I never liked camp as a kid. The bugs. The bunkhouses. The communal bathrooms. Oh, I know, there are people who have the time of their lives at camp. They'll go on and on about the hiking and the rafting and the Thursday afternoon relay races. That's great. Me, I wanted to stay inside and read.
Still, I think I'd rather go back to camp again than sit through another episode of NBC's summer dramedy series Camp, a sickly show that has only a single saving grace: Mosquitos can't fly through the television screen.
The Little Otter Family Camp is a place where families can gather for the summer, communing with nature and one another. And that, as far as it goes, is nice—so nice that we'll even not wonder too much about how all these moms and dads were able to take off so much time to go to Little Otter, much less pay for the thing.
But these socially minded families are not the focus of Camp. Oh, we're introduced to a handful of them—two gay fathers, for instance, and a mother who pines for her promiscuous youth. We see a few young children, too, whose sole purpose seems to be to parrot or critique the inappropriate things their counselors say.
No, most of our time is spent with the comely teens and handsome twentysomethings who have turned Little Otter into their own personal playground. Kip is an introverted leukemia survivor who serves as the show's outsider everyman. Marina is the girl who's shunned by the camp's cool-girl clique because she flashed her breasts to the whole Internet in a moment of juvenile indiscretion. Buzz is the son of the camp's owner who has plans—written plans—on how to lose his virginity.
All of these obligatory misfits are presided over by owner/manager Mackenzie "Mack" Granger, whose husband just left her for another woman and whose camp is a toenail away from closing down.
I'd like to say Camp means well—that in spite of its egregious content it has a good heart. Unfortunately, the best I can do is tell you that this NBC show thinks it means well—the same way a drunk parent thinks he's being responsible by telling his kid to stay in the car for a couple of hours while he goes gambling. Camp encourages folks to sometimes take risks—but those risks typically involve theft or drinking or punching somebody out. It embraces the idea of loving life—but then insists that life is best enjoyed through a haze of marijuana smoke and/or forbidden sexual contact.
I'll note here that lots of real-life summer camps out there are Christian camps where kids (and sometimes adults) gather to have good, clean fun, meet new people and get a little closer to God. Other camps may focus on learning about nature and developing survival skills in the wild. Some may be designed to push at-risk teens into a healthier, more mature way of thinking.
In other words, most camps are, ostensibly, about growing up a little.
Little Otter has found another niche for its clientele: fostering immaturity. It encourages children to engage in adult behaviors while the adults grow ever more juvenile. If Jason shambled out of the camp's lake and started brandishing a chain saw, I'd half expect Mack to encourage the guy to do whatever it takes to find himself and be happy.
I'd rather not stick around to find out if that ever happens, though. 'Cause this show made me homesick on my very first day.
Robbie and Sarah sneak off for sex. (They kiss on a bed; he's shirtless and begins to take off hers.) Mack has sex twice with rival camp impresario Roger. (They do it in a car and the office; we see them make out and move and groan.) Mack (visually) imagines her ex-husband having sex with his new girlfriend. (We're told repeatedly that the interloper removes pubic hair for a living.) Buzz graphically details his schedule for losing his virginity and buys condoms—a purchase oft discussed (sometimes by young children). He excitedly drools over initiating various sex acts. We see a computer picture of Marina flashing her breasts. (Anatomical details are mostly washed out by bright light.) Lots of scenes feature girls wearing skimpy bikinis. And folks talk about body parts and orgasms.
Buzz says "retarded" and drops a homosexual slur—"innocently," he insists, but he offends a girl raised by gay fathers. She retaliates by calling Buzz "Reverend Fred Phelps from Westboro Baptist." The two gay dads buy scads of booze. Buzz, Kip and Marina all get high off a stolen joint. David also tokes marijuana, and talks about doing mushrooms. Counselors drink and steal alcohol from a rival camp. People play quarters and talk about doing drugs.
Kip punches someone in the face—an act Mack says is "fantastic." He has a nose ring pulled out by a fishhook. He's beaten up. Someone gets hit in the groin. Suicide is snidely referenced. A plumbing problem adds potty "humor" to the mix. Mack suggests it was wrong to stay in an unrewarding marriage, and lauds her husband for leaving her. "He found something that actually made him happy," she says. We hear people say "a‑‑" (four times) "f-ggy" (three times), "p‑‑‑y" (once) and "d‑‑k" (three times). God's name is misused a half-dozen times.