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October 3, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | October 3, 2007 |

I have been dreading this moment ever since it was announced that ABC was making a “comedy” based on a fucking insurance commercial (and as commenters have correctly pointed out, if ABC simply had to go this route, why not utilize hottie Erin Esurance instead?). When the original pilot made the rounds this summer, it was panned long and hard (while I had a copy, I just couldn’t force myself to watch it). So ABC decided to entirely retool the show and not show the new pilot to critics. And we all know that Hollywood only keeps its best products from early reviews, so this bodes extremely well. I suspect that ABC’s follow-up, “Carpoolers,” is also garbage. But in the clearing fecal dust of “Cavemen,” it will surely look like comedy gold, right? Let’s find out. (And for better or worse, I suspect that this Real-Time Review will be a “Tit Joke Free Zone,” unlike my recent beloved “Ghost Whisperer” review.)

0:00: We open with a stupid montage of Cavemen, who aren’t that different from us (although they’re “a little better looking”) spliced into various images, because they’ve always been around. With Bill Clinton. Meeting Abraham Lincoln. Biking with Lance Armstrong. And with Twisted Sister. Now that’s just fucking blasphemy! …I hate this show already.

0:01: I don’t even know how to relay how awful this is right out of the gate. The Cavemen live in San Diego, although one is a new San Diego resident, having moved to get away from his cheating girlfriend. But the comedy here is that these Cavemen do things just like normal folks. They use Blackberries! They make unfunny sexist jokes! They work at stores that are a parody of IKEA. They eat brains!

…Nah, so far, it doesn’t look like they actually eat brains. Too bad — this show would be vastly more interesting if there was some brain eating.

0:04: Ah, see, with the IKEA mockery as a setting, the writers are able to give us brilliant comedy with Swedish-sounding gobbldy-gook words. And I thought this show wasn’t going to be inspired.

0:05: There’s even a Caveman weatherman! That’s hilarious.

0:06: Ha! The Caveman with the cheating girlfriend is hiding in a closet talking to said cheating girlfriend on the phone. Says another Caveman, who’s supposed to be working on his dissertation: “R. Kelly — get out of the closet. We’re going out.” See, they make pop culture references just like you and I!

0:06: Our second joke about the Swedish-sounding gobbldy-gook. Huzzah!

0:07: So the IKEA-working Caveman hasn’t told folks about his hot blonde girlfriend, because one of his Caveman roommates has a thing about Cavemen dating homo sapiens. And this is where the show’s heart comes in. One of the things folks said after seeing the original pilot, something which the writers emphasized in interviews, was that this show was going to take a serious look at issues of intolerance. But through the wonderful literary device of Cavemen. Cause that’s funny.

…I think Crash may have been more subtle.

0:08: I wonder if Paul Haggis is a Caveman? That would explain a lot.

0:10: The commercial for “Pushing Daisies,” which premiers on ABC tomorrow night, notes that the first episode comes from the director of Men in Black and The Addams Family. I wonder why ABC didn’t go with RV and Wild Wild West?

0:10: Cavemen drive mopeds and drink fancy frou-frou coffee drinks. Just like us!

0:11: The Caveman who has come to get away from his cheating girlfriend (I can’t keep these Neanderthals straight — let’s call him Out-of-Town Caveman) has a travel waist belt, to hold his money and what not, and Dissertation Caveman asks: “Wow, where did you get that? ‘Grandmas On The Run?’” See, Cavemen make bad jokes. Just like us!

0:12: Ah, the racist real estate agent can’t tell the Cavemen apart. She’s so racist. Poor Cavemen and the awful racism they have to suffer.

0:14: The Cavemen refer to normal folk as “sapes.” Short for homo sapiens. Get it? Get it? Haggis, I hope you’re taking notes, because this whole thing about the small-minded Cavemen being appalled that IKEA Caveman is dating a sape? Well that’s finely crafted art.

0:15: A commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios has me wondering when the Honey Nut Cheerios bee is going to get his own sitcom. I mean, a dark comedy about a bee who fights his own nature to sting somebody, knowing that it’ll lead to his death, coupled with the humor inherent in the daily activities of a bee serving cereal to the masses. Comedy gold, people. Get my agent on the phone!

0:16: Oh man. There’s some low-rent commercial on right now for some type of company that helps you find insurance agents or tells you whether insurance companies are reputable or something. I’m guessing this commercial was the result of a conversation that went something like this:

ABC Exec: Well we’d love to get some insurance commercials to air during “Cavemen,” because the show is based on an insurance commercial. See the synchronicity?

ABC Ad Sales Agent: Uhm, yeah. None of the insurance companies want to buy time during this show. They say it’s an embarrassment to the whole industry.

Exec: Well fuck ‘em. Let’s just get Geico to buy a commercial.

Ad Sales Agent: No go — Geico isn’t interested either.

Exec: But these are their Cavemen! Hell, give ‘em the ad time for free.

Ad Sales Agent: Tried that. They said they’d run an ad aimed towards the Jews for Nazi Insurance during PBS’ “The War” before they’d ever show an ad during “Cavemen.”

Exec: I see. …You’re fired.

0:18: Dissertation Caveman to IKEA Caveman (who’s dating the sape, you’ll recall): “Keep your penis … in your genus.”

Right now, I’d let one of these Cavemen stick their penis in my me because I think losing my ass-hymen to a cro-magnon would be infinitely more enjoyable than this.

0:20: Male Pig Caveman has this whole theory about how sape women are sexed up like never before when they sleep with a Caveman. And they’re ashamed that some Caveman made them feel so wonderful, but they can’t help it. I think Vegas just stopped taking money on the bet of when we’re going to get some Caveman version of “once you go black, you never go back.”

0:21: Dustin pointed out that some douchebag over at VH1’s Best Week Ever Blog has been touting how great this show is. He had a post yesterday with a YouTube clip which he seems to think is hilarious. And he thinks the rest of the show might be this good and that folks will be shocked at how wrong they were. He was right — the show is totally as good as that video clip. In so much as that clip was excessively unfunny. This douchebag also asked: “Hasn’t the ‘Caveman’-hatred reached a sort of hysteric frenzy that seems a little excessive considering that so many of the people trashing it haven’t even SEEN the show yet?” If anything, I’d say the hatred wasn’t nearly excessive enough. Folks should’ve taken up pitchforks and torches and stormed the ABC lots.

0:22: Hey! A commercial for Snickers, with a pilgrim and a Viking who are road-tripping together. I actually laughed at this commercial, at something which really wasn’t all that funny, because that’s how much I’m just craving a laugh right now. And this means that the laugh-count is at “Cavemen:” zero; Snickers commercial: one. Wait a minute! What if … a sitcom about a pilgrim and a Viking and all the wacky adventures they have while road-tripping across the country and buying chocolate. Quick, get my agent back on the phone and tell her I’ve got something that’s ten times better than that bee pitch.

0:23: I just saw a commercial for Fred Claus, and I do believe that I saw Christopher Bridges playing an elf in the flick.

That’s ludicrous.

… Thank you, I’ll be here all night!

0:25: Oooooo — IKEA Caveman is about to confront his sape girlfriend, who’s having a Girls Night Out, because he thinks she’s ashamed of him. So let’s see. Either (a) he’s going to make an ass out of himself, and then she’ll provide some hilarious other reason why she was ashamed of him that had nothing to do with the fact that he’s a Caveman, or (b) … yeah, I got nothing.

0:27: Yup. Turns out that her friends give her grief for getting into quick relationships that never last longer than a week or so, so she doesn’t want to tell them about a new relationship if she’s not sure it’s going to last. Oh the egg on IKEA Caveman’s face!

0:29: Oh merciful Christ, it’s over. Hey, ABC — if you guys want to take a quote out of context to make it look like I gave the show a rave review, have at it:

If “Cavemen” is the evolution of comedy, it’s no wonder so many in this country don’t believe in evolution.

OK, so I can’t jump right into “Carpoolers” just yet. I need a couple of minutes of decompression. While decompressing, let me just say this — there are many things that do not work with this show. But the biggest problem with “Cavemen” is that, despite the fact that it features Cavemen, it’s absolutely no different from any generic male buddy comedy. These are four meathead guys, and we’re supposed to laugh at their work foibles, and their dating foibles, and their at-home foibles, etc. Yes, they’re Cavemen, and the writers forcibly work this point in again and again. But you could take the stupid caveman makeup off these guys, and make them black or Latino, and the show would be entirely unchanged.

Now there’s no way this show could’ve ever worked, just to be clear. But if they wanted to give it an actual shot, why not try to really differentiate these Cavemen from the sapes? I’m specifically thinking of Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. That was a caveman doing the types of things that normal folks do, yet the character maintained the viewpoint of a caveman, to hilarious results. Granted, none of the actors in this show are Phil Hartman, but this approach would at least act to give the show some type of distinct voice. And I would’ve at least applauded the show for that. But this? It’s just the pinnacle of lazy.

… OK, let’s get round two over with. I’m resetting the minute-timer to zero, and let’s fire up the “Carpoolers.”

0:01: Well now. The opening one-minute tease took place in a car and, yup, it wasn’t funny. So the first big joke of the show is a swing and a miss. Plus, I already hate having to watch these four guys sitting in a shitty setpiece car with cruddy bluescreen roads out the window.

0:01: Oh, nevermind. Each of the guys is in charge of driving on a different week, so that’ll keep things totally fresh!

0:03: “You ever meet a woman so hot you could have sex with her phone number?” Normally, that line wouldn’t be funny. But delivered with the impeccable comedic timing that only Jerry O’Connell has? … How in the hell did he land Rebecca Romijn?

0:04: “Gentlemen — let’s carpool!” YEAH!

0:05: So there are other carpools, you see. There’s Geezer Carpool, who hold up traffic, and Fancy Carpool, who eat sushi in the car. And they race to get parking spots and hilarity ensues.

0:06: This show totally needs a Caveman Carpool.

0:06: What the hell? The show opened with Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” playing in the Carpooler’s car (it was the center of that stupid bang-up opening joke) and now it’s playing over the first commercial. Whoever ABC Exec brought in when he fired ABC Ad Sales Agent has done a much better job at the whole show/ad synchronicity!

0:13: Dweeby Carpooler is having trouble at home because his wife (Faith Ford — oh, poor Faith Ford) seems to be making more money than him, and now his loser of a son just landed a job which also pays good coin. It’s an old idea, financial emasculation, which has been mined for comedy many times before. Which isn’t to say you can’t go back to it yet again — unfortunately, they’re not even mining it for the old, stale laughs, let alone anything fresh or original.

Hell, I’m actually rooting for the next scene with the guys in a car — these home and work scenes are terrible. The stuff in the car is terrible too, but I’ll at least give the show a little credit for trying with that, going for a “we’re the comedy with guys talking like real guys, when they’re just killing time.” Unfortunately, the writers don’t appear talented enough to do anything with that.

0:15: We’re back in commercial. So yeah, the show, like most comedies, is going to juggle between these guys’ friendship and their home lives. So we’ll get lots of fun with O’Connel Carpooler and his bitter divorce, and the fact that now he’s out trying to have sex with women’s phone numbers. And there’s New Guy Carpooler, and Black Guy Carpooler, and I’m sure their family lives have hilarious things going on too. And then there’s also all the workplace comedy, with each of them having differently hilarious jobs (I know that Dweeby Carpooler is a shrink or a mediator or something, and O’Connell Carpooler is a dentist, but I actually have no idea what New Guy Carpooler or Black Guy Carpooler do).

0:19: “This ride is the only peace that I have in my life. Forty-five minutes, twice a day.” See, cause this is more than a carpool. Thanks, Black Guy Carpooler, I totally get it now.

0:21: No, I was wrong. I still don’t get it.

New Guy Carpooler: You know what? Cindy and I have got our problems too, OK? Our cards are maxed out. Her parents are nudists. And you know what? Sometimes she gets up in the middle of the night and she bakes in her sleep. I got a lot on the line here. This isn’t just a carpool for me.

O’Connell Carpooler: Well at least we agree on something.

Now I get it!

0:22: O’Connell is channeling some weird sort of Jim Carrey vibe in this show, and it’s kinda freaking me out. No point to this, just saying.

0:27: O’Connell’s character’s name is Laird. First name? Last name? Dunno. Stupid name? Indubitably.

0:30: I didn’t really say much here towards the end, and it’s cause there really wasn’t much to comment on. A stupid plotline about Dweeby Carpooler’s trouble at home was resolved, and that was that. Look, “Carpoolers” isn’t nearly as heinous a show as “Cavemen.” It’s not detestable, it’s not an abomination. It’s just another in a long line of shitty comedies. And I guess when the alternative is something like “Cavemen,” that’s actually a compliment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a wall that’s absolutely begging to be repeatedly smashed by my head.

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He can’t wait for the opening game of the baseball playoffs to wash the taste of all this outta his mouth. An opening game featuring the Fightin Phils. Has he mentioned that?

Where Good Comedy Goes to Die

Real-Time Review of (Motherfucking) "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers" / The TV Whore
Oct. 3, 2007

TV | October 3, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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