NBC’s new dramedy, Camp, can be likened to an overenthusiastic adolescent who signs up for too many extracurricular summer activities and fails at all of them. The show is a terminally unfocused hour-long bore that spits out a mass of stereotypical coming-of-age and dysfunctional-family plots at a scattershot pace, never taking the time to thoroughly develop any of the personalities in its expansive cardboard-cutout cast.
Rachel Griffiths stars as Mackenzie “Mack” Greenfield, co-owner and director of Little Otter Family Camp, and whose recent divorce from husband Steve (Jonathan LaPaglia), now dating a much younger woman, has left her in an emotionally vulnerable state and her maladroit son, Buzz (Charles Grounds), forced to choose sides. Even worse, Little Otter is in a dire financial situation, threatening to be bought and absorbed by the competing rich-kids resort, Ridgefield, across the lake. In an attempt to overcome her domestic travails, Mack sets out to make this the Best Summer Ever; supporting her mission is an assortment of bathing suit-clad counselors, who are all involved in their own personal problems, including stressful secret-keeping, depression, bullying, and unrequited love.
Camp can be likened to an overenthusiastic adolescent who signs up for too many extracurricular summer activities and fails at all of them.
Camp divides its attention so unevenly between Mack’s attempts to straighten out her family life, her plights to keep Little Otter afloat, and the antics of the campgrounds’ libidinous inhabitants that it barely allows any of these tired storylines room to breathe. While Mack has a spiteful affair with Ridgefield’s head honcho, Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser), a man she allegedly despises, her son, a counselor-in-training, is off chasing tail in a whirlwind of gangly teenage awkwardness. From his obligatory attempt at buying condoms at the local drugstore to a basketball-court brawl with some preppy collar-popping jocks from the rival retreat, it quickly becomes apparent that Camp is simply inching down a checklist of required sitcom scenarios, sloppily trying to fuse its soapy dramatics with lowbrow humor akin to Parenthood crossbred with Meatballs or Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts.
Camp’s most criminal offensives surface as it endeavors to deliver worldly moral lessons through cringe-worthy revelations of its characters’ dimwittedness and vast cultural intolerances. When Buzz casually tosses around a gay slur in front of a girl who has two fathers, and then “corrects” himself by saying he meant to say “retarded” instead of “faggy,” Camp reveals a sort of dispassionate ugliness. The unmannerly dork later apologizes for his offhanded bigotry, but the atonement mistakenly aims for casual laughs in place of emotional potency or self-awareness, lending the series a cold and disconnected-from-reality feeling that makes the Afterschool Special-grade ethics lessons mechanically distributed by late-era Glee seem enlightening in comparison.