To ABC geniuses: An ad campaign is not a sitcom

Cavemen, yo
The stunningly handsome cast of ABC’s soon-to-be-canceled “Cavemen.”

Am I the only person who thinks that ABC’s willingness to venture out on a limb and pick up the half-hour sitcom pilot “Cavemen” is one of the stupidest moves by a major television network this year? Greenlighting “Cavemen” is about as bright as greenlighting … well, I’m at a loss to think of something comparable.

Actually, I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this is monumentally dumb. I believe a lot of people think so. I have no evidence to back up that belief — at least, not until this fall when ABC cancels “Cavemen” after less than six air dates (on which, inevitably, no one will be watching it).

The series is based on the (apparently) highly popular series of Geico auto insurance commercials featuring cavemen who are offended by the stereotype that cavemen aren’t very bright. They take umbrage at Geico’s ads proclaiming, “So simple a caveman can do it,” which is “clever” and “funny” in a recursive story-within-a-story kind of way.

Or not.

These caveman ads have always struck me as thinking they’re a lot funnier than they actually are. But even assuming they’re a huge marketing success for Geico, it sounds like a horribly lame and gimmicky idea for a TV sitcom, with a novelty shelf life of — I dunno — one episode. Or maybe one commercial for one episode.

There’s an adage that there are no bad concepts, only bad executions. I humbly disagree. There are bad concepts. “Cavemen” is one of them. Perhaps a brilliant team of writers can milk something watchable out of a concept so inane, but I wouldn’t count on it. ABC’s web site says, “Joe Lawson, Will Speck and Josh Gordon (Blades of Glory) have created a hilarious and thought-provoking social commentary on race relations in today’s America.” Makes it almost sound potentially cerebral, but I call it spin control on a desperate premise. “Cavemen” showcases nothing more than creative bankruptcy at its finest.

If you’re going to base a TV show on an ad campaign, I vote for a reality game show called “Unpimp My Auto” hosted by Peter Stormare. Every week he destroys the pimped ride of a different unsuspecting contestant who has been nominated to the show by his friends. Every contestant automatically gets a new Volkswagen GTI. Hey, it couldn’t be any worse than watching that wretchedly stupid “Deal or No Deal,” and look at the ratings for that show.

Put “Unpimp” into development. I nominate Fox as the network. Fox, I expect to see it on the air next season and my royalty check in the mail by August.

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12 comments on this post

Bryan K
Monday, May 21, 2007, 7:59 pm (UTC -6)

“Oh, sure, take all the umbrage. Don’t leave any for us.”

“No, no, I mean I take offense!”

“All right, you can have the fence too. But that’s all!”

(Animaniacs FTW!)

Er, right. Anyway. I figure I should come up with something at least partly on-topic now. Hmm…

Unpimp My Auto: I’d watch it, at least once. (That’s more than I plan on watching “Cavemen”, at least.) You may have a winner there! Of course I’m still disappointed Spike TV moved DS9 from afternoons to mornings (and now to 3 AM! gaah!), so maybe I’m not the best person to ask.

bmoredlj
Monday, May 21, 2007, 10:01 pm (UTC -6)

While they’re at it, they can also make a show about Abe Lincoln and the Beaver from the Insomnia commercials; a sitcom staring the “Can You Hear Me Now?” Verizon guy; the Aflac duck, and maybe a police procedural staring – naturally – the Burger King…trading his velour robes for a suit.

JavaheadJake
Tuesday, May 22, 2007, 12:25 am (UTC -6)

Come on. How can we be against a show that has not even hit the airwaves! After all, the caveman adds have proven to be very popular. And look at all of the free advertising that Geico will get!

What if I proposed a prime time cartoon about a dysfunctional family where all the people were yellow and had bug eyes. DOH!

What about a show based on a TV cowboy series called “Wagon Train” that takes place in outer space at some time in Earth’s future. I doubt there is a star in this trek much less any spin-offs or motion pictures.

Try this. A reality show where singer wannabes compete for a recording contract. Nah. That’s just an idle thought of a foolish American.

Or this one, a show about a comedian who lives in New York City that has no plot! Forget it. What am I thinking? Perhaps my mind swelled.

None of these ideas are any good. But I have some that can’t fail.

How about a Dr. series with Andre Braugher playing a sensitive oncologist. With numerous nominations for Emmys, Golden Globe and Image awards, the show can’t miss. It would last for years. NOT!

Let’s try getting some amazing stories from Stephen Speilberg, with some big name actors and a new story each week. With John Williams doing the music and Amblin producing, it is sure to become a long term staple en every household. For a while at least.

I have an old saying, never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a man by his looks. (Even if he needs a shave and a good set of eyebrow tweezers.) But never judge a show based on its premise. No matter how sound or ridiculous it seems.

Jamahl Epsicokhan
Tuesday, May 22, 2007, 9:24 am (UTC -6)

JavaheadJake has called me out on my prejudging of this show and put me in my place. Technically, you are right. I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Which I’m sure is itself the theme of “Cavemen.” But this is a blog, and blogs need snarky snap judgments. I’m comfortable with my snap judgment of “Cavemen.” It’s stupid, at least in concept.

Of all the premises you mention, none were based on an ad campaign. Maybe that’s why I object and am poking fun. I also don’t think the Geico ads are funny. “Cavemen” takes the notion of “high concept” to an extreme past which I can remember in any prime-time show picked up by a network. Perhaps that makes ABC brave. For the purposes of this blog, however, we’ll call them stupid. 🙂

Maybe the American public will prove me wrong. It’s possible. But this is the same American public that thinks “Deal or No Deal” is worthwhile entertainment, so I can dismiss their taste out of hand if they prove me wrong, or use them to prop up my argument if they prove me right.

I’m a bastard.

Stef
Friday, May 25, 2007, 2:42 am (UTC -6)

There is nothing wrong with judging a book by its cover.

The line must be drawn here. This far, no further.

What is next? A sitcom staring Courtney Cox based on her highly popular tampon commercial?

How about a sitcom based on the Budweiser frogs? They could call it: “Bud, Weis & Er”

Why oh why oh why won’t someone make “C-List Celebrity Deathcamp”?

JP Paulus
Friday, May 25, 2007, 3:14 pm (UTC -6)

An entire series based on the ads — yes, very stupid….

But here’s an intriguiging concept — have the series be an anthology, where different commercials could be extended from 5-15 minutes, or even a whole half hour.

It would work for the networks, as the companies would front the money for the production, and maybe some of the commercial time.

The series could be plugged whenever they cancel a show unexpectedly, or want a sacrificial night (i.e. going against the SUper Bowl).

i wouldn’t follow a whole season of a commercial, but perhaps one episode if they can make it funny.

Gatton
Saturday, May 26, 2007, 4:40 pm (UTC -6)

The good old “fish out of water” concept. Well that hasn’t been beaten to death has it?

Does anyone remember a show about Sleeping Beauty (I think) and Prince Charming (I think) living in the modern era? By modern I mean the 80s. This show reminds me of that one (which admittedly I only barely remember.)

Keith Dalton
Friday, June 1, 2007, 11:34 am (UTC -6)

“Cavemen” is not the dumbest move by a major network; canceling “Jericho” was.

Joe
Thursday, June 7, 2007, 3:50 am (UTC -6)

I just wanna reply to response number 5 by Stef regarding “there is nothing wrong with judging a book by its cover”.

Well, thank you! LOL…I recently admitted to a friend that I *do* judge books by their covers. I’m sorry, but I rather do admire a nice book jacket, or an appealingly-designed paperback. Some of the most interesting books I’ve read were actually packed inside very attractive covers.

I know, my reply really has nothing to do with Jammer’s original post…LOL

Stef
Monday, June 18, 2007, 4:12 am (UTC -6)

In reply to #9 Joe:
I often judge a book by its cover (getting even further from the original topic). My (possibly misguided) argument is:

If the publishers have so little confidence in the book that they can’t be bothered to hire a decent artist, then why should I be spending £9 on it?

Of course this argument falls flat when you have books like the Thrawn trilogy (Star Wars) by Timothy Zhan. The covers were pretty poor representations of our favourite heroes, and the artist doesn’t seem to be able to handle perspective or angles when painting Star Destroyers. But they were damn good books.

So maybe you can sometimes judge a book by its cover?

Back on topic, what is the latest with this TV ‘show’?

Daniel
Friday, August 10, 2007, 7:36 pm (UTC -6)

I couldn’t understand some parts of this article , but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

Omega333
Monday, August 27, 2007, 7:48 pm (UTC -6)

Hmm…an anthology of commercials…

I could get behind that idea.

They could even work in refferences to other commercials…like a plot where the burger king must search for beef. >_>

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