Editor’s Note: Welcome our newest ICBIS team member: Ryan Brooks!
So Netflix is slowly buying up real estate on the pop culture landscape. I for one welcome our new streaming overlords- and it wasn’t this year’s excellent made-for-Netflix Daredevil show that won me over. It was Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
For anyone not in the know: the original Wet Hot featured a large handful of comedians in their early-to-late 20s acting out a parody of every summer teen movie ever. Most of them went on to be big names: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper.
The original movie was a flop. I’m told it had a cult following but it was a movie I saw one scene at a time on Comedy Central when people still sat through a programming schedule to while their time away.
This new show is a prequel, but also kind of a sequel, because now all the actors are 15 years older and not everyone has aged gracefully. Except Paul Rudd is like the exact same. He has and always will look like that, I imagine.
Through the magic of Netflix funnymoney and what was probably a very haphazard shooting schedule they managed to loop in nearly all of the original cast along with new faces.
I only really know one person who “grew up” with the movie, which can’t be true since she’s too young to know the mind-melting screech of dial-up Internet. When I brought up the show, she insisted that I’d get “so much more” out of the show if I saw the original movie, as most of the jokes are callbacks.
A few days of binge-watching later, I have to say that while this may be true, it is perhaps best that you skip the original movie altogether.
Okay, I admit it: I watched Wet Hot American Summer the wrong way.
And I think the first movie hasn’t aged well.
Because, well, it’s cool, but it sucks. Mostly standing in the shadow of what this new series manages to do and failing: feel fresh, give an ensemble cast enough screen time, and genuinely aping while simultaneously lampooning the experience of being a hormone-wracked dumb kid away from home for a month with other people just as stricken by adolescence as you are. And while being respectful and ironic about it.
And weirdly, watching things in reverse-release-order or rather chromatically, little things in the movie, explained in the show at length for laughs, actually feel like weird payoffs.
For example: a talking can of vegetables gets a backstory in the show. Knowing that he made it to the end of summer for me was a weird comfort after the events of the first day of camp.
So, that being said, will you like either of these? It’s a big, lovingly made, mess of absurd fun. It’s broad as a comedy but I felt oddly attached to everyone by the time things were over. Giving everyone room to breathe was a very good thing, or maybe this kind of comedy is just right for the modern binge-watching, episodic format.
However you watch it, watch it. It’s a comedy with mass appeal and doesn’t involve a giant Pac-man!
Artwork by Glen Brogan www.albinoraven.com