Wet Hot Summer: First Day of Camp, TV review: This is one big joke, but it’s a good ’un

Most of the supposedly 17-year-old camp counsellors sport middle-aged paunches and wrinkles

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The Independent Culture

The American tradition of summer camp might as well be ancient civilisation for all the experience we have of it in this country, yet just enough has filtered down through TV and movies over the years to make Netflix’s star-packed new sitcom also accessible to a British audience. Wet Hot Summer: First Day of Camp is the eight-episode prequel to Wet Hot American Summer, a 2001 parody of the Eighties coming-of-age movie, in which a cast of comedy unknowns necked, pranked and doobie-smoked their way through the last day of summer at Camp Firewood, Maine.

Since the movie was first released, several of its stars have gone on to greater successes, and the film’s cult appeal has grown in tandem. Yet, that first shoot must have been memorably good fun, because Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and many others, have reprised their roles in the TV series, now 14 years older and yet still, somehow, two months younger.

 

That’s Wet Hot Summer’s one big joke, but it’s a good ’un. Teen movies usually expect us to suspend disbelief as regards the casting convention that allows adolescent characters to be played by much older actors, but here that absurdity is relentlessly mined for laughs.

Most of the supposedly 17-year-old camp counsellors sport middle-aged paunches and wrinkles, while Lindsay, a journalist at a Rolling Stone-style magazine played by Elizabeth Banks was the only one who owned up to any deception: she’d gone undercover to research a story. “I know I’m 24, but I could pass for a teenager with the right clothes,” pleaded Lindsay when pitching to her office. Her editor was sceptical, but not sceptical enough. Banks is, after all, 41.

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