I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!
The initial idea behind a TV revival of Wet Hot American Summer, making it a prequel but with all the original cast playing their “teenage” selves, is one with plenty of potential. It works very well when you first see them all sat on the steps of one of the cabins, recreating the characters they played in the 2001 movie. Unfortunately, this sparkle and initial funny novelty wears off very quickly and the problems that plagued the movie rear their heads here too.
Making the series a TV show is both a blessing and a curse. It means that the storylines can be more ambitious but the worse part of the movie was how bizarre things became and that is amplified further here. Government conspiracies, undercover reporters and trying to cram a summer’s worth of events into one day is quite a comical idea but over eight episode it is stretched far too thin and the idea becomes stale.
The TV element does mean that we can get some very well-written prequel ideas for the characters we met back in 2001. Couples that were already together get their initial love story, we get some backstory to other, more random characters from the movie and explanations for some weird moments from the film make slightly more sense.
This isn’t enough to save the show and it feels too jumbled a mess to work effectively. Just like the 2001 movie, moments are great and very clever. The storyline involving Chris Pine’s disgraced rock star is a winner, as is the story of Paul Rudd’s Andy trying to win over Margeurite Moreau’s Katie with a musical audition. This is too infrequent though and so much of it is too bizarre.
The most bizarre elements seem to be the random cameos. Just like huge Hollywood stars have returned, like Bradley Cooper or Amy Poehler, others like Michael Cera or Jon Hamm make appearances too. Some of these work, Cera’s lawyer is a fantastic addition, but others are just strange and add to the strangeness of the whole experience.
The best way to make this work would have been to condense it to a prequel movie. Trying to fit this across eight episodes, with many strange, escalating stories, just didn’t work. The initial idea is a great one but as with the film, the execution lets it down.
Overall, Wet Hot American Summer: The First Day of Camp is a great idea but when it is a prequel to a movie which wasn’t very good in the first place, the chances of this being much better were slim. Some magic moments do happen but the return to bizarre, nonsensical storylines means that this series struggles for the laughs as much as the film did.
Best Episode – Day is Done: The final episode has some of the best moments, particularly Chris Pine’s great musical number.
Best performance – Michael Cera as Jim Stansel
Should there be another season? – No. This one did it’s job and was novel but another wouldn’t work.
Season Rating – 2
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)