This is the first of many Ten Thought posts on the new Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. For the uninitiated, this series is the prequel to the 2000 film Wet Hot American Summer, which takes place on- you guessed it- the first day of camp. The obvious joke here being that all the actors from the film are fifteen years older while their characters are supposedly younger.
The original movie was hilarious and irreverent, often going on tangents that were decidedly non-integral to the plot. Which is kind of the beauty of David Wain’s masterpiece: the plot doesn’t matter, it’s just a vehicle for ridiculous jokes from comedians who really like each other. A lot of the jokes elicit a “wait, what?” response that continue to be hilarious viewing after viewing. The absurdity of this comedic style is what makes it so satisfying to revisit time and time again.
So without further ado, here are ten thoughts on the first two episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
1. H. JON BENJAMIN ISN’T A CAN!!
Okay, for those who haven’t seen the movie, this might be confusing. Without any spoilers, there is a character in the movie played by a superb comedic actor (*cough* Christopher Meloni *cough, cough*) who has a rather rocky relationship with a talking can of soup that has the voice of H. Jon Benjamin. Knowing the humor of this group of people, I imagine there is going to be a bizarre back story to that soup of can somehow involving the counselor, played here by Benjamin. Also his “List of Don’ts” for his staff is amazing. Including dry humping, necking, wet humping, finger banging, wheelbarrowing, the old one two, the old one two three, the old one two three four, the bavarian pretzel, Denver omelettes, the double double- you get the idea.
2. Paul Rudd is Perfect
As he rides in on a motorcycle and allows it to torpedo into the middle of the lawn, I heaved a sigh of relief. This show is going to be bonkers and I cannot wait for more. And by the way, to whoever the wizard is who’s keeping Paul Rudd looking so freakishly young: I would like some of your potions, please.
3. I forgot how great Michael Showalter was
In the first episode, he helps out a new camper and I realized he’s actually the sweetest guy and now there is an element of human emotion and I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS SHOW. His gawky gait and botched Beatle haircut make him so utterly endearing. Even the way he talks evokes that awkward teenage half-adult-half-child insecurity we all cringe at remembering. Also, I can’t wait to see who Donna Burman is. Showalter’s character says she’s his girlfriend, but the way everyone is reacting to that, that seems unlikely. The way Jeneane Garafolo describes her, it could be anyone from Scarlett Johansen to Jennifer Lawrence. Please. Let it be Jennifer Lawrence.
4. Not to harp on how excited I am about everyone in this cast, but Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper are in this show as the theatre counselors and they are a couple and guys I can’t, it’s too much
Seriously, they are immediately hilarious. They start dressed as raggedy Anne and Andy knock off’s (“I’m floppy Willy! And I’m floppy Milly!”) doing a ridiculous dance and then launch into a speech about how they are still dating, even though Bradley Cooper won’t exactly kiss her on the mouth. Trouble in paradise? I’m gonna go with yes absolutely, I can’t wait to see how that goes down.
5. It’s not Jennifer Lawrence. It’s even better.
That’s right. Showalter’s girlfriend isn’t J Lawz or ScarJo. It’s Lake Bell. And she does a perfect impression of every nice popular girl under the age of fifteen who has no idea what to do with her beauty. Also, watching the two of them interact made me physically recoil in recalling how awkward I used to be. Remember when you were a young teen and you had that first spark of romance? Remember how you told everyone you were “dating” that other person with such pride and authority? And then whenever you were with them, you just didn’t talk, or if you did, you talked in halted, nothing sentences? That’s what these two have. And it’s glorious to behold.
6. Oh! It doesn’t all take place at Camp Firewood!
The second episode starts with a sweeping shot of New York City and we find ourselves in the offices of a music magazine. There are whole lot of stars milling about that you would recognize, but I think I’m gonna put a moratorium on name dropping, or this article is going to get old fast. Elizabeth Banks has entered the picture as a main protagonist. She’s going undercover to discover “The real story of what the teenagers are doing when the parents aren’t around.” And so she’s off to Camp Firewood to chill out with our other heroes.
7. Okay breaking my rule. DAVID WAIN IS IN IT.
He’s an Israeli transplant doing an accent which is pretty terrible. But, damn, he looks good in a wig.
8. There are already some amazing quotes
There is some stuff that has been said by these actors that is going to live in the Comedy Hall of Fame. From Rudd’s “Something smells weird , who beefed?” to Showalter’s “Ersatz stuff is pretty dubious in my opinion,” there is so much amazing comedy writing going on. It reminds me of the short lived show Stella, which starred David Wain, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black (who is also in this show). I might start cataloging some of the better quotes in later editions of this column.
9. This show has remarkably good production design
From the costumes to the room designs, from the dated boom boxes to the vintage cars, this show is very solidly set in the 80’s. And it belies the irreverence that the show treats it’s material with. Though the humor may make it seem like the creators don’t really care and they’re flying by the seat of their pants, a lot of effort went into making this show look good. And it’s very clear that everyone is not only enjoying themselves, but care very deeply about the work they’re doing.
10. This is a high water mark for Netflix programming
In the era, of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, streaming services are producing a lot of prestige television these days. A lot of it is drama with very high stakes that actors can sink their teeth into. This is the first time I’ve seen something that is truly different than what else is being made on sites like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even other Netflix shows. Here’s hoping that Wet Hot is super successful so streaming services can feel good about taking chances on more offbeat shows like this one.
Tags: Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, David Wain, Lake Bell, Michael Showalter, Wet Hot American Summer