Camping

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Camping TV Poster Image
Great actors make the most of somewhat mean-spirited humor.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Though the tone of this dramedy is sour, expect themes of family love (and resentment), the obligations of friendship, the power of nature to help people cast away everyday problems and poses. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kathryn, a bit of a stereotype of a shrewish demanding wife, is obsessive and uptight yet views herself as a "person people come to" for help. She's quite impatient with others, including her pushover sister, Carleen. Other characters in this group ensemble have a range of personality types, with flaws and quirks exaggerated for jokes. The cast is diverse in race and ethnicity.

Violence

Violence is mostly given a comic spin but can be upsetting, like when a woman shoots a man accidentally with a BB gun and the BB has to be dug out of his skin; we see blood but no gore. 

Sex

Sexual content can be mature: A married couple fights over sex (he wants it, she doesn't). She says her "pipes are inflamed" and he says the doctor "cleared her for takeoff." She then asks if she should "use her hand," he says no thanks. A woman is visible fully nude, front and back, in a nonsexual context as she throws off her clothes and jumps into a lake to swim. 

Language

Language is used mostly for color and emphasis: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "motherf---ker," "c--t," (a woman specifically says jokingly "You do not want to see this "c--t" without her coffee) as well as expressions like "Christ on a cracker!" 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink cocktails; one character is an addict who has his "30-day chip" but who vomits into a cooler anyway because he's "coming off drugs," explains his wife. One character is an unrepentant drug and alcohol user, taking the gang to a bar for many "jelly doughnut shots," and telling a story about a party that involved ketamine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Camping is a comedy about a compulsively organized woman (Jennifer Garner) who plans an ill-fated camping trip with friends to celebrate her husband's (David Tennant) birthday. Sex, drugs, and violence are all given a comic flavor, but content is mature: a woman is nude as she skinny dips in a lake, a wife offers to "use her hand" to please her husband after she turns down sex, a character tells a story about a party that involves ketamine. Adults drink cocktails, sometimes to excess, like a scene in which a group offers several shots of liquor apiece. A man is shot with a BB gun and must have the BB dug out and his skin stitched up with no anesthetic and what we hear is a "dirty needle." Many characters are somewhat stereotypical, particularly Kathryn and Walt, a demanding, uptight wife and a browbeaten husband. 

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What's the story?

Kathryn (Garner) hopes that a CAMPING trip with some old friends will cool off the tension in her marriage with Walt (Tennant). But when they arrive at Brown Bear Lake to meet Kathryn's sister Carleen (Ione Skye), her irresponsible husband Joe (Chris Sullivan), and his mess of a daughter, Sol (Cheyenne Haynes), they find that two of their friends have split up -- and now Miguel (Arturo Del Puerto) has brought Jandice (Juliette Lewis) instead. And she turns out to be just the spark that was needed to ignite a powder keg of long-nursed indignations. These campers started out as friends -- whether they'll end that way is anyone's guess. Lena Dunham is one of this series' writers and executive producers.

Is it any good?

It's a little cliched -- another uptight wife? -- and a little sitcom-y, but fine, witty writing and appealing actors go a long way to making this dour comedy more of a draw. It's annoying to watch Garner, so naturally sweet on camera, reduced to a binder-toting Type A pain with a burgeoning Instagram account (mostly for chronic pain sufferers and working moms), and Tennant as a henpecked husband, but the promises of both halves of the couple breaking down under wilderness stress is part of the charm of Camping.

Meanwhile, Lewis is a sheer delight as the uninhibited imp who unravels all of Kathryn's careful plans. She makes an enemy of Kathryn on the very first morning of the trip, listing off all her jobs back in L.A.: DJ, reiki healer, a maker of nuts and cheeses, she models for a figure-drawing class, and -- last but not least -- she's a notary. She met her most recent squeeze, Miguel, at a rave at her loft when he passed out on the Casper mattress she'd just "unfurled." She's a stereotype, the rough-around-the-edges la-la land free spirit, but the way Lewis throws herself into the role, she's the kind of kooky character audiences want to stick around for. This trip may not be going as planned, but the worse it goes, the more fun it is to watch. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how relationships are portrayed on movies and TV series like Camping. Is it ever appropriate to use stereotypes as a way of portraying them? 

  • How is competitiveness typically portrayed on-screen? Have you ever wondered how your own competitiveness comes across to others? Do you compete with your family members in life?

  • Why do you think topics such as affairs, divorce, sex, and pregnancy are dealt with so frequently on TV shows and in movies? 

TV details

For kids who love dark comedy

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