BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The producers of ABC's new "Cavemen" said Wednesday the comedy is much more than the insurance company commercials that inspired it, but isn't designed to be an ambitious allegory about race.
Geico's TV spots show highly evolved but shaggy-looking cavemen chafing at misconceptions about their sophistication and intelligence. The series, debuting Oct. 2, follows another trio of Cro-Magnons facing prejudice as they try to fit in contemporary society.
"If the show works, it will work because people care about these three guys under a lot of makeup and ... can relate to their problems and find them charming," producer Mike Schiff told the Television Critics Association's summer meeting.
The pilot is being re-shot, ABC said. The network and producers said they decided it jumped ahead too far in the characters' lives and failed to establish them properly.
Schiff and fellow producers responded to reporters' questions about the series, many of them focusing on parallels between the cavemen and black stereotypes and the pitfalls of turning an ad into a series.
The producers said the characters' creative potential and their "fish-out-of-water experience" was only touched on in the commercial spots. ABC obtained rights to the characters from Geico, which is not involved in the show.
It's unusual for characters from an advertising campaign to move into shows of their own, but not unprecedented. The CBS comedy "Baby Bob" featured a talking baby that had been used in several ads.
"We knew we'd be under a lot of scrutiny" adapting the Geico concept to a series, producer Will Speck said. "But I think it just makes our job a little harder."
There was no intention to have the Cro-Magnons represent any minority group, said his colleague, Josh Gordon.
"We're aware that the pilot (episode) seems to lean a little bit more in that direction. But in the episodes that we're coming up with now, we never saw them as, again, a stand-in for one group," Gordon said.
"I think it's really a show about acclimation more than anything, and that's something that everybody deals with, doesn't matter whether you are a minority or not," producer Joe Lawson said.
Lawson wrote the Geico commercials, which were directed by Gordon and Speck. The three co-developed the series starring Bill English, Nick Kroll and Sam Huntington.
Two of actors featured in the ads were unavailable for the series, the producers said, but another, Jeff Phillips, will be joining it.
One reporter asked why the cavemen don't ease their way by getting a shave and a haircut.
"There's a name for those kind of people, and they're called 'shavers,' and the cavemen community looks down on them," Gordon said.