Flash back to June 24, 1981 as Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp debuts to offer up the origin story of Camp Firewood.
Let’s bitch it out…
At this point, most people who are interested in the series probably know the back story. Created by Michael Showalter and David Wain, Wet Hot American Summer is a parody of dozens of different 80s movies that debuted in 2001 and immediately flopped. It took a long time to find its cult audience – viewers who could appreciate that the film wasn’t poorly constructed and was actually amazingly funny.
Flash forward more than a dozen years and it’s amazing to see how many of the film’s stars have gone on to fame and fortune. Somehow Wain and Showalter were able to gather them all back together with the blessing of Netflix to film an eight episode TV show, but instead of following the events of the film, the TV series is set six weeks earlier. The fact that the actors are so much older than the fifteen and sixteen year old characters they’re meant to be portraying is only the first of many, many jokes the revival makes.
Things kick off on the night before the campers arrive as the counselors party by the fire. The opening montage is nearly identical to the opening credits of the film, which suggests that the series will pay off a lot of inside jokes for fans of the film. Having only recently re-watched it, I can’t say that I’ll spot them all (feel free to contribute your own favourites in the comments), but rest assured that these reviews won’t simply be a comparison between one and the other.
With that said, however, the show doesn’t particularly lend itself to traditional reviews in that it’s not exactly plot focused so much as joke focused. With this in mind, the reviews for WHAS: FDoC will likely be more bullet pointed observations.
1×01: ‘Campers Arrive’
- Our reintroduction to Camp Firewood begins with counselors orientations and the gang is all here. Cue the silly jokes, especially the scatological and the sexual. My favourite: Vic’s (Ken Marino) really vigorous humping of (ie: sticking his ding-dong in) Andy’s (Joe Lo Truglio) ear.
- Introduction to Katie’s (Marguerite Moreau) boyfriend from the jeer-worthy preppy Camp Tigerclaw (referenced in the film, but only briefly seen when their baseball team stops by). I love that Blake (Josh Charles) has not one, or two, but three popped collars and that we never see him or his buddies do anything other than spy in these first two episodes.
- In the past Beth (Janeane Garafalo) is simply the girls head counselor and she’s dating the director, Mitch (H. Jon Benjamin), whose voice some will recognize as the voice of the can.
- In the past Ben (Cooper) and Susie (Peohler) are also a couple, despite Ben’s aversion to physical contact. They’re prepping another musical – the opening show is a counselor-performed Broadway musicale called Electro City. It sounds atrocious.
fatyoung Coop (Michael Showalter) chase young camper Kevin for far too long is highly enjoyable. Say “Exactly” again.
- I don’t know how they managed to find another kid who looks exactly like Artie “the beekeeper” but it is a pretty clear callback to have him immediately start-up his radio program on the first day.
- The Kevin vs Drew rivalry is…dull. I didn’t sign up for kids. I signed up for adults posing as kids
- Fake breaking sounds: 1 (when Mitch throws the lamp in his office)
- Cliffhanger, cliffhanger: Xenst*r is dumping neon green toxic goo next to the camp! And the camp is broke! And Coop is wearing a pooka necklace! (That last one is by far the worst)
- Michael Ian Black’s McKinley (describing Beth’s – and the show’s – humour): “It’s a very dry wit that’s very funny.”
- Zak Orth’s J.J. (when Paul Rudd’s Andy asks when Katie got hot): “Yeah those mosquito bites have turned into juicy tarantula bites”
- Beth (when Coop insists he’s with Donna): “I believe you. I totally believe you.”
- Mitch (as Donna walks away): “Good to see you. You’re my girlfriend.”
- It’s 11:30 on the first day, but first we need to flashback to Lindsay’s (Elizabeth Banks) origin story as an intrepid 24 year old reporter (complete with dramatic voice-over). I love that Lindsay proves she can pass for 16 by putting a clip in her hair. It’s the Wet Hot American Summer version of the rom-com trope involving an ugly girl who becomes hot when she takes out her ponytail
- Oh my gosh – Abby’s (Marisa Ryan) transformation into a woman is f*cking hysterical. She goes into the toilet as a little girl who hates boys and comes out as a mature woman who wants to play 7 minutes in heaven. Certainly explains why Abby was always making out with other campers – she was never a counselor!
- The not-quite-kissing between Ben and Susie after their “fight” (during which he admits his parents fought all the time before his father killed himself) is quite amusing. Love how Susie snaps the pencil in exasperation after Ben insists they break for lunch (“Actors Guild equity-rules”) rather than continue.
- Why are there fart noises when they’re dishing out the mystery meat lunch? So random!
- Wait Gail (Molly Shannon) and Jonas (Chris Meloni) are getting married? And he has hair and wears pastels? What is this wackness? Also great: his atrocious wig, which looks like a dead animal perched atop his head.
- Their dance number is uncomfortably SNL. Very Mary Katherine Gallagher.
- The speed with which Greg (Jason Schwartzman) and Beth move from the trail above down to the puddle of toxic goo is…surprisingly fast. Didn’t expect him to dip a finger into the waste, or produce a spoon and dig in.
- Kevin poops his swim trunks in yet another unfunny storyline for the young campers. Mitch’s rescue, involving dressing up like a Mrs. Doubtfire-esque older lady, Patty Pancakes, is not a particularly funny storyline. I kinda hate the young boys’ storyline, even if the shitty trunks do pay-off when Coop confronts Donna at archery and she can’t even speak to him because he’s waving the poo around on a stick in front of her face.
- The episode ends with the revelation of how Mitch’s voice ended up in the can: he falls into the toxic goo with can in hand. If only he hadn’t sold out the camp to Xenst*r to help pay for those volleyball nets and the volleyballs (you really do need both, you know?)
- Lindsay (to overcome protests about her undercover reporting gig): “Guys, guys, this is Rock’n’Roll World magazine. Are we just gonna cover rock and roll or are we gonna cover the world?”
- Donna (blowing Coop off): “Uh Coop, I dunna if I can just cause I have to unpack and take things out of bags and stuff. I’m kinda slammed right now”
- Ben (when Susie suggests that they need to feel the love): “It’s called acting.”
- Greg (impersonating Beth’s come-ons to Mitch): “‘Oh Mitch, I’m so horny. Boink me. Who cares about the camp? Greg will handle things'”
- Beth (after Mitch explains his involvement in the toxic goo): “So you knew about this?” Mitch: “Yeah, I just told you how I set it all up.” Beth: “But why?” Mitch: “Because you asked. And you were like ‘Mitch, what happened?'”
Your turn: what did you think of these first few episodes? Which character are you most happy to see? Anyone missing? Which unexpected backstory is your favourite thus far? Are you enjoying the young campers? Favourite joke? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers from upcoming episodes.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is available in its entirety on Netflix. Check in next Tuesday when we review episodes 3 & 4.