‘Camp,’ up a creek without a paddle
NBC dramedy over-reaches by mixing teen and adult romance
July 8, 2013
There’s a good reason that teen sex comedy is a genre and teen sex dramedy isn’t. There’s also a good reason not to combine a teen sex dramedy with a single-mom sex dramedy.
Those are two lessons to be taken from NBC’s new series “Camp.”
The people who could take the romantic problems of its teenage characters seriously are probably too young for the smutty humor, and they’re definitely too young to care at all about the fortysomething main character’s adult dating issues. Grown-ups who might identify with the older protagonist should be ashamed of themselves if they get caught up in the teens’ story lines.
By aiming at a too broad demographic, the show misses everyone in it.
Premiering this Wednesday, July 10, at 10 p.m., “Camp” stars Rachel Griffiths as Mackenzie Granger, the owner of a lakeside camp called Little Otter. As the summer season opens, Mackenzie is recovering from her divorce from Steve (Jonathan LaPaglia), who has recently left her for a young Russian “esthetician,” prompting everyone, including their teenage son, Buzz (Charles Grounds), to make jokes about bikini waxes.
Since Steve wants to be paid for his share in the camp, Rachel is under pressure to sell to Roger (Rodger Corser), the handsome, twice-divorced guy who owns the fancier camp across the lake. She and Roger have a love-hate-flirt relationship just like those we’ve seen on TV. (Oddly, although all of the principal actors seem to be Australian, Rodger Courser is the only one who speaks in his native accent.)
In the course of the three episodes that were made available for review, we learn that Rachel’s handsome and inappropriately young handyman, Cole (Nikolai Nikolaeff) may, as they say on TV, “have feelings” for her.
The younger characters’ problems mainly revolve around sex. In a scene that could come from any teen sex comedy, Buzz tells a fellow counselor in training that he has a timetable for the various milestones of sex he’s going to pass this summer. “By the Fourth of July,” he says, “I’m going downtown. By the end of summer, I’m getting laid — or at least a BJ.”
Buzz has a fine time smoking marijuana in the premiere, and in a later episode, his mother walks in on him while he’s, uh, concentrating intently on a swimsuit catalog. Parents who have been letting their kids watch TV later since school is out are forewarned.
Two new counselors in training, Kip (Thom Green) and Marina (Lily Sullivan), becomes friends right away, partly because each is hiding something. We learn her secret first: She sent a picture of herself flashing her chest to a boy who shared the picture with everyone in their school. Three mean-girl counselors keep snubbing or insulting her.
Two senior counselors, Robbie (Tim Pocock) and Sarah (Dena Kaplan) have to decide if they’re going to maintain their decade-long camp romance, which they put on hold every fall.
All the ingredients for a guilty-pleasure sex comedy are here — going for the cliché, the writers even make Roger’s camp counselors a bunch of preppy-jock bullies — but the show pulls back. Sarah starts a serious flirtation with a successful novelist, Miguel Santos (Juan Pablo Di Pace), who is renting a cabin nearby, jeopardizing her relationship with Robbie.
In later episodes, Robbie deals with his mother’s gambling addiction; Kip’s secret turns out to be rather depressing; and Buzz spends most of his time dealing with his parents’ divorce.
Mackenzie’s adult issues pale by comparison. She passes her evenings drinking while discussing her sex life with the parents of some of her campers, who seem to be living on the grounds with them for the duration. These scenes might please “Cougar Town” fans, but teen-sex fans will be reaching for the remote.
Never quite funny, dramatic or sexy enough, “Camp” is simply dull. Viewers will be forgiven for hoping that maybe a hockey-mask-wearing killer will come rising out of that lake.
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