Fall 2007 TV: Cavemen, Carpoolers
Cavemen, Carpoolers (ABC)
Well, as far as sitcoms based on commercials go, at least Cavemen is better than Baby Bob (though it's nowhere near as good as Max Headroom).
Cavemen, based on the Geico insurance commercials, is about three cavemen who, for some reason, live in modern times and don't act like cavemen. (And sadly, none of them ever says, "Your world frightens and confuses me!" like Phil Hartman's Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.)
Joel works at the Ikea-like Norksbild furniture store (along with Reaper's The Work Bench, and Chuck's Buy More, the new Fall shows have built an entire fictional mall), and dates a Homo sapiens, or, as the cavemen say, "sape." (Important note to pretty much everyone: the species name for modern humans is Homo sapiens. "Sapiens" is from the Latin word meaning "wise man." The "s" at the end does not indicate that it is a plural word. A single human is a Homo sapiens. The singular form is not now, never has been, and never will be, "Homo sapien." Do not ever make that mistake, or I will hate you.) Nick, Joel's best friend and roommate, is a hipster douchebag. (According to his bio on the ABC website, his current reading is George Saunders, and his most-played iPod tracks are Radiohead and This American Life.) Andy, Joel's brother, is distraught over a break-up, and has moved in with Joel and Nick.
The slant the sitcom is taking is that the cavemen are a discriminated minority (even though they live and act like middle class white people). So the pilot deals with Joel hiding that he is dating a "sape" from his caveman friends, and wondering in return if his girlfriend is hiding him from her friends. Turns out, his girlfriend always dates cavemen; she's got "cave fever," or whatever the caveman equivalent of "jungle fever" would be. (By the way, I can't believe they didn't make the "cave fever" joke in the episode; it was so obvious, I was surprised when it never came.)
I mostly didn't hate the show, which is a triumph. (I still partly hated it, so it's a minor triumph.) I laughed a few times (well, more "chuckled"). I kind of liked the Nick character, who is a dick, but an intermittently humorous one. I enjoyed seeing Nick Swardson (a frequent and hilarious guest star on Reno 911!) as Joel's co-worker at Norksbild. It's not a good show, not by any means, but I can see room to improve. Frankly, the whole thing would probably work better as a straightforward sitcom, unhindered by the "caveman" trappings. A little too late for that, though.
Carpoolers, I mostly did hate, though I still say it's not the worst new sitcom of the Fall season (Back To You retains that distinction). Any show that names four of its characters "Gracen," "Laird," "Aubrey," and "Marmaduke" is starting out in a deep hole of hatred before it even begins. In fairness, though, any show that would conjure up such contrived names deserves that hatred.
Gracen, Laird, Aubrey, and the semi-normally named Dougie are carpool buddies. Gracen is played by Fred Goss, whom I liked on the short-lived Sons & Daughters; Laird is Jerry O'Connell, whom I almost always like; Aubrey is Jerry Minor, who is usually damn funny. I don't like any of them here. Gracen is a whiner, Laird is a total shit, and Aubrey is a henpecked cliche. (I don't care who plays Dougie.)
There are a few funny bits scattered here and there. I enjoyed the parking lot showdowns between the carpoolers and a rival group of rich carpoolers, led by Scott Thompson (doing a favor for his Kids in the Hall pal Bruce McCulloch, who created the show). I grinned at Aubrey's weepy singalong to Air Supply's "All Out of Love," accompanied by the confession that he had lost his virginity to the song -- "Well, the first verse." And Marmaduke (T.J. Miller), Gracen's deadbeat son, is stupid and gross, which starts out as off-putting at best, but he's so committed to being stupid and gross the character eventually becomes amusing.
But I don't like these characters or care about their problems, and the show's not nearly funny enough to overcome that obstacle. There is a small possibility I might tune in to Cavemen again; like I said, I see the potential, however slight, for improvement. With Carpoolers, I only see potential to get even worse; this was my first and last episode.
Cavemen: 4 out of 10
Carpoolers: 3 out of 10