Preview: Cavemen


In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC. Starts 2nd October

In the UK: Not yet acquired

I’m in something of a quandary. Normally, I deploy The Carusometer after the third or fifth episode of a show has aired. But this pilot has now been shifted to fifth in the running order, with an all-new first episode being shot right now. So do I hand it over to The Carusometer now?

That probably wouldn’t be fair. Let’s wait.

Anyway, there is a supposed truism that comedy allows society to examine taboo issues in a safer environment. Cavemen, based on an advert of all things, is supposed to be a more comfortable look at racism and stereotypes by featuring white people pretending to be cavemen, in the stead of ethnic minorities.

Yes, a show about racism that – unless I blinked or something – didn’t feature a single ethnic minority actor. How’s that for irony?

Plot (found in a cave on the ABC web site)

They have been around since the dawn of time, survived the Ice Age and witnessed the evolution of the Homo sapiens, making them one of the world’s oldest minorities. Keeping mostly to themselves over the millennia and living in remote communities, a small number of cavemen — and cavewomen — have been slowly migrating from these sub-societies and attempting to acclimate themselves to the Homo Sapien world. Needless to say, this has proven difficult.

Meet three cavemen who have successfully made the move to Atlanta and are just trying to fit in. Joel (Bill English) is a sophisticated and intelligent man who has a beautiful girlfriend, a decent job and shares an apartment with his younger brother, Andy (Sam Huntington, Superman Returns), and his best friend, Nick (Nick Kroll, VH1’s Best Week Ever). Nick is wary of the Homo sapien world and feels like he’s running away from his heritage. Andy, on the other hand, looks at this new world with his eyes wide open and is willing to take risks in order to learn and to live life to the fullest.

Nick questions Joel on many of his choices, including his girlfriend, Kate (Kaitlin Doubleday, The TV Set), a beautiful Homo sapien woman and high society southern belle. The fact that Kate’s eccentric mother, Leslie (Julie White, Tony Award winner for The Little Dog Laughed), owns Joel’s condominium complex makes things even more complicated for the three roommates. Meanwhile, Kate’s best friend, Thorne (Stephanie Lemelin), is intent on discovering the cavemen’s wilder side.

Joel, Nick and Andy have to overcome prejudice from most of the Homo sapien world and the misconceptions that modern society has of its earliest ancestors. In order for these cavemen to survive in the 21st century, they must work together to render those misconceptions extinct.

Cavemen stars Bill English as Joel, Nick Kroll as Nick, Sam Huntington as Andy, Kaitlin Doubleday as Kate, Stephanie Lemelin as Thorne and Julie White as Leslie.

The series is based in part on characters from the GEICO commercials created by The Martin Agency. Cavemen was developed by Josh Gordon & Will Speck (directors of Blades of Glory) and Joe Lawson. Bill Martin & Mike Schiff (Grounded for Life, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Gordon & Speck, Daniel Rappaport (Office Space) & Guymon Casady serve as executive producers. Cavemen is from ABC Studios.

Is it any good?

Sometimes. For the most part the show simply gets by by taking a familiar stereotype and then twisting it to make it about cavemen instead of black, Asian or Latino people and having them condemn it. Occasionally it gets a bit original, but for the most part, it’s simply a word substitution game. It makes you think a little bit, but for the most part, this is a well trodden set of arguments, familiar to all but the most Neanderthal of viewer (ooh, did you see what I did there?).

For a show that tries to condemn stereotypes, it doesn’t half enjoy revelling in them as well: Southerners are all over-sexed and bigoted; old people are mentally defective; the cavemen really are good at sports and can be a bit primitive; and so on.

All the same, it’s not half as bad as predicted, has some good leads and does make you smile occasionally. The characters are on their way to getting extra dimensions and there’s a slightly touching love story there, too. It’s not laugh out loud stuff, but it does occasionally raise a smile or even a snort.

Might be worth watching for a bit, but I’m not sure if it’s got any real legs. Here’s a YouTube clip for you.