Thursday, August 15, 2013
Incredible SImilarities Between NBC "Camp's" Camp Little Otter and Real-life Mid-80s New Hampshire Camp
A general sense of fairness had already prompted thoughts of defending NBC's unfairly maligned summer series "Camp" starring a middle-aged Rachel Griffiths struggling to keep her family camp afloat. Additionally, any watchable scripted summer series is a good alternative to summer reality shows that do not satisfy the low standards for traditional programs of that genre during those months.
"Camp" is not great but is not terrible and will not make its way into my DVD collection; Tivoed episodes are usually burned on Sunday evenings after watching higher priority shows.
It seems that "Camp's" detractors do not "get it" because they are not "camp" people who loved spending a month or two in the woods as kids and returned in their late teens or 20s to work at those places that were so important during their "wonder years."
The facts that real-life camps and the show are wrapping up their seasons and that exceptional strong parallels exist between the hijinks of the staff at "Camp's" Camp Little Otter family camp and a relatively upscale central New Hampshire summer camp for kids that also has family camp weeks made formally coming to the defense of the show overwhelming.
It seems that one or both of "Camp's" creators Peter Elkoff Liz Heldens worked at the New Hampshire camp around the time of this reviewer's mid-80s tenure there despite the lack of evidence of such a connection.
Before sharing behind-the-scenes tales, it is important to state that no campers knew of the soap-like behavior and were not harmed in any way regarding the adult-oriented behavior at the real-life camp. Also, two children of the '60s founded and ran the camp on the philosophy of peace, love, and understanding. Further, campers always received incredible care.
On a related note, the only criticism of "Camp" is that the staff seem to indulge in drinking and smoking marijuana at all hours and also leave the property at the drop of a hat. Absences from camp were rare, and the regular indulgence in illicit substances occurred at the real camp only after the kids were put to bed and proper supervision was still provided. For the record, personal consumption of such substances was limited to domestic beer and cheap wine.
Additionally, the discussed events occurred 30 years ago and the real-life camp has since undergone name and ownership changes. The names have been omitted to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.
One unrelated TV note regarding the real-life camp is that a veteran tennis counselor named Andy Taylor spent many summers there; he was just as kind and good-hearted as his television counter-part.
One central story line in "Camp" involves increasing sexual tension between Griffith's 40-something recently divorced from former co-camp director character 'Mack' Granger and 20-something big blonde handyman Cole. This is incredibly close to a real-life fully-realized relationship between the real camp's 40-something director and the studly blonde 20-something handyman for the camp who was very good at keeping desk chairs well lubed with WD 40.
The director was essentially a child bride when she founded the camp with her slightly older husband roughly 20 years earlier. Although they were not yet divorced, that occurred a few years later.
Similar to the Russian girlfriend of Mack's ex-husband and former co-camp director, the real-life camp director told me years later that her husband had a foreign girlfriend while she was dating the handyman.
The part of evil rival camp director was played by the director of a division of the real-life summer camp, who ultimately married the director who spent at least one summer with the handyman.
An encounter that illustrates the real-life man's personality is his telling me that I better not puke in the office after I overindulged in box wine during an end-of-the-season party after the campers had left. Conversely, this man's wonderfully sweet then-wife offered a few minutes later to escort me to my tent.
As an aside, the name of the not-so-nice guy perfectly rhyming with the clinical name for the male sexual organ provided hours of entertainment.
Other real-life characters included a charming and brilliant co-camp director who was a student at UC Santa Barbara. Fun memories of him included his drinking a cup of coffee in which I had placed white granules that turned out to be salt, rather than sugar. On asked about this, he stated he was tempted to gargle it.
The camp also had an Olympic candidate swimmer on its waterfront staff. Like her Camp Little Otter counter-part, this woman took early morning swims but left her swimsuit on the beach before doing so. Our special moment involved placing Junior Mints on the ground near the camp goat and eating them when campers came by.
On a more general note, like Camp Otter, there was a large annual capture the flag tournament and at least one full-blown festival each year; A Robin Hood pageant complete with a roast pig was staged one year.
The adult camper vibe from the real camp came from former campers and other friends of the institution who would come up for visiting of a week or two each year. These included a Cambridge, Massachusetts attorney.
The bottom line is that "Camp" depicts its subject well and is like real camp in that it involves generally harmless inappropriate romance and other behavior but is still a nice slow-paced place to spend a few weeks each summer.
Anyone with questions regarding "Camp" or who worked with me at the real one is welcome to email me; you can also stay in touch via @tvdvdguy via Twitter. Please wait until leaving the camp's technology-free zone before doing so.