Defending 'Cavemen' II: The Racial Insensitivity Question

As if ABC president Steve McPherson's apparent willingness to scrap with NBC's Ben Silverman [Ed.note—Have an intern lay down $200 on Silverman going down in the second round. Dude's got a glass jaw, I know it.] wasn't enough fun for a single day of TCA panels, the network's Cavemen event managed to generate still more excitement, as some of the assembled critics confronted the show's producers about how the pre-troubled, primetime-paradigm-shifting sitcomfomercial race-parable might be construed as insensitive in the way it appears focused on hilariously deconstructing the stereotypes of just a single group. Reports TV Week.com's TCA blog:

The show is supposed to explore race relations by the trials and tribulations of the cavemen characters, but some critics say all the "Cavemen" stereotypes—athleticism, sexually prowess, laziness, etc.—remind them of one race's stereotypes in particular. Critics ask the panel if "Cavemen" is actually a show about African Americans.

"We never saw them as a stand in for any one group," says executive producer Josh Gordon.

"It's something we're aware is an issue," added executive producer Mike Schiff, "but it's our job to make sure it doesn't come off that way."

The critics are skeptical. The panel consists of eight white men. Soon the producers are defensively rattling off the ethnicities of various crew members.

"There's three African American directors..."

"And a Latina..."

After several questions on the topic, Schiff suddenly slams the breaks on the entire "'Cavemen' as metaphor for race relations" premise that ABC has touted since first announcing the show; a premise McPherson upheld during his executive session just a couple hours ago.

"Is the show about race relations? No," Schiff says. "Is that a background? Yes. But it's not the driving force."

Although the producers' "some of my best crew members are members of various ethnic groups" defense was certainly clumsy, we think it's fair to ascribe their confusion about the sitcom's "driving force" to the creative growing pains endemic to any fledgling project. We're sure by the time Cavemen rolls into its award-winning, critically acclaimed third season, it will no longer be a series about Neanderthals who seem to struggle against the stereotypes of one race, but will have evolved into a show about people in silly makeup.