Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Camp Review: Parents Weekend

When it comes to being a critic, I maintain that you ultimately should judge a show by emotion. A show might be flawed in ways that you can spell out, but if it moves you in some way, that trumps anything else in consideration. Your job is then to explain how the show arrived at that emotional response.

Up until this episode, Camp was a flawed show and moved me only to the point that I would have called it watchable. A lot of the characters are flat, some of the dialogue is predictable and the setting is a mixed bag: Camp Otter is a very inviting place for our escapist needs but it's not particularly fleshed out.

But the show has some strengths. I find three of the characters-- Kip, Marina, Mac -- pretty strong and well-developed, two function nicely as wild card side characters capable of amusing with their sheer eccentricness - Chloe and Grace -- and one guy, Cole, who's marginally interesting.

This episode revolved around yet another "camp tradition" that American audiences largely would not recognize as part of the camp experience: A parents' weekend for CITs. A camp is supposed to serve the campers and subsequently, most of the special events are aimed for brightening the experience of the campers and not paid employees like the CIT's. That would be like if my swimming pool advertised that "tonight is senior lifeguard night where all our high school senior lifeguards wear special hats and we sing for them." I'm here to swim and generally don't care about the lifeguards. I know it's an imperfect perfect analogy since campers do bond with lifeguards but it reinforces Camp's flaw that it doesn't know whether they want to define their teenage characters (outside of Grace) as part-time counselors or quasi-campers themselves. Despite the amount of word space I've devoted to this, it's relatively small potatoes.

We have the Cole-Mac subplot rearing it's ugly head and disappearing. For all we know, the possibility of romance might be squashed forever and that is IMPORTANT with this show. When every possible permutation is turned into a romance, then the show becomes predictable, uninteresting and asymmetrical to real life where not every romantic notion successfully goes in that direction. Additionally, one of the show's big strengths is that the romances all are organic. Even if the characters can be flat and unconvincing, their various romantic pairings all occur for convincing reasons. A romance between Cole and Mac might put a smile on your face, but Mac deciding not to engage in a romance with Cole would be more interesting, truer to her character, and a little less predictable. Romantic shipping is born out of a desire for happy endings which we've largely evolved out of in other areas and are the better for it. We no longer view movies as overly tragic when the good guy gets killed or doesn't get what he wants in some other form.

The plot with Kip and his dad was the perfect example of something that's flawed but moving. Kip's dad seems a little stereotypical of a character which is a problem compounded by the fact that this is the show's biggest flaw. This subplot worked partially because it was centered around Kip who is, in my opinion, the show's strongest character and one who's evolution has kept pace with my expectations. More than that, the storyline was just surprisingly well-written and as a result, it was moving. On top of that, this was also a subplot that moved along nearly every other plot (Rachel-Buzz, Marina-Marina's mom, Cole-Mac, Marina-Kip) which enhanced the flow of the episode.

The one subplot that had little to do with the Kip storyline was the Sarah-Robbie-Don Juanish novelist love triangle, which is significant to note because Sarah and Robbie have long seemed disconnected to the rest of the Little Otter staff. When Sarah finds out the news that Kip is in the hospital, she puts an arm around Chloe but it wasn't a particularly convincing moment being that Sarah has had little on-screen interaction with anyone but either of her two lovers. It seems easier to believe that Sarah doesn't know Kip by name.

I've never cared for any of these three characters but if the show is going to continue with this love triangle, I think we can all agree it was preferable that the big reveal happened sooner than later so we can get to some genuine drama.

As for Buzz, considering his desperation makes him annoying to watch, I was he finally got some action. On the flipside, I was even more pleased that it went disastrously enough that he probably wouldn't think of it as an unabashed success and therefore, will still likely be looking for more boobage. While a desperate Buzz is annoying, it would also be jarring to give him a steady source of sexual satisfaction. In short, Buzz is best when he's desperate but not too desperate.

The Buzz-Mac relationship has a lot of potential but still needs some work. The main question here: Is it the heart of the show and should it be?

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