Television pilots are tough to make. It’s hard to introduce the concept and entire cast of characters of a show in one episode and still have that episode hold up on it’s own. But just because something’s hard doesn’t make it any more excusable when you fail spectacularly at doing it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Black Box, where we check out pilots that crashed and burned to see exactly what went wrong.
This week, we dig up a famous television disaster whose failure was “insured”.
Ok, so, for the last couple weeks, I’ve reviewed shows that were “bad”, but not bad enough to be fun to review. To stop that from happening again this week, I decided to bring out my “in case of emergency, break glass” show. A show so famously terrible, that while reviewing it, I feel like I’m beating up a child with polio for picking such an easy target. But then, I totally would beat up a child with polio if it’d get me web traffic, so here goes.
“Cavemen” was based on the iconic GEICO Cavemen commercials that aired in the mid-2000’s. Some dipshit at ABC decided that these one-joke commercials would make for an amazing sitcom and then this turdblossom got made. “Cavemen” premiered on October 2nd, 2007 and was canceled on November 13th of that same year. 13 episodes were produced, of which only seven made it to air. The series follows three modern day cavemen who have to deal with discrimination and the trappings of modern day life. Hilarity ensues… except fuck you and fuck everyone involved in this bullshit show. The show was critically “savaged” (heh) and was soon driven “extinct” (heh heh) by the overwhelmingly negative reaction and accusations of racism. What, racism? YEP! But we’ll get to that.
What they did right: Some of the cast are good actors in their own right. The woman playing the mom got a few chuckles out of me, and Nick Kroll is so clearly better than this show it hurts me to watch him in it.
Be free, Nick!! Fly away from this disaster!!!
What they did wrong: Where do you want to fucking start? Can we start with the characters? Let’s start with the characters. Here are our protagonists: The main nice guy, the asshole, and the dumb guy. I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS TRINITY OF CHARACTERS BEFORE!!!! HIW ORIGINAL AND NOT AT ALL PLAYED OUT AS FUCK THEY ARE!!!! The main guy has no personality besides “he’s nice”. He’s nebbish and easy to push over and the episode ends with him finally standing up for himself. Never seen that one before, either. The asshole, played by Nick Kroll, is only watchable because of Kroll’s immense talent as a performer. His lines are not well written, and in fact, he has some of the most cringe worthy lines of the entire series, but at the very least you can tell he’s trying. The dumb one is so dumb, it’s legitimately uncomfortable to watch. The supporting characters, from Main Guy’s blank slate of a fiancé to said fiancé’s sexually adventurous best friend are extremely underwritten. Each one seems to only have one character trait that they embody wholeheartedly. Also, Nick Kroll’s character’s name is “Nick”, like the people making the show really wanted to drag his actual name through the dirt just as efficiently as this thing did to his metaphorical name.
Pictured: “characters”, apparently.
The plot of the pilot is cliché and bullshitty as fuck. Main Guy wants to impress his fiancé’s parents, so he, Asshole, and Dumb Guy go to a fancy barbecue to make a good impression. But it all goes wackily awry when Asshole acts like an asshole, Dumb Guy gets seduced by the francé’s best friend, and Main Guy accidentally embarrass himself in front of the entire barbecue. You have seen all of these storylines done better by every other show you’ve ever seen them in. Because this show is DUUUUUUMB. The running gag of Main Guy playing into Caveman “stereotypes” is really obvious and unfunny. I mean, the whole show is really obvious and unfunny, but I have to start my criticism somewhere.
DO YOU GET THE JOKE?!?!?!? BECAUSE IF NOT, WE CAN EXPLAIN IT A FEW MORE TIMES FOR YOU!!!
Now it’s time to get to the real problem with this show: the uncomfortable, accidental racism. When it premiered, critics accused the show of using the titular cavemen as metaphors for minority groups, specifically black people. This was absolutely false according to the show’s creators, and absolutely true according to ANYONE WHO’S ACTUALLY WATCHED THE FUCKING SHOW!! Asshole at one point claims that non-cavemen have been oppressing cavemen for “thousands of years”, all of the racism at the country club is very clearly about racist country club policies in real life, and the characters even use the derogatory term “Magger” (short for Cro-Magnon) to refer to each other. IT IS VERY CLEARLY A METAPHOR FOR MINORITY GROUPS IN AMERICA!! And I don’t think comparing them to literal cavemen is acceptable in any way!
And yes, the term “Magger” IS super uncomfortable in the show itself. Like, I feel like a piece of shit even typing it out for this review, and I didn’t even write the fucking show. Also, what is the history of this world? We establish that cavemen have been a part of history since the beginning, and one of the characters makes reference to the confederacy in a way that implies they were very anti-cavemen. This raises a question, namely IN THIS UNIVERSE, WAS THE CIVIL WAR FOUGHT OVER FUCKING CAVEMAN RIGHTS?????? Is that what you’re trying to say, “Cavemen”??? Is it??!?!!?
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME, “CAVEMEN” WHAT?!?!?!?
Racial humor is fine, but poorly done racial humor results in bullshit like this. It isn’t funny, it unwittingly insults the group whose rights it is trying to champion, and it just doesn’t work on any conceivable level. This show also manages to be boring. I don’t know how they found the spot on the venn diagram where “boring” and “racist” meet, but they fuckin’ did it. So I guess I gotta give them credit for that…?
Well, that’s it for this week, next week, I dunno, maybe I’ll watch something good? Is… is that against the rules?