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ABC’s Upfront: In which we see the Caveman Show

Posted by: Burth Helm on May 16, 2007

blog caveman.jpg

And it is disappointing. I really did have high hopes for this show. I found the 30-second Geico ads pretty darn funny (this will be the first time a show is based on an ad campaign, for those who’ve been living in, um, a cave?), and I thought the campaign’s website, Caveman’s Crib, is one of the funniest and best interactive ad sites around.

But the trailer for the pilot, where the cavemen attend a cookout, looked pretty bad. Bummer number one: They re-cast the whole thing with new cavemen. Bummer number two: this thing looks like it’s going for super-cheap teen-movie laughs. There was one mildly amusing part where one of the cavemen falls into a fire, but other than that it was pretty groan-inducing. It was just a trailer, I know, I’ll hold out and hope the whole pilot is better. As soon as I can find a video feed, I’ll put it up so all can see.

Cavemen aside, ABC put on a polished, way-over-the-top upfront presentation with a slew of new pilots (AdAge has a good sum-up here), a dance number with the cast of Ugly Betty, a performance by The Fray, and a 50-piece marching band, confetti, and cheerleaders. Ad head Mike Shaw started out his speech with an impassioned defense of television: “Your customers are watching more television than anything else. This is the golden age of television.” (Please, pay no attention to that computer in the other room!) Given the financial pressures all around the medium, I’d have to say yeah, right. At the reception afterwards, one media buyer snarked, “I wonder if these guys even expect anyone to believe what they’re saying.”

Shaw also positioned ABC for the upcoming Nielsen commercial ratings, saying that his group “is willing to talk about any type of deal” and that research showed ABC’s audience is more engaged, and less likely to fast-forward on their Tivo’s, putting the network in a good place for commercial ratings. “We have the people you want:” said Shaw. “Families with money who watch the commercials.” Comedian Jimmy Kimmel riffed on this on this later in the program during a short monologue: “In other words, we have the laziest viewers there are.”

Of all the new ABC shows, I’m putting my money on the new game show “National Bingo Night.” It’s a nationwide game of Bingo, folks. There’s no twist. Everyone across the country plays bingo from home. And there’s even a catch-phrase (get ready). As the game goes on, the Australian host asks whether, anywhere in the U.S., we have a bingo. Pause. Suspense. More suspense. Then, a small Indian man in a referee’s uniform waves an arm and shouts an accented “No Bingo!” This thing is gonna be huge.

Reader Comments


May 22, 2007 1:37 PM

It's actually not the first show based on an ad campaign--the California Raisins had a show.

Burt Helm

May 22, 2007 1:46 PM

Right you are. I stand corrected.

Chelsea Wever

June 11, 2007 3:50 PM

What may seem like a good idea to Gieco now, could easily turn into a disaster if they insist on pushing this caveman thing to the limits. I suggest Gieco stick with the funny commercials and interactive Web site. After all, we all know what it's like to have a relative stay past their welcome.


June 13, 2007 5:16 PM

Um.. i do believe The Simpsons was based on a Butterfinger commercial

Gerald Mann`

August 19, 2007 5:43 PM

I think the whole thing is assinine, I watch people quinge when the music which as become associated with these stupid commercials comes on a television. The permice and the actors are idiotic. The majority of the American viewing public have been borught up to hate commercials and to think someone actually had the cajonies to actually pitch a program actually based on a commercial shows just how despert the networks have become !!!

Shayron R Dowell

August 26, 2007 9:27 PM

i can't see their crib. it just keeps on going thru the download nombers & saing click here to activate. How do you get in the door/ Shayron


October 4, 2007 7:08 PM

No, the simpsond were signed to do butterfinger ads in the mid to late 90, when they were first starting off. when they first went on air, they were terrible little drawings, then the second season they exploded.


October 5, 2007 6:26 PM

The show is really well written. I was suprised at how well the show ran the first night. It should be noted that you should probably give it a chance before you shoot it down. It was a great commercial and it stays true to the idea that got it all the fanfare in the first place. Dont knock it. Its a good show.

Lou the Liberal

October 10, 2007 3:28 PM

It appears little thought went into this show aside from the one liners. All of the challenges of people of color in American are reduced to a 22 minute show set in rosy California. It makes people of color look like they need to just get over the deep problems in our society and move on. More frightening is that the show makes it look like those problems do not really exist AT ALL and the caveman should just grow up, get over it and assimilated already. Geeez, even the blonde girlfriend knows this in the show. Its OK that your black---I mean caveman.
These are such strong judgements on people of color to say in a whimsical comedy show that is less than a half an hour. ABC reduces generations of American cultural racism to only a problem that relates to the difference in body type of a caveman. Because they have caveman bodies they are outsiders, not because they are cultural different from humans. Per ABC, the problems of cultural diffence lay in the body of the caveman, not the larger body of the American population.
If this is some sort of haywire allegory, it isnt made BY people of color-FOR people of color (like FUBU, lol) Tell me what Mexican kid in Chino CA can relate to the discrimination 3 cavemen discuss while playing hand ball at an exclusive (or should I say predominately white) health club? This is made by writers with mainstream America in mind, not the difficulties of people of color. The jokes dont feel like they are written with any empathy toward the challenges of people of color in America. Yet ABC feels comfortable letting them by symbolic stand ins for minorities. For that reason alone the show is BOGUS.
ABC has fabricated a faux minority group. Then they do not give this group any real cultural characteristics that set them apart from the people who live in white pickett fence suburbia. So in essence this group seems to have no reason for complianing. So forget about inadequate public education, native american genocide or Isiah Thomas calling women bad words. These are not problems. Grow up people! This is a flagrant, damaging assessment of life for people of color in America. How can ABC tell Mexicans to just get over it and assimilate? I wont even mention Geroge Lopez.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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