July 18, 2013

THE SKED’s Pilot + 1 Review: “Camp”


CAMP:  Wednesday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on CAMP:  Camp Little Otter in upstate New York is an old-fashioned place where the kids learn crafts, the counselors try to get laid and the owner, Mack Greenfield (Rachel Griffiths), is trying to hold on while enduring a divorce from her dickish husband Steve (Jonathan LaPaglia), who left her for a younger woman.  Luckily she’s adored–more than she realizes–by camp handyman Wes (Nikolai Nikolaeff), and she’s welcome to spend her nights with competing ritzy camp owner Roger (Rodger Corser) across the lake.  Key counselors include Mack’s son Buzz (Charles Grounds), and two couples:  Kip (Thom Green), who doesn’t want anyone to know he has leukemia (in remission), and Marina (Lily Sullivan); and longtime counselor couple Robbie (Tim Pocock) and Sarah (Dena Kaplan).

Episode 2:  It was time for “capture the flag” at Camp Little Otter, which meant lots of water balloon attacks and generally more silliness than the pilot had contained.  The episode, written by co-creator Liz Heldens and directed by Shawn Seet, gave us way too much of Steve, who was on hand to head one of the teams (Mack, naturally, led the other).  Camp seems to be at its worst when Steve is around, because he encapsulates the show’s mix of dumb humor and uplifting sentimentality, as he spent most of the hour encouraging his team to act like jerks and temporarily convincing Buzz he wanted them to spend more time together, before predictably making up with his new girlfriend and deciding he had no room for his son after all.  It was hard to tell what was worse about this storyline, the way it made Mack act like an idiot around him, or the too-easy ending that had him and Buzz hugging it out by the final commercial break.

Almost as bad was a story revealing that Robbie’s mother is a gambling addict who tosses her rent money into slot machines, and again it was because of the “very special episode” ending, which had Robbie realizing that mom really did care about him (she gave him a Mont Blanc pen with some of her winnings) and sharing breakfast and scratch-off lottery tickets with her.  The show is trying, and failing, to have it both ways, giving the kids genuinely dysfunctional parents and then coming up with contrived happy endings for them.

Camp is on safer ground when it stays with the teens.  There was a nice rom-com story that had Kip being taken “prisoner” by Chloe (Natasha Bassett) in the game, and his discovery that her slightly creepy fascination with his leukemia was all about having a crush on him, which worked out because soulmate Marina was going on night-hikes with another guy.  There was also another installment it what seems to be the continuing saga of Buzz being outwitted by Grace (Charlotte Nicdao), even if she appears to be on the show to singlehandedly fulfill all of Camp‘s diversity requirements as the Asian adopted daughter of a biracial pair of gay fathers (take that, Modern Family!).

Camp has been modestly successful in the ratings so far, taking advantage of a strong lead-in from America’s Got Talent despite its odd 10PM timeslot (last night it narrowly won its hour against a CSI rerun and ABC’s woeful The Lookout), and it’s a decent enough summer time-waster.  Griffiths classes the joint up in a big way, and the rest of the cast is likable.  Watching it isn’t exactly a vacation, but it’s better than a work-day in the hot, humid city.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  For the Wednesday Night Viewers Who Just Can’t Handle “The Bridge”


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."