Summer 2013 Review: Camp

26 Jul

Camp time

Camp is set in, well, a summer camp, of the sleep away variety, that is pretty much exactly what you think of when you think of a summer camp.  It’s remarkable; because camp exists as a two month vacation from technology and the pressures of today’s modern world, the camp in Camp, and anywhere else, looks almost identical to camps of twenty and thirty years ago, such as the one featured in Wet Hot American Summer.  The only significant differences are the fashion and the presence, in Camp’s camp, of “We Run the Night” by Havana Brown.

Talented actress Rachel Griffiths (best known for her portrayal of Brenda on Six Feet Under) plays camp director Mackenzie “Mac” Granger.   While the beginning of the camp summer starts in some respects like any other, it isn’t business as usual at the camp this year, because Mac’s husband (Jonathan LaPaglia, who is a younger ,poor man’s Anthony) cheated on her with a much younger Eastern European woman, and left her, and on top of that, because of him, the camp is on extremely shaky financial ground.  She may be forced to sell her beloved camp to smarmy Australian rival Roger, who runs the fancy camp for rich jerks down the road where they have lobsters and jet skis.

Of course, there’s a bevy of kids as well for us to care about.  There’s a couple of kids who are new to the camp this year. There’s Kip, a punk outcast city kid, whose leukemia is in remission and who wants no part of summer camp until he meets Marina, a girl who the cool camp veteran girls, who seem to be mean girl-ish, refuse to give the time of day.  The two of them unintentionally keep hanging out with Buzz, Mac’s half-idiot son who is constantly getting into trouble and desperately wants to sleep in a different cabin than his mom, and have sex by the end of the summer, though the former prospect seems a lot more likely than the latter.  Cole is an older guy, probably in his late ’20s, and seems to be in charge of something (maintenance, wikipedia tells me) and greatly respects Mac and her hopeful and optimistic spirit which keeps the camp afloat.  Robbie who is also a veteran in charge of something (activities, says wikipedia) has a yearly summer fling with Sarah; they don’t communicate all year outside of Camp, and tensions brew when he tells her he may be attending law school where she goes to college.

Camp is a  dramedy, for whatever that genre word is worth. It’s as not a comedy – it’s not funny, and there aren’t that many jokes.  It’s tone is light and airy and occasionally sentimental.  There’ll be some crying, but then some heart-warming moments to redeem said crying.  There’ll be some sex, but it’ll be fun sex, rather than dark sex or sleazy sex or really emotional sex.  There are soapy elements to attempt to keep viewers interested but what Camp would like to be is something that makes you smile as you pass the time.

There’s nothing particularly new or interesting, and for what it’s worth I doubt the creators are attempting to be particularly groundbreaking.  The characters are your regularly rag tag summer bunch, and they’re definitely trope-ish but not over the top, to their credit – the tropiest characters are the side characters that provoke, like some bullies from the rich camp that harass some of the characters.  Camp, to be a success, would rely on developing and strengthening the characters over time, and while it’s eminently possibly that these characters could become something one could care about, there’s not quite enough in the first episode to hook us in further to find out.

It’s fairly unmemorable summer programming.  Nobody knows this show exists, it will be cancelled before the month is out mostly likely, and no one will know that it’s gone.  If a program airs on a network that not that many people watch anyway, and no one watches it, was it every really on?

One note – the first episode is notable if nothing else, for a little public service announcement moment.  Teenager Buzz calls something “faggy” and his buddy/possible future love interest Grace, who has two dads, is naturally offended.  Buzz attempts to defend himself to two of the other characters by saying, as many teens do, that “faggy” and “retarded” just mean lame, that he has no problem with gay people, but they, rightfully, tell him otherwise, and he actually apologizes.  It’s kind of a nice teaching moment for an issue that hasn’t yet gone away.

Will I watch it again?  No, it’s not going to happen.  It was fine.  I have no particular qualms with the show, which is far as I’ll go, but shows have to give you some reason to keep watching besides not being bad, and there isn’t one.

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