Hunter-Gatherer ABC Flushes Out Guy Viewers for 'Cavemen'

ABC's "Cavemen" stars Bill English as Joel, Nick Kroll as Nick and Sam Huntington as Andy, with Kaitlin Doubleday as Kate, Stephanie Lemelin as Thorne and Julie White as Leslie. The show won its time slot among men between 18 and 34, and also men 18 to 49. (By Bob D'amico -- Abc)
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, October 4, 2007

ABC is calling the unveiling of its sitcom "Cavemen" on Tuesday a "very encouraging start" because, while it clocked only about 9.2 million viewers, it won its time slot among men between the ages of 18 and 34, and also men 18 to 49.

ABC is a total chick network: 60 percent of its audience is made up of women between the ages of 18 and dead, compared with 49 percent for Fox, 53 percent for NBC and 56 percent for CBS. Just 31 percent of ABC's audience is composed of men 18 and older.

This season, ABC execs hope guys will watch "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers," its companion sitcom about a bunch of suburban guy commuters, in the Tuesday at 8 p.m. slots, where they think there are young male viewers for the taking. You may have noticed the network's "man date" promos for these shows:

Make a Man Date

For Tuesday night at 8,

"Cavemen" and "Carpoolers"

Are awesomely great.

ABC noted "Cavemen" rustled up the network's biggest helping of 18-to-34-year-old guys in that time slot in nearly two years.

Among all viewers, "Cavemen" finished second in its time slot, trailing CBS's vet "NCIS" (16.4 million viewers) but beating NBC's "Singing Bee," Fox's "Bones" and the CW's "Beauty and the Geek."

TV critics, you'll recall, slammed the original "Cavemen" pilot, which was set in Atlanta and allegedly intended to send up racial prejudices of all sorts but seemed mostly to be directed at hideous stereotypes of African American men -- sexual animals, refer to themselves as "maggers," attracted to hot blond white chicks, treated like second-class citizens by members of the all-white snooty country club, great dancers, etc. Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner did cavemen much better.

Given the brouhaha over this series, and its Geico car-insurance ad pre-sold-ness, industry navel-gazers seemed surprised the first episode didn't attract more viewers.

Which, ironically, is just what they said about the other "most controversial" new series of this fall, CBS's "Kid Nation." Coincidentally, that one averaged 9.4 million viewers in its unveiling.

We're nearly certain this says something about TV critics and their outrage, or maybe it says more about shows based on car insurance ads and America's appetite for shows about precocious moppets. At any rate, the American public did not flock to these shows to see what the kerfuffle was about.

ABC, having learned of TV critics' sensitivity about cavemen with the original pilot episode, wisely did not send critics the second version. That's a good thing, because they didn't like that one either. Only this time they complained ABC had emasculated the series. Go figure.

"After watching the premiere episode . . . it became clear to me that 'Cavemen' is extinct on arrival," wrote one.

"I'm not sure what went wrong in the process of adapting the Geico commercials for a 30-minute sitcom, but I thought it would be easy -- so easy, in fact, that a caveman could have done it," wrote another.

"The resulting reshot pilot was timid, bland, forgettable and (mostly) unfunny, a mere fossil of the concept ABC started with," wrote still another.

And, finally, "ABC perhaps rightly figured curiosity about this commercial-turned-sitcom would only be diminished by reviews identifying the show for what it is -- the lowest rung of comedy's evolutionary ladder."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company