One of the best things to happen this year is the term “jumping the shark” sinking its teeth into the pop lexicon. Eventually, though, even this perfect phrase must itself jump the shark. But, hey, that’s evolution. So goes ABC’s “Cavemen” — a sitcom based on the popular Geico ads — which debuted last night amid the dorsal fins of critics, bloggers, and critical bloggers.
New York Magazine captured the pre-shark-jump jitters:
. . .when this show was pitched to America as “the Geico Cavemen show” that it became laughable (and not in the good way). Yes, we are pretty sure this is gonna suck. But isn’t there even the slightest chance it won’t? After all, it’s not the worst idea for a commercial turned sitcom anyone could have come up with. What if it’s good?
Now let’s take a look at some of the initial reaction. Here’s Jay Black from the TV Squad blog:
There’s been a considerable amount of morbid curiosity surrounding Cavemen. Would it transcend its bad buzz and go on to be a seven-season television institution? Or would it wind up on the flop-heap of history? The answer after the jump…The short answer, for those of you only interested in that sort of thing:
It’s a flop. A major flop. The kind of flop that makes Steven Bochco feel okay about Cop Rock again.
Ouch! Cop Rock? Anyone who recalls that awful show can feel that zinger. But if it’s truly that bad, maybe I do want to see it.[Hollers off-stage] “Roll the clip… ”
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Hmm… Looks like it might be funny, so long as they don’t overreach — which is exactly why Time Magazine wasn’t too impressed:
The mistake the show’s creators made in the first place was taking the sophisticated, low-key humor of the Geico commercials and making it sitcommy. What makes the Geico ads memorable is that their humor comes from playing the cavemen absolutely straight: they’re successful, business-trip-taking, therapy-going, bourgie members of society who happen to run up against reminders of discrimination.
The Cavemen sitcom turned them into another variation of three guys sitting on a couch, and that made the satire play broader, dumber and thus, at least to some people, more offensive [...]
[...] Don’t get me wrong; the original Cavemen pilot was uneven, but it had a point of view and potential. If ABC had had the conviction to stand behind the concept it bought, recognizing that of course people were going to make fun of them for it, they would at least have had the chance of proving the skeptics wrong. As it is, it looks like they’re just praying for the series’ quick extinction.
Thanks to National Geographic (and Google), I’ve found that, yes, prehistoric sharks still exist. Maybe there’s hope for Cavemen after all.
Regardless, there’s not much hope for the show’s website, CavemansCrib.com. It’s Flash-heavy, slow-loading, and does an awkward — albeit admirable — job of re-branding the (GEICO) Cavemen around Apple’s (APPL) iPhone. Doesn’t the show’s mere existence do enough to dilute Geico’s brand? Their commercials are fun, but Geico’s marketing slips when it stops jumping sharks and starts crossing channels.
Is multi-channel marketing so easy a caveman could do it? Take our
Cro-Magnon Neanderthal Challenge and find out.