesome.
    I am over 40 years old and I love this show.
    You’re review is obviously just sour grapes.

  • Brian

    I love the Cave, I just looked you up on IMDB, what 20 years in show business and you’ve had one part? Maybe you’re just a little jealous of the Cavemen. Maybe it’s time for you to get a real job.

  • DK

    This show is one of the best-written comedies has come around in years on TV. Yes the office and 30 rock are good but for some strange reason the jokes and situations seem recycled. However, Cavemen seems to be hip and new for some strange reason. And I am not just talking about the fact that they are cavemen. In fact, I think the only negative aspect of the show is that they ARE cavemen. The story lines could work just as well if they were real people (with some minor tweaks). I have a feeling if the show were about a bunch of guys and not cavemen, this would be the break out of the season. But they are cavemen, and for that reason TV viewers refuse to give it a chance, whether it is because they cannot relate to characters covered in hair or because there is that hunch that a show based off of commercials cannot be good. But this show is good. I thought the Yogurt episode was hands down the best 30 minutes of television I have seen all year. Unfortunately we live in a culture where things are successful based on how they are packaged. If it looks cool (i.e. hero and lost) then it must be good, when in fact those shows have depleted most of their steam early on. In summary, give the show a chance!

  • Barbara

    First you have to buy into the premise, since when? I didn’t buy into the premise of The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannnie, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, etc. All good shows. It’s called fantasy and fiction. Why in the world would everyone have to believe everything they see on tv. And the show is not about tolerance, it’s about overly politically correct people, just this time they are cavemen. LOVE THE SHOW, Hope it stays on for years.