luke kalamar would rather be covered in poison ivy than watching this show again …
Plot: Summer has officially come and Little Otter Family Camp is now open to the public. Lead by owner and director Mackenzie “Mack” Granger (Rachel Griffiths), campers, counselors, and counselors-in-training (CIT) come together for some seasonal fun. However, trouble is looming as the camp is struggling financially and the Ridgefield resort owner Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser) is looking to buy. Meanwhile, a young man named Kip Wampler (Thom Green) starts his first day as a CIT but has no interest in being at Little Otter. He quickly befriends Mack’s son Buzz (Charles Grounds) and Marina Barker (Lilly Sullivan), who he develops feelings for. Two other counselors named Robbie Eisenberg (Tim Pocock) and Sarah Brennen (Dena Kaplan) also desire to continue their previous romance, but something just might get in the way.
The amount of programs that revolve around a summer camp are staggering to say the least. Every single medium from print to motion picture has followed the journey of a group of people as they attend a summer camp countless times. It doesn’t matter if it’s a horror or a comedy, if it comes out in the summer, it’ll probably be about a camp. This is why when I saw the preview for the appropriately named Camp on NBC I found myself saying, “Another one?” This doesn’t mean that a program can stand-out mind you. Sometimes even the most re-hashed stories or ideas can be a massive hit. The previews for the show undeniably put an attractive spin on it, so I had hopes that Camp could be something truly special and fun. Fun like we all had during summer camp, which I’m sure almost everyone has been to at least once in their lives (mine was band camp). Plus it’s fronted by Rachel Griffiths who everybody seems to love from Six Feet Under. Unfortunately, not even Griffiths’ star power can keep this summer fun show afloat under the weight of predictable characters, an “already seen before” plot, and an overbearing emphasis on one of the most treasured aspects of summer camp.
One of my biggest issues with Camp is how it’s definitely a “summer coming of age story,” despite one of the main character’s insistence that it won’t be. This character is Kip, who we see in the first five minutes as a loner who really does not want to be there. I’m sure we can all see where this is going right? Kip goes through the entire episode separate from everyone else and absolutely hating the fact that he’s there. He eventually changes his mind thanks to an attractive girl named Marina and a wild guy named Buzz. Essentially, it’s a direct copy of what happens in almost every single other summer camp program. It’s nothing new and was far from endearing, especially since you could see this change coming from a mile away. This just made Kip’s attempts to be the “badass loner” who doesn’t want to hang with anybody annoying and unnecessary.
The show is also riddled with stereotypical characters that don’t even make the fact that the show takes place at a camp special. It’s essentially what we would see in a high school-based teenage drama, but outside. I already mentioned the loner Kip and the wild kid Buzz, but Marina is the character who has made poor decisions (sexting a naked picture and it went viral), Roger is the asshole rich guy, and Mack is the normally level headed leader who has personal issues of her own. There’s also the trio of attractive but unaccepting female girls who Marina is apparently not attractive enough to be friends with and the asshole rich teenagers with ATV’s and popped collars who torment Kip and his friends. You could transplant all of these characters to almost any other setting, and you would get the same show.
So we’ve already established that the show is lacking in the originality department. What about the humor? Like I said, even the most re-hashed programs can have a hit from time to time. Tragically the show is seemingly devoid of any real humor as well. I never once, during the entire one hour program, did more than crack a smile, and that even happened very infrequently. It just felt like the show was lazily attempting humor with its unoriginal characters. I could see the parts where the real jokes were supposed to come out too. Parts like Kip, Buzz, and Marina smoking weed and saying silly things or a girl being duped into climbing a tree for cell phone reception were obviously meant to be the real gut busting segments, and yet they just weren’t. The idea of using weed for humor is upsettingly over used now as well, so seeing it in Camp really did nothing for me.
I could see myself getting invested into the idea of saving Little Otter Family Camp from monetary destruction, but that supposed “real” plot is definitely overshadowed the true focus of Camp, sex. The concept of a summer fling is as old as time and for some it’s why they even go to camp in the first place. Taking a cue from this almost regular tradition for people in High School, Camp seeks to put the theme of summer loving into its story. This is all well and good, but the whole idea is laid on so thick and so often that it’s simply exhausting. Having Kip and Marina as the only real romantically interested couple would have been fine, but basically EVERYONE ELSE has this going on too. I counted a total of 11 characters that will be wrapped up into a web of romance and sex, and this is only the premiere. There is such a thing as too much, and this goes beyond that.
The only real saving grace for this program is Griffiths herself. She’s clearly a talented actress who is actually fun to watch on screen, despite everything else uninteresting going on around her. She does elevate every scene with her presence, but she can only do so much with the material at hand. I connected with her personal struggle of keeping the camp going and trying to one-up the rich assholes across the lake. Her character is easily the most endearing of them all. Despite this, I can’t help but question her decision at the end. She decides to take a loan out on her house so she can help fund the camp and keep it afloat. Really? You’d rather take money out of your permanent residence to keep a failing summer place going for just a little bit longer? I’m sorry but I cannot fathom a situation where that makes sense.
Camp is another installment in the already massive line of summer camp based programs and it does little to help it stand out from the crowd. With stereotypical characters, an oversexed plot in a show about a high school summer camp, and lackluster humor, this new sitcom sinks despite Griffiths bringing her own blend of talent in. It also doesn’t help that the show is an hour long, when it could easily do with thirty minutes and probably have a more concentrated focus. Bottom line, I can’t see myself being a frequent guest of Little Otter, and neither should you.
Camp airs every Wednesday on NBC