When the stars and producers of ABC’s much-talked-about fall comedy series Cavemen took the stage at television’s summer press tour on Wednesday, it wasn’t the show’s interesting genesis — having been spun-off from a series of Geico advertisements — that had tongues wagging. Rather, members of the press grilled the show’s creators, alleging that the athletic, sexual, and dancing prowess of Cavemen’s three main characters invokes racial stereotypes. In the pilot episode that was sent to media outlets, three cavemen are depicted as quasi social outcasts trying to assimilate into a larger human culture that’s similar to present day.
”Unfortunately, in our society, if you pick an offensive stereotype of any kind, it’s going to bump up into some ethnic group. It’s going to happen,” said executive producer Mike Schiff, who did his best to deflect the awkward questions. Schiff argued that they had created an entirely new minority with the cavemen, instead of channeling those of the present day: ”As we are, though, we’re talking about the cavemen, we’re making them a very specific thing.”
Schiff went on to explain the creators’ thoughts behind developing the cavemen. ”If there were cavemen in our world and people were as they would likely be, looking down on them, what would be the things you would associate with the cavemen?” he questioned. ”You know, thick-headed, primal, not as sophisticated or cultured as us.” But he added that they were really just trying to debunk such stereotypes: ”Of course, what we want to show in the show is that all those stereotypes are incorrect. We’re hopefully reasonably intelligent, and we want to make sure that we’re not saying anything offensive with the show.”
Producers continued to dispel the idea that the cavemen were representations for any one minority. ”In terms of them standing in for any one group, that’s not our intention,” said director/executive producer Josh Gordon. ”We’re aware that the pilot seems to lean a little bit more in that direction. But in the episodes that we’re sort of coming up with now, we never saw them as, again, a stand-in for one group.”
Luckily for the producers, they get a do-over with the controversial pilot, which will be reshot because of cast changes and the fact that ABC requested the original first episode be aired later in the season. Schiff said they are planning on ”pushing that show back and starting off in a way that sets up all the characters better.”