Everything Else, Man I Love TV — October 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm

MAN, I LOVE TV: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY OF CAMP

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wethotamericansummer-frstday-posterHappy Monday stargazers! I’ve got this topic I’ve been thinking of tackling on Man, I Love Films. A hot trend to be sure, and one that only the minority of us are not familiar with. I am speaking of binge-watching, or binging. With the new fall season of television well underway, my thoughts are drawn to that slew of programs I want to, and sometimes inexplicably need to, finish. It’s a dilemma we all face. As new prime time shows, cable programming, and pay channels fill our DVRs and queues, and online sites like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and so on dump show after new show into the mix, savvy viewers can’t help but feel overwhelmed by it all. I for one can name two dozen shows from the past ten years that I have on my “one day” list. Well, their time has come, more or less. In this column, which by the way, needs a name, I will push through a season’s worth of programming and offer up my verdict to you avid viewers. I will try not be too exhaustive; you’re just looking to know if it’s worth your time, not a play-by-play and I’m not looking to fine-tooth every moment.

With that in mind, let’s get things started with the Netflix exclusive series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp!

# of Episodes: 8

Time/Episode: ~ 30 minutes

Total Series Runtime: 229 minutes (3 hours, 49 minutes)

Things to Know: Wet Hot American Summer (2001) is a Required Prerequisite

WHAS: First Day of Camp is a reunion of creators David Wain and Michael Showalter with the cast of the original film from 2001. All those years ago, relative newcomers like Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and other members of the comedy troupe The State threw together a fun ninety-seven minute spoof of 80s summer camp films. Like in those films, these “teenage” counselors were portrayed by actors in their mid-twenties to thirties. Slightly older actors like Janeane Garafalo and Christopher Meloni played the more responsible, adult roles of Camp Firewood director and cook. There’s a lot of meta jokes and Wain and Showalter’s script rags on the sexual tensions of those camp movies. The various subplots all occur during Camp Firewood’s last day of camp.

Fast-forward fourteen years and Wain and Showalter have given their cult followers a look into the events which kicked off that summer. The Netflix series focuses on the first day of camp with our returning cast, now in their forties and older, reprising their teen roles. Some have held up remarkably well, while others show their age. None of this matters because they play it straight, as straight as can be, over the course of eight episodes.

If you have never watched the original, it is an ABSOLUTE MUST to watch it prior to watching this series. First Day of Camp is way more hilarious than the original film mainly because the jokesters have the advantage of hindsight. Outrageous backstories for the characters, in particular Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks), Mitch (H. Jon Benjamin) and Gene (Christopher Meloni), aren’t nearly as funny if you don’t have a frame of reference.

First Day of Camp also brings in a slate of newcomers, Lake Bell, Jon Hamm, Weird ‘Al’ Yankovic, and John Slattery to name a few, to shake up the first day of camp antics. Obviously these characters didn’t make it through the summer, so you have to watch the series to see if they survive the “first day” or are perhaps lost somewhere during the yet-to-unfold camp saga.

As to its “bingability,” I couldn’t watch more than two episodes consecutively and recommend breaking between episodes. Wain and crew love to employ an excess of humor, both obvious and subtle, so it’s best to let the ridiculousness of what has transpired to soak in instead of barreling through haphazardly and missing some of the finer, more hilarious details. With only eight episodes you’ll be done in within a week, and the memories of it will make you a happier person.

♥♥♥♥♥

(♥♥♥1/2  – if you’ve never seen the movie)

2 Comments

  • I continue to love this idea and am brainstorming a name for you as I type….

    And now I need to watch WHAS because this is one that I really want to check out!

    • Glad you like it! I think I will continue next week with one of two new series I recently finished. One’s a comedy so maybe I’ll do the sci-fi one to shake things up. The only names I’ve managed to think of is like “Bin Binge” or “Binge/Purge” but that last one may not sit well with others.

      Get on WHAS. I was a latecomer to the movie too, but it’s drawn me into the fold.

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