NBC’s summer drama Camp has been doing well in the ratings, routinely pulling down 3.5 million viewers. Yet the chatter around the show certainly isn’t setting Twitter on fire. Unlike Shonda Rhimes’ political sudser Scandal, which gained viewers thanks to social media word-of-mouth, Camp seems to be popular despite social media indifference.
You’ll probably never see Camp trending on Twitter; in fact there seems to be an Internet wall of silence around watching the show.
I’m going out on a limb and assuming I’m not the only person in the world watching Camp, unless this is an Orphan Black situation and there are another 3.5 million of me I’m not aware of. So why is the social media and critical chatter so demure when it comes to NBC’s summer dramedy?
The show, set in a fictional “family camp” called Little Otter, features a cast headlined by Six Feet Under’s Rachel Griffiths. You might be asking yourself, “What is a family camp? It it like a bootcamp where you take trouble children and have drill sergeants scream at them? Is this a tough love thing?” The answer is no, although some version of this idea is being pitched right now at the TLC network, somehow involving Honey Boo Boo Child.
Camp does not endeavor to answer basic questions like the difference between a family camp and a regular camp. The show doesn’t even answer questions like how professional adults seemingly get off from work all summer to drink wine and complain about their children.
Having read this description, you might be wondering why anyone would watch Camp. But the truth is, although the show isn’t reinventing the wheel, it is an hour of solid fun every week. The campground shenanigans are usually worth a chuckle and the characters have become more dimensionalized and endearing as the show plugs along.
Splitting time between the young, attractive teen camp counselors and the older generation keeping Little Otter afloat allows the show to juggle a wide variety of storylines. While Griffiths’ camp director Mack tries to bounce back from her divorce with a complicated love triangle, the kids have their own relationship problems to deal with.
Tom Green’s Kip gets a girlfriend who thinks his brush with leukemia makes him dark and dangerous, while power couple Robbie (Tim Pocock) and Sarah (Dena Kaplan) fall out over infidelity. And this doesn’t even touch the walking sex comedy cliche that is Mack’s son Buzz (Charles Grounds), desperate to lose his virginity at any cost. It’s this mix of more emotionally grounded storytelling with -- dare I pun-- a fair amount of campy ridiculousness that makes the show a fun summer diversion.
It’s too soon to tell if NBC will renew the show for a second season, but I certainly hope they do. Even if I’m the only one willing to admit watching.
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February 07, 2011 12:46pm EST
When a dramedy gets too sentimental it quickly becomes sappy but with the right balance – and the right actors – it can work well enough to entertain on multiple levels. Alexander Payne’s Sideways is a perfect example of tonal equality; bittersweet in every sense of the word but outright hilarious when the comedy gets going. I thought the best qualities of his direction would carry over into his latest production the recent Sundance entry Cedar Rapids. While his influence as producer is identifiable (particularly in its score) director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) made a more conventional film than I expected to see.
Our story begins in Brown Valley Wisconsin where the dignified Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) works lives and loves his former 7th Grade teacher (a dull Sigourney Weaver). When the top dog at the insurance company he works for dies it’s up to him to represent at a do-or-die insurance convention in Cedar Rapids Iowa a bustling metropolis compared to the small town he’s never left. Once there he befriends a pair of agents (Isaiah Whitlock Jr. and John C. Reilly) cavorts with another (Anne Heche) and parties with a local prostitute (Alia Shawkat). When it comes down to business however he learns quickly that the insurance racket isn’t the noble industry he once thought it was.
Though it has some heart the film doesn’t hit the funny bone like its trailer teased. The biggest laughs don’t come organically; instead Reilly’s crass Dean Ziegler (the best part of the movie) spews them from every orifice he exposes. Most of the other jokes are flat including the bulk of Helms’. Lippe’s naivety is all too reminiscent of Andy Bernard his beloved character on The Office and though you’d think that would be a good thing it just feels stale. Heche gives the best performance of all portraying a melancholy working mother who’s both vulnerable and independent but her character doesn’t have much effect on the narrative. The most fun comes via a series of supporting roles and cameo’s from the likes of Thomas Lennon Stephen Root Rob Corddry Kurtwood Smith and Mike O’Malley but none of them have enough screen time to leave a lasting impression.
Lack of humor aside the film suffers most from trying to tackle too many topics at once. Screenwriter Phil Johnston stuffs many themes into the 87-minute feature including the growth of the man-child (an indie cliché at this point) corporate corruption and separation of church and office but no single subject is developed enough to care about. Had the filmmakers stuck to their guns and delivered an all-out comedy be it conventional or quirky Cedar Rapids would be easier to endure.
The term “burlesque ” for the uninitiated refers to a specific brand of female striptease that incorporates flamboyant costumes elaborate choreography kitschy songs and various other elements to which heterosexual men are largely indifferent. But it’s wildly popular in other circles -- so much so in fact that it has earned its very own film titled oddly enough Burlesque.
Written and directed by music video veteran Steven Antin Burlesque is fashioned loosely as a camp homage to the 2000 film Coyote Ugly. Stage and screen legend Cher brought to life by an innovative blend of animatronics and CGI stars as Tess the brash tough-as-nails proprietress of Hollywood's almost unbearably fabulous Burlesque Lounge. Despite the obvious popularity of its musical revue the club is plagued by money problems which makes it the target of acquisitive real estate developer Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane) a man whose name alone carries all sorts of ominous Teutonic implications. But Tess determined diva that she is refuses to sell. She's not about to let years of gross financial mismanagement kill her dream of providing a haven where scantily clad women can dance provocatively without fear of encountering men who’d like to sleep with them.
Potential salvation arrives in the luminous top-heavy form of Iowa-bred Ali (Christina Aguilera) a vision of wide-eyed innocence and vaulting ambition in soft focus. Immediately upon entering the Lounge she is struck by the sudden realization that her lifelong dream is to become a burlesque superstar. Unfortunately Tess doesn’t initially recognize Ali’s potential and the poor girl is forced to slum it as a cocktail waitress in the bar area where she’s embraced by the club’s straightgay bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet) a southern transplant whose own showbiz dream involves making it as a songwriter. (In accordance with songwriter tradition he takes pains to ensure that every inch of his chiseled frame is bronzed and waxed. Just like Bernie Taupin.) In her free time Ali devotes herself to the study of burlesque and when her opportunity arises she seizes it without hesitation.
Burlesque is principally the Cher and Christina Show and the film thrives when their respective talents are on display. (“Talents ” obviously gaining a dual meaning in regards to Aguilera.) Surrounding them are a smattering of stock characters pursuing forgettable story arcs the lone exception being the always excellent Stanley Tucci adding a pinkish hue to his incomparable wit in the role of Sean Tess’s long-suffering boa-clad second-in-command. He and co-star Alan Cumming are two sides of the same sassy coin but Cumming is little more than a bitchy bit player in Burlesque poking his head into the frame on occasion to deliver a biting one-liner. Then again that description could apply to any number of characters in the film.
It appears that Antin true to his music-video pedigree conceived of Burlesque with the song-and-dance pieces in mind first then set about building a story around them. (The opposite is generally preferred.) The musical set pieces are lavish sexy and at times truly dazzling especially when Aguilera takes the stage but they do little to advance the film’s plot. Consequently Burlesque’s running time swells to almost two hours to satisfy the demands of a story that frankly seem hardly worthy of such an effort.