July 11, 2013



CAMP:  Wednesday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

If drive-in theaters hadn’t been superseded by multiplexes, NBC’s new CAMP would be the TV equivalent of a drive-in movie, a throwback to B-movie 80’s comedies like Meatballs, Summer School and One Crazy Summer.  (It would prefer to be a throwback to better 80’s cinema like the John Hughes filmography and Dirty Dancing, but no such luck.)  Shoved idiotically by the network into a 10PM slot despite its teen-heavy storyline, presumably because there’s some light drug use and sex, the show is cruddy but innocuously diverting, and with the CW in total hibernation until fall, it has the advantage of being like nothing else on the networks this summer.

Little Otter Camp is an old-time lakeside summer resort (the show is actually shot in Australia, and although only one character is meant to be an Aussie, some other accents seep through) run by Mack Greenfield (Rachel Griffiths), whose marriage and partnership with Steve (Jonathan LaPaglia) have just fallen apart after he went off with a younger woman.  Mack is determined to keep Little Otter going by herself, even though the place is falling apart, reservations are down, Steve wants her to buy him out of his share for $200K she doesn’t have, and Roger (Rodger Corser), the obnoxious proprietor of Ridgefield, the luxury camp across the lake, is after her to sell.  Complicating matters is Mack’s rebound sex with Roger–although not to worry, as a much more likely long-term romantic interest is right under her nose, rough-edged but quietly heroic head of maintenance Wes (Nikolai Nikolaeff).  Also, Mack’s son Buzz (Charles Grounds) has grown up at the camp and is now a counselor-in-training, with most of his focus on losing his virginity by Labor Day.  (Cue a multitude of condom jokes.)

Camp pays limited attention to the kids who attend the camp, centering instead on Mack and the counselors.  Apart from Buzz, the latter include sensitive Kip (Tom Green), whose leukemia is in remission and who’s about to find true love with Marina (Lily Sullivan), and Sarah (Dena Kaplan), a former championship swimmer who’s feeling crowded by longtime summer love Robbie (Tim Pocock), apparently into the arms of novelist Todd (Adam Garcia), who’s taken a house by the lake.

The pilot script by series creators Liz Heldens and Peter Elkoff feels like it needed another rewrite or two, as it careens from sex comedy to sight gags to rom-com to sentimentality within the same hour, and sometimes within the same scene.  Director Kate Woods keeps the show in constant motion, but she can’t balance the various genres that are being thrown against the wall.  As Mack, Rachel Griffiths certainly seems to be slumming for the summer (perhaps it was the appeal of a network paycheck for a show shot in her native Australia), but she manages to be more likable than annoying despite Mack’s virtually non-stop cheerleading, a considerable feat.  The other actors aren’t up to her level, young or old, although Green and Sullivan are appealing in the early going.

There’s nothing at all substantial about Camp (it makes The Fosters look like Lord of the Flies), and it’s so predictable that an hour in, it’s not hard to see where all of the next 9 episodes will be going.  It lays on all its various colors way too thickly.  But in a summer laden with procedurals, dark sci-fi and heavy soap on the networks, and with Twisted already imploding on ABCFamily, it’s provides a touch of light entertainment suitable for the season.  Like summer camp itself, it’ll barely be a memory by mid-September.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."