Get ready to don that neon T-shirt with the cheesy logo, crack open the secret stash of dirt-cheap vodka hidden beneath the bottom bunk, and relive the best and/or worst summers of your life: It's time for yet another new NBC series, Camp. The show is supposed to highlight a cross-section of the summer camp experience that so many of you might be familiar with, but is it really worth sneaking into the A.V. cabin to watch it? Surprisingly, kind of. I've already seen the first few episodes, so gather 'round the campfire and let me break it down for you.
Wait, so it's just a show about people at summer camp, really?
Yep, no real tricks or gimmicks here. Camp follows a large group of people, including both teenagers and adults, during their summer camp experience. We get to see the horny, sexualized exploits of the campers, the "adult" relationships between the older college-age counselors, and the drama between parents and the camp's primary owner and manager. Through those multiple perspectives, the show tackles a weirdly wide swath of issues, from virginity-losing and summer love to divorce and leukemia. It's absolutely everything you'd expect, plus a half-dozen other stories, too.
Who's living in the cabins, and who built them?
Rachel Griffiths, from Six Feet Under and a bunch of other stuff, is your leading lady and Camp's most recognizable face. She plays Mackenzie, the recently divorced and completely overwhelmed director of Little Otter Family Camp. The show was filmed in Australia, so much of the remaining cast is filled out with some hard bodies from Down Under, including a bunch of people from teen drama Dance Academy: Tom Green (not that one, though that'd be hilarious), Tim Pocock, and Dena Kaplan. (Griffiths is also Australian; and she and her fellow cast members pull off solid American accents.) The show was created by Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights) and Peter Elkoff (Deception, Mercy), so NBC's keepin' it in the family.
When do Camp's activities begin?
The show debuts at 10pm on Wednesday, July 10. It doesn't face much competition on broadcast TV, but it will be up against FX's new big-time drama series The Bridge. Though I can't imagine the two series will have much overlap in audience.
Who are the target campers?
Just about anyone, really. This is a broad show with comedic and dramatic elements, a few soapy romance plots, and a handful of slightly more nuanced stories about adults. Camp could be one of those series a family watches together; if you like the kind of lighter fare on ABC Family, or even something like Parenthood or Hart of Dixie, Camp will be in your wheelhouse. It's probably not better than any of those shows, but for summer, why not?
What's good about Camp?
Maybe a little more than you'd expect. Much of pilot plays out as if the show is a little unsure of itself, unspooling one summer camp cliche after another—outsider high schoolers who don't want be there, horny dudes looking to lose it, older counselors reconnecting with their summer flings and getting high. However, by Episodes 3 and 4, Camp settles into something more interesting, or at least something more confident. You've seen every single one of these stories before, but there's an earnestness and charm to the cast that sells the proceedings. If you're familiar with Griffiths from Six Feet Under or even Brothers & Sisters, it's nice to watch her have some fun, and she makes her character's mid-life crisis feel believable, despite some added silliness. The scenes with her and the other adults at the camp are kind of weird given the setting, but they're also generally funny. And while no one in the younger cast is particularly noteworthy, they're all decent enough.
What sucks about Camp?
The comedy isn't very good, especially in the pilot (though as I said above, the show does improve—especially once the jokes start flowing from characters rather than summer-camp-related gags). And while I grew more invested in certain people or relationships after seeing three episodes, Camp is still 100 percent predictable and lightweight. It's a show about summer camp; there's only so much it can do. Consequently, whenever the writers try to add something different to the mix, it often feels out of place. For example, the pilot randomly decides to examine young peoples' use of words like "faggy" and "retard," only to drop the subject really quickly.
So... should I sign up for the Capture the Flag and Color Wars, or what?
Well, at 10pm on Wednesdays you should obviously watch The Bridge first and foremost. However, you should DVR Camp and maybe even wait a few weeks before checking it out so that you can take in a couple of episodes back-to-back. The pilot isn't very good, but the show does improve in subsequent offerings. I hate to pull the "Hey, it's summer" card, but hey, it's summer. Camp has enough in it to hold your attention for at least three or four episodes.
Can I see a trailer?
Sure, friend! Here you go:
What should I drink while watching Camp?
Whatever cheap stuff you can sneak into the co-ed cabin. Spike that homeade lemonade or iced tea with some Kamchatka or Popov vodka.
Camp premieres Wednesday, July 10 at 10pm on NBC.