TV Review: Wet Hot American Summer-First Day of Camp

The cult classic film, Wet Hot American Summer, has seen its reprise, only fourteen years after its release. On July 31, Netflix released its new series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. The series serves as a prequel to the 2001 film, which took place on the campers’ last day at Camp Firewood. The episodes emulate a typical camp schedule, beginning with the campers’ arrival, and continuing through meals, a camp musical, and a raunchy staff after-party.

One of Wet Hot’s greatest strengths is its incredible cast. All of the big names from the film returned for the series, including Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper, just to name a few. While many of the characters represent warped archetypes of the people you’d expect to meet at summer camp, the series delves into their back stories and gives them a depth that one wouldn’t expect from a franchise boasting such goofy, off-beat humor. The best of these origin stories given to a can of vegetables, the loyal companion to camp chef, Gene (Christopher Meloni) in the Wet Hot film. The can of vegetables was voiced in the film by H. Jon Benjamin, who rejoined the Wet Hot cast as Mitch the camp director. For those who are more familiar with Benjamin’s vocal work (he voices the titular characters in Archer and Bob’s Burgers), it is a little disconcerting to hear his voice coming out of his own mouth, but it does not take long for Benjamin’s voice to return to the can of vegetables as the result of a government conspiracy. While the addition of the talking can served as simply a bit of random humor in the film, Mitch’s transformation in the series gives agency to the other staff to make the camp a better place, and serves as their motivation to get up to some wacky antics in Mitch’s name throughout the ensuing episodes.

With most of the main cast now over the age of 40, the addition of younger actors playing campers who are actually their age is a breath of fresh air. One of the main plots from First Day of Camp follows Kevin (David Bloom), a first-time camper with no friends and a crush on a popular girl. Counselor Coop (Michael Showalter)  aims to help Kevin win over the other campers and the girl of his dreams in a scene in the camp’s dining hall that tries far too hard to emulate Mrs. Doubtfire. Though a little cliché, Kevin’s storyline is realistic and heart-warming, and gives Coop his only opportunity in the entire franchise to do something other than chase after a girl.

Despite its shifts in focus, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp manages to maintain the integrity of the original movie. Its random humor, eclectic cast, and willingness to accept its weird cast characters for who they are make the series a must-watch, ideally in a single sitting.

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