With ‘Camp,’ NBC promises “summer fun for everyone.” Mackenzie ‘Mac’ Granger (Rachel Griffiths) runs Little Otter Family Camp, an isolated lakeside haven for typical outdoor activities and all the resulting fun and drama. Both teenagers and adults get into their own kinds of trouble, so, in classic ‘Meatballs’ style, ‘Camp’ isn’t just about the kids.
From Muriel’s Wedding to Six Feet Under to Brothers and Sisters, Rachel Griffiths’ characters have always had a strong, genuine quality. While some actors can create the illusion that they are truly the character they portray, few have the ability to play such a wide range of characters that Griffiths can. It was still surprising to see her name attached to this ‘fun summer series’, and I thought it would mean an end to her streak of playing characters with such realism. I was wrong.
In ‘Camp,’ Griffiths is Mac Granger, the camp leader, coming out of a divorce and struggling to keep the camp financially afloat. Griffiths’ performance, and her role as the series’ true center, is what keeps this series from sliding into pure-crazy-summer-hijinx, ‘throw-popcorn-at-the-screen’ territory. Mac makes us care about her life, her family, and the camp. How did she do that within the first hour of a summer series called ‘Camp’?
Elsewhere, there are typical conflicts setup, outcasts vs. cool kids, and Little Otter Family Camp vs. the posh Ridgefield Lodge camp across the lake. Old camp plumbing pipes bursting with poo, synchronized dancing, campers in or trying to find love (or just trying to hook up), and of course a seemingly doomed talent show that gets saved in the final act. Though not terribly new, these are what viewers want and expect in a series with such a deliberate tone, and that was promoted as such (“Summer. Go All In.” is the tagline).
If you aren’t experiencing any wacky summer family adventures this summer, or if you just want more, ‘Camp’ will be serving up a healthy dose of smore-fueled dramedy each Wednesday night. Can NBC bottle the magic of summer camp, and will real life campers and vacationers want to watch the weekly adventures of Mac and company? We’ll know soon enough.
Best recommended viewing experience: Throw some hot dogs on the grill. Halfway through the show, raid your neighbors pantry and steal candy. [Optional] Argue with neighbor and decide to settle dispute via canoe race.