REVIEW: 'Camp' doesn't light any prime time fires

2013-07-07T20:00:00Z REVIEW: 'Camp' doesn't light any prime time firesBRUCE MILLER bmiller@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal

When you've been to camp with everyone from Hayley Mills to the Jonas Brothers you know there won't be much new to mine.

And that's exactly the case with NBC's "Camp."

Hardly as funny as "Meatballs," nowhere near as quirky as "Moonrise Kingdom," the series tries to be as edgy as possible considering it's airing on a broadcast network.

Kids talk about condoms and breasts, smuggle booze and drugs, drift in and out of relationships but all of their action is tame compared to editions that came before it. Even "Parent Trap" seems more frightening.

Rachel Griffiths, using her best American accent, plays the owner of Little Otter Family Camp, a ragged summer getaway that's close to being put on the auction block. Because she's still reeling from a divorce, she's holding on to the one constant in her life. But it wants to slip away, too. Son Buzz (Charles Grounds) is aging out as well, leaving mom in a neverland of her own making.

The staff includes an assorted bunch of nuts who have issues but haven't got past beginning sunscreen.

Toss in a nearby upscale camp and you can see where this is headed. In the first hour, there's a sneaky visit to the rival enclave, a few close encounters of the snobby kind and a whole lot of campfires and talent shows to make you think it's fun.

Want s'more? Griffiths' Mackenzie Granger has a couple of potential suitors -- the rich camp's Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser), who acts like a contestant on "The Bachelorette" (in other words, sneaky) and Cole (Nikolai Nikolaeff), a handyman at her deteriorating dump.

Before the sun sinks slowly in the west, Griffiths and company get to address homophobia, racism and, for good measure, anti-Semitism. But don't think "Camp" gets in bed with Paula Deen. This is kid's play and never tries to move beyond its made-for-TV boundaries.

Grounds and Thom Green (as a counterculture counselor in training) are fun to watch. Occasionally, the camp's signs provide a chuckle, too (wait until you see what they call the dining room).

But while the setting lends itself to a host of possibilities, the series' creators, Liz Heldens and Peter Elkoff, don't play off contemporary problems beyond mentioning cellphone service.

Clearly, there's a new camp experience to be mined. Early on, though, "Camp" doesn't do much digging.

Griffiths looks like she's slumming for the summer.

If there's going to be a place for her in a role that could have been better played by Tina Fey, she better step up. In a sea of reality shows and reruns, there's an opportunity to stand out. All too often, she just sits by and waits.

"Camp" airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday on NBC.

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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