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First fire, then the wheel -- now racial overtones

Reporters confront execs behind ABC's Geico-inspired 'Cavemen,' saying the show's theme is an unflattering allegory.

July 27, 2007

Reporters had a message this week for the producers of ABC's new comedy "Cavemen": Ugh.

Spun off from a celebrated series of commercials for the Geico insurance company, "Cavemen" may have formidable built-in recognition factor for a new series. But at the Television Critics Assn. press tour Wednesday in Beverly Hills, the Homo sapiens behind the show -- about three misunderstood Cro-Magnons living in the modern world -- got clubbed by questioners who felt "Cavemen" is nothing more than a primitive and not-too-funny racial allegory. (ABC had sent out early DVDs of the first episode.)

"We never saw them as a stand-in for one group," executive producer Josh Gordon said of the title protagonists.

Pressed further, executive producer Mike Schiff added that the ethnic prejudice theme was a "background to the show

but it's not a driving force."

This explanation was not well-received among the TV critics and reporters, however, and one noted that all eight "Cavemen" panelists were white men. (In their defense, the producers said that ethnic minorities and women are among the show's writers and directors.)

The atmosphere grew so tense that actor Nick Kroll, who plays the sardonic caveman Nick, aimed for something between comic relief and gallows humor.

"I was told there was going to be a laugh track here," Kroll told the mostly stone-faced press tour crowd, "but I guess that's not the case."

-- Scott Collins

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