Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp TV Poster Image
Absurd but amiable nostalgia trip only lukewarm.

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Kids say

age 13+
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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The film parodies 1980s teen sex comedies, so even though it has a lot of overtly sexual content, a lot of it is actually mocking sexist and homophobic attitudes. This nuance may be lost on younger viewers.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Campers and counselors are over-the-top caricatures and definitely don't always make the right choices. 

Violence

A couple of characters are shot in the forehead by an assassin, while another perishes in a pool of lime-green toxic waste. The bloodshed is minimal and unrealistic, though, and played for comedic effect.

Sex

Lots of sexual innuendo throughout. One character is shown reaching into her shorts to remove her diaphragm and tossing it to another woman to borrow. Blowjobs are mentioned, and two characters make a bet to see who can lose their virginity first. Two male characters are shown kissing.

Language

All the usual suspects are present, and pretty much every slang term invented for the word "penis" is used -- repeatedly.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some smoking and underage drinking is shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp is an unabashed send-up of the teen sex comedies of the early 1980s, and, as one might predict, it doesn't skimp on the sexual references, foul language, or gross-out humor. Sex is used as a bargaining tool, as when one female counselor offers to let a male counselor fondle her breasts if he accompanies her on a frightening trip into the woods. A teen camper is shown getting her period for the first time, and she goes totally boy-crazy moments later. This series is definitely best suited for older teens and adults, and it's probably for the best if those viewers are already fans of the cult classic film the series is based on.

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What's the story?

WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY AT CAMP serves as an eight-episode prequel to the 2001 cult comedy film Wet Hot American Summer, which took place on the last day of camp. Nestled in the wilds of Maine, Camp Firewood is in dire straights financially, causing the camp director (H. Jon Benjamin) to make an ill-advised deal with a nefarious corporation that ends up dumping cesspools of deadly toxic waste on the campgrounds. It's up to a couple of screwball camp counselors (Jason Schwartzman, Janeane Garofalo) to squash the danger while keeping parents from finding out what's really going on. Meanwhile, most of the other plot lines are centered on the various romantic entanglements of the counselors and teens: Uptight rich girl Katie (Marguerite Moreau) is pursued by crass Andy (Paul Rudd), while dorky Coop (Michael Showalter) attempts to figure out where he stands with hot girl Donna (Lake Bell). We're also introduced to Camp Firewood's snobby rivals at nearby preppy Camp Tigerclaw, led by polo shirt-clad Blake (Josh Charles). There's also some cheeseball musical theater in the works, produced by budding thespians and would-be lovers Susie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Bradley Cooper), with the help of Broadway vet Claude Dumet (John Slattery).

Is it any good?

Boasting an all-star cast of modern comedy greats, the series relies so heavily on the stale nostalgia angle -- without offering much else -- that it comes off like an extended and slightly pointless improv exercise. Much of the original film's humor came from the fact that a cast of 20- and 30somethings were playing teenagers. This time around, the cast is even older and even less believable, and their characters are two months younger. The performers, which include many newcomers (Jordan Peele, Michael Cera, Jon Hamm) making cameo appearances, are likable enough, and there's definitely a curiosity factor involved in seeing them pick up these roles again so long after the movie.

But the humor itself is rambling and can be seriously repetitive with all the callbacks and in-jokes referencing things that happen in the film (which probably seem nonsensical and bizarre if you haven't seen it). It's not really enough to parody a genre and make lazy jokes about Tab soda and Ronald Reagan if there's nothing more substantial being brought to the table. It mainly seems like an excuse to allow some awesome actors to basically workshop stuff on camera, which has its charm, but a bit more structure and direction would have gone a long way. Still, if you've been waiting 14 years to see that talking can of vegetables again, you won't be disappointed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to parody something. How can you tell when something is a sincere homage and when something is being made fun of? What's the difference?

  • What were some of the more ridiculous aspects of the plot? Did the surreal elements make you laugh, or did they distract from the story?

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love silly satire

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