‘Camp’ review: NBC’s summer dramedy should be sent home early

camp-rachel-griffiths-nbc.jpg“Camp” is the sort of show that gives scripted summer TV a bad name. Broad, cheap and tedious, it wouldn’t have the slightest chance of cracking a major network’s schedule during the regular season.

But in the summer — or so the theory goes — anything can draw some fans, simply because there’s so little competition. Not that that line of thinking is helping ABC’s “Mistresses” or NBC’s “Crossing Lines.” In the age of DVRs, on demand, streaming, YouTube and so many other entertainment options, the networks have more competition than they want to admit.

“This is not going to be some coming-of-age movie,” nerdy lead Kip (Thom Green) announces when he’s dropped off to be a counselor-in-training at Little Otter Family Camp. “This is not going to be the greatest summer of my life.” Irony alert!

That wink-wink dialogue isn’t actually representative of the show’s snoozy earnestness. It’s apparently included just so we know “Camp” is shamelessly aware of all the summer camp cliches it’s about to throw at us, and simply doesn’t care. “Wet Hot American Summer” skewered this stuff way back in 2001. “Camp” doesn’t even have the novelty value of being the first TV series set in a summer camp (or even the first recent series since ABC Family’s “Huge” aired in 2010).

camp-charles-grounds-tim-pocock-nbc.jpgThat would be fine if the show was more inventive or interesting or fun. Instead it’s hopelessly bland, populated by a sprawling cast of interchangeable young actors playing immediately forgettable characters. Everyone seems to have signed on in the hopes they’d be seen by a CW casting agent and get booked with a better gig (one reason they probably don’t mind parading around in swimsuits, exposing as much bare flesh as network TV allows).

The only cast member who truly stands out is also the show’s most puzzling element: leading lady Rachel Griffiths. She likely only signed on because the show shoots in her native Australia (a financial arrangement that helped NBC keep the budget down and allowed them to film during the winter — when it’s like summer Down Under).

Just remember Griffiths has four Emmy nominations (two for “Six Feet Under” and two for “Brothers and Sisters”) and an Oscar nomination (for “Hilary & Jackie”). And then try to forget it while watching her slum it here in an over-the-top performance as a divorcee who owns the camp and tries to fight off her interest in rival upper crust camp owner Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser).

NBC has “Camp” booked for a 10 episode run this summer, and while it’s always nice to see a network make an effort with original programming in the office season, they really should try harder than this. Fall can’t come soon enough.

Photo/Video credit: NBC

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