It is arguably the most talked about show of the coming television season: ABC's "Cavemen."
Okay, admittedly there have been other TV programs that have prominently featured cavemen. "The Flintstones" come immediately to mind. As does "It's About Time," that CBS sitcom about those two astronauts who accidentally pierced the time barrier. And -- as a direct result -- wound up sharing a cave with Shad (Imogene Coca) and Gronk (Joe E. Ross). And who can forget Phil Hartman's inspired turn as the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" ?
Phil Hartman as the UnFrozen Caveman Lawyer Copyright NBC Universal, Inc.
So it's not the caveman angle that is making this new ABC series the topic of so much discussion. But -- rather -- the fact that the creators of "Cavemen" drew their inspiration from a popular series of television commercials. To be specific, Geico's "It's so easy a caveman could do it" car insurance ads.
Which (admittedly) sounds like a pretty risky idea to try & build an entire TV series around. I mean, let's remember what happened the last time that a television network tried to do something like this. CBS rolled out "Baby Bob" (Which was based on a series of ads for FreeInternet.com) with much fanfare in March of 2002. But given that "Bob" 's ratings started low and then got lower, the Tiffany Network eventually opted to pull the plug after only eight episodes (Of the 14 that were produced) were aired.
(L to R) Joely Fisher, Elliot Gould, Adam Arkin, Holland Taylor & Baby Bob Copyright 2002 Paramount International Television
So knowing what happened with "Baby Bob" ... A lot of folks in the industry are now scratching their heads over "Cavemen." Wondering what ABC executives could have been thinking by putting a program with such a thin premise on their Fall schedule.
Ah, but there's method to the Alphabet Network's madness. You see, ABC execs have retained Bill Martin & Mike Schiff to be "Cavemen" 's executive producers / showrunners. And Martin & Schiff ... They know a little bit about keeping a show with a pretty thin premise fresh & funny. Given that Bill & Mike were the executive producers / showrunners of the Emmy-Award-winning "3rd Rock From the Sun" during its six season run on NBC.
(L to R) John Lithgow, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Curtin, Kristen Johnston & French Stewart Copyright 1996 Carsey-Werner Company
With Martin & Schiff now attached to this sitcom ... Well, it's believed (in-house at ABC, anyway) that "Cavemen" now at least has a fighting chance. That Bill & Mike will be able to deliver a polished & professional product that -- just like "3rd Rock" did with its wacky aliens -- will use its caveman characters to comically comment on today's society.
As for this show's title characters ... This trio of cavemen are called Joel (Bill English), his cynical best friend, Nick (Nick Kroll) and easy-going little brother, Jamie (Dash Mihok). Who live in modern-day Atlanta and do what they can to try & blend in. Joel -- for example -- has gotten engaged to a beautiful Caucasian girl, Kate (Kaitlin Doubleday). But -- of course -- this then forces Joel to deal with Kate's prejudiced papa, Trip (John Heard). Who just doesn't understand what his daughter sees in this Cro Magnon.
(L to R) John Heard, Bill English and Kaitlin Doubleday Copyright 2007 ABC -- Photo by Gale Adler
That's ultimately what ABC is hoping "Cavemen" will turn into. A buddy comedy that then gives viewers a unique new way to look at stereotypes. In effect comically comment on the issue of race relations by watching these three Cro Mags struggle to make their way in the modern world.
Will this premise ultimately pay off ? Will ABC wind up with another "3rd Rock" -sized hit or just another "Baby Bob" -style blowout ? I guess we'll know for sure come September, when "Cavemen" starts airing on the Alphabet Network on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.
(L to R) Stephanie Lemelin, Dash Mihok, Nick Kroll, Bill English & Kaitlin Doubleday Copyright 2007 ABC -- Photo by Craig Sjodin
Your thoughts ?
So let me get this straight. ABC is banking on the success of this horrendous idea of a caveman show and yet they have the Muppets which SHOULD be a bankable asset and they have done nothing to date with those characters? Give me a break! Honestly speaking, the muppets would have been a better fit for that time slot. I have heard early reviews about the Cavemen show and they are not good. I am going to say the show will last about six episodes and then these Cavemen will go the way of the dinosaur.
Nub - I understand what you mean by the phrase, but do remember that Dinosaurs lasted on the Earth a lot LOT longer than man has so far... so maybe there's hope for this show :)
We don't have those Geico comercials down here (although I was a couple on YouTube and... meh...), but I really can't understand why some would think this is a good idea for a series.
In fact, I was reading about new series this week, and I realized that I'm actually having fewer shows to watch every year. The ones I like get cancelled, and most of the new ones just don't grab me.
To me, this series exemplifies why network T.V. ratings are in a downward spiral.
The come out year after year with ridiculous shows like this that are destined to last a half season at best, yet quality shows like Jericho don't make the cut to get renewed.
Network execs are CLUELESS as to what the American people want. That's why I watch exclusively HBO, TLC, Discovery, etc. Cable's where it's at these days. The networks are a disaster. Let's have another reality show, please!! NOT!
See, this is why I don't watch network anymore. Just cable. I mean *come on*. I'd rather they make a show about the Geico gecko than those cavemen.
OTOH, I heard that there's going to be an animated series starring the pink-haired lady spy from the e*surance commercials. Now that sounds interesting...
And speaking of shows derived from commercials...I read some time back that there was going to be a feature film called "Food Fight" or something that featured famous advertising icons, such as Tony the Tiger and the Morton Salt Girl. What ever happened to that?
I'll be honest, watching the first caveman ad for Geico was a little comical... but now when I see the follow-up caveman commercials I think to myself, "Enough already"! They never know when to quit.
I suspect that if the public feels the way I do then the execs are too late and the series already has run stail even in commercial form. If we are lucky it'll go the way of "The Mike O'Malley Show"... 1 episode. Or better yet-- the series will be so bad that even GEICO stops sponsoring it. So hopefully with any luck, it WILL go the way of the Dinosaur-- but if that takes too long, lets hope it just goes the way of "The Mike O'Malley Show", "The Magic Hour with Magic Johnson" and "The Chevy Chase Show" --just like a fuse: short and burning fast... only this fuse will probably lead up to yet another stupid pilot idea up to be greenlit by brainless execs who match the descriptions of the starring characters of "Cavemen"...
But we all know the reality... or at least corporate logic shows us that the execs know the public are gullable idiots who have to be told what they like, who will eat up anything they're given. No, seeing as how the public loves to accept "just good enough" ol' status quo, I suspect I'm wrong and it'll catch on wildly-- seeing as how the modern American public seems to disregard real entertainment, with only a few left to say, "Enough Already!".
Well if nobody else will say it-- I will: "Enough Already!"
The networks put shows on that people watch. If your favorite shows were so good then why aren't people watching them? Because if people were watching them, than they would get renewed. Shows like Jericho and Invasion (a favorite of mine) are VERY expensive to produce. So unless they are HOT right out the gate, then they will not get renewed. In addtion, shows like that are hard to syndicate (where the REAL money is).
As to cable shows. Shows on pay TV services (HBO, Showtime, etc) can exist with 1/10th the audience of even the poorest rated show on network TV because they don't have to rely on advertising revenue. When you charge $10-$20 a month for your channel, you can put whatever you want on there! What are the nightly ratings for even the HUGE shows? I would bet that they are VERY, VERY small.
Even on the non-pay services (A&E, USA, TNT, etc), they are niche channels. Advertisers will pay for their shows because they are targeting the channels niche market (women on Lifetime, men on ESPN, children on Nickelodeon, etc). Plus their shows are almost always cheaper to produce (nobody on cable is getting $1 million an episode).
The networks can only run what is profitable, what people will watch and what advertisers will pay for. That is why you see a lot of reality and game shows (cheap to produce) and sitcoms (everyone likes sitcoms and they are relatively cheap and are easy to syndicate).
Well, they're off to a shakey start. The show is supposed to take place in Atlanta... a city a couple hundred miles from the nearest coastline. Yet the cast photo is taken in a marina full of big ocean going boats. Attention to detail is a hallmark of good entertainment.
My impression from both my own feelings and from the response of virtually everyone I know to the idea is that this concept is past played out already and certainly doesn't have enough steam left to merit a full show. It was funny the first time, amusing when they continued it into the next one or two spots. But i don't know a soul now who jumps up when the ad starts and says "Oh look! It's those funny cavemen again!" On top of this, the ads have become so self referential that you can't reall understand them unless you've seen previous ones. Worse yet, they have progressively less and less to do with their primary purpose, to convince you of how easy it is to get Geico insurance. The gecko seems like a much more appealing character to me and though he started similarly (as a character unaffiliated with the company being advertised who was having problems because of an unwanted association with it) the gecko has actually cycled back around and now presents information about the product he's selling. The cavemen were novel at first, but TV execs want "noel but familiar"; something that's "news", but has strong ties to stuff you've seen before and already like. I'll withold full judgement until the show airs, but honestly, I think the ad campaign needs a hiatus, not a spinoff TV show.
Short answer - "Baby Bob." I can't imagine this working.
I would have watched it had they snagged the original commercial actors and those writers. I think those actors made the commercials work, not the premise. It's going to feel like cheap knockoff.
I was going to post exactly what visualingo said, so please refer to the above for my views. ; )
Perhaps this will start a fad and teens and 'tweens will be growing their hair out and not shaving their facial hair in order to hang out at the mall and look sullen.
I think it's incredibly insensitive for Jim to refer to them as "Cro Mags." I thought we were long past that type of ignorant racism.
I'll give the show a look-see. After all, who would have thought a show "about nothing" would have been the biggest success of the 1990s?
One word: RATINGS.
Jim has good points about that crappy Baby Bob show.
This show WILL BE A HIT.
Just watch. 2 seasons, it will do GREAT. Then it will get stale.