15 Reasons Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Is Perfect

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Hot dang, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is genre perfection. In the realm of absurdity, and improvised sketch comedy, this show is a perfect companion to the original feature film, released 14 years ago in 2001. The beauty in WHAS: FDOC: they didn’t try to do too much. The first episode was a little cause for concern, but five minutes into the second, the oddball comedy was back in full stride. Here are 15 perfect things about the series designed to bring us to the film. ***A Few Small Spoilers Ahead***

15. The Writing

The writing in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is skeletal, yet it completely honors the tonality of the original script, some 14 years later. That may sound relatively easy, but it’s anything but. There are aspects of story that will need well-devised backstory whenever a prequel is written, and that’s precisely what happens on the “first day of camp.” David Wain and Michael Showalter are geniuses when it comes to foresight, and keeping a few aces up their sleeves. When they come to a story question of why, they respond with “why not?” Regardless of the fact that the dialog used in the finished product is most likely improvisation and ad-lib, construction of the story stays true to standard, and the standard is a stellar outline. Hopefully that outline is a few seasons long.

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

14. We Learn Valuable Things

What’s up with the talking can of vegetables? What happened before camp ended to establish such stellar bonds and relationships? What is the process of putting together camp productions? Why is Gene so pissed off all the time? We learn answers to all of these questons and more in FDOC. No, there is no great life lesson to learn from watching anything to do with Wet Hot American Summer… well, maybe nothing more than some great comedic timing, and learning how to score laughs in the world of absurdity. But regarding the original film? There is so much that fans are able to learn in the eight episodes representing the first full day at Camp Firewood. We also learn that Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks apparently don’t age.

Saeed Adyani/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

13. Time Space Continuum Doesn’t Exist

Albert Einstein would likely love everything about anything having to do with Wet Hot American Summer, because at Camp Firewood there are more observable bends in space time, than have been accessed within the observable universe. The amount that is accomplished on the last day (Wet Hot American Summer) and the first day (FDOC) is truly remarkable. One can’t even begin to describe the adventures at Camp Firewood, because there are too many to choose from. Lives are threatened, lives are lost, lives are saved, sex is had, sex is desired, full blown musical stage productions are staged… meals are enjoyed. Forget the conventions of time. And yet, somehow, time still flies, because you’re having so much fun. This is especially true for audience members who are always left wanting more.

Saeed Adyani/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

12. It’s Perfectly Dumb

What are we watching, really? It evokes the greatest suspension of disbelief that has ever existed in the realm of cinema: the late 1970s and early 1980s. The camp movies of the 1980s were unparalleled in the land of, “Really!?” A combination of horror movies and comedies that were so outrageous that they became cult classics. Were they so bad they were good, or so iconic that they provided a time-stamp in the history of existence? Probably both. Wet Hot American Summer drums up the perfect satire of those films, and at times, hits the nail on the head. It is the right amount of being so smart that it plays as really dumb. And to do that, you need an exceptional talent pool to pull from. They are in no short supply at Camp Firewood.

Gemma La Manna/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

11. Jon Hamm and Chris Meloni Are Magical

It was almost too good to see Jon Hamm and Christopher Meloni do battle on the first day of camp. In fact, all of the copy cat police and “action-based dramas” on network TV, should pop on Netflix, and see what Jon Hamm and Christopher Meloni were able to accomplish in a comedy. Not to spoil one of the most magical sequences in “TV” history, but if this man vs. man battle isn’t nominated for something in some kind of awards competition, there is something very wrong with the world. Even if the series holds no interest to a viewer, there are a few minutes of pure gold, the likes of which you have never seen before. And that’s not an exaggeration. There hasn’t been physical comedy like this in the past 20 years. It was choreographic genius akin to Jackie Chan… in slow motion.

Saeed Adyani/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

10. It’s So Good to See Molly Shannon

Molly Shannon. She’s been at it for a long time. You might expect her to slow down physically, and dial back her ability of “going there.” And if you did, you’d be very wrong. There is no slowing the pace of Molly Shannon. Sometimes it’s only natural to ask: is she for real? And really, there’s no way of knowing. Has she ever done an interview where it lays to rest the debate of what she’s really like in person? Obviously, she’s a comedic genius. To do what she has done for as long as she’s done it? It’s inspiring. And here’s the beauty of it all: she has never been better than what she offers in Wet Hot American Summer. Watching her, and it seems that she is so easy to direct, yet she’s like a wild animal when she gets into a groove. It’s so good to see Molly Shannon.

Saeed Adyani/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

9. Set-up For Subsequent Seasons

It took an entire eight episode season to get through the first day of camp, and into the flag-raising of the second day. This is excellent news for fans of the Wet Hot American Summer legacy. This means it can go on… and on… and on — at least for a little while. Considering the holes they filled in the first season, there are so many directions they can take the show now, before dialing it in to fit the story line of the original feature film. It makes mention in the original that they’ve been at camp for three weeks. Will season two be WHAS: Fifth Day of Camp? Twelfth Night of Camp? The possibilities are… well… limited to 21 days, but therein lie 21 options of awesome. Who knows how many seasons they’ll attempt to pump out, but we certainly need delivery to the original feature film.

Gemma La Manna/©Netflix/courtesy Everett Collection

8. Joe Lo Truglio: Most Underrated Comedic Actor Ever

Is Joe Lo Truglio the most underrated comedic actor ever? There’s a very good chance that he is. It would be amazing to see he and Jack Black play brothers in something. The atmosphere around planet earth wouldn’t likely handle the majesty of a really good collaboration, but we’d happily settle for a decent one. Joe is always the guy playing the sidekick, or the random dude injecting very strange humor into an already funny mix, e.g., Role Models, I Love You, Man. What is so great about Joe? His sincerity. He pushes all-in for every character he plays, and always leaves you wanting more. Beyond his knack for sincerity, he is one of those really smart comedians who has more tricks in his arsenal than David Copperfield. You never know what you’re gonna get with Joe Lo Truglio, but you can bet that it will be plated in gold.

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

7. Delightful Sentiment

First Day of Camp isn’t devoid of sentiment. There is genuine sentiment mixed within the absurdity. And how do David Wain and Michael Showalter tug at our heartstrings? With kids. They use kids! Kids experiencing the universality that we all did the first time we went away to camp: being the new person; not really making any friends; liking the boy/girl who doesn’t like you back. It’s in there. And the comedic, yet sentimental play of two closeted gay fellas (Bradley Cooper and Michael Ian Black) finding their way into a new, unfamiliar world. Seriously, it’s done as well as Brokeback Mountain. OK. It’s not. But it’s pretty close… without cowboy boots.

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

6. Michaela Watkins as Rhonda The Choreographer

There is always someone who flits into the mix of a story like this, and steals every scene. Michaela Watkins, who has been a part of this sketch-clique inner circle for several years, does just that as Rhonda, the choreographic assistant to John Slattery’s character, Claude Dumet. Every time Michaela makes her way onto screen, something amazing is about to happen. Her kitsch is pretty spot-on, recreating a rash of been-there-done-that choreographers from the world of musical theatre. If her character could phone it in, she would, but she’s paid to be there, so she shows up. These people exist, and obviously, Michaela has worked with them before. There’s something so classic about Michaela… here’s to hoping she scores a lot more work after this turn. She is most worthy.

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

5. David Wain Directs With a Loose Leash

What a gift to be part of this cast… If you were a celebrity actor, and got a call to be in the mix of a Wet Hot American Summer prequel to be done as an eight episode series, how could you pass up such an opportunity? That’s why they scored the likes of Chris Pine and Jon Hamm. Here is that chance to come in, and say, “Hey… I really wanna try this. I’ve always wanted to try this.” And get a response from director, David Wain, “Let’s do it.” Still, this process is hardly a free-for-all. David has to know when to rein people in, or encourage them with a tug at the lead. There are perfect moments of going too far, and then there’s going too far and killing your flow. Directing a project like this is much more difficult than turning a camera on, and telling people to be funny.

Photo by MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock

4. Electro/City

Let us all give thanks for Electro/City. Truly. In an age of Broadway bummers, and more movies being turned into musicals than should have ever been allowed, the team comprising the Wet Hot American Summer: FDOC writers, cast and crew, put together one of the greatest forays into musical theatre in television history. Forget all the other shows that have staged musicals as part of their story line. This musical — Electro/City — will likely have comedy writers trying to develop it into a legitimate stage comedy. It’s definitely the type of satire on a satire you catch in the Los Angeles live theatre scene. E.g. Orange is The New Musical. Say what?

Gemma La Manna / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

3. The “Indoor Kids” Show Up

For fans of Wet Hot American Summer, the original, there was a little cameo surprise that was completely unexpected. The kids referred to as “The indoor kids,” on the last day of camp by David Hyde Pierce, show up in WHAS: FDOC. For those who haven’t seen it, there are no spoilers to come other than the aforementioned. It is so good to see their faces, and it’s pretty mind boggling to know that they’re now in their mid-to-late 20s. They’re not in the mix for long, but it’s impossible to miss them when they are.

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

2. Michael Showalter Could Lose Weight

This could be a very interesting and intriguing part of the story line. Looking at the potential of the Wet Hot American Summer world as a whole, there could be an incredible transformation of Michael Showalter, aka Coop. In the original, he’s a rail-thin, lanky dude, who would be anyone’s best friend. In season one, aka, First Day of Camp, he’s portly. He’s very round in the face, and boasting a legit gut. This could be intentional, and it could take the entire journey to another comedic plane. If, at any point, they can chronicle his weight loss at camp, pushing toward the timeline of the original film, it would be a feat all would have to recognize. So. We’re wondering. Is the comedy in the fact that he’s overweight, and continuity doesn’t match, or are they going somewhere with this?

Gregorio T. Binuya/Everett Collection

1. They Suggested More And Delivered

Fans were begging for more WHAS for years. They teased a sequel in the film, agreeing to have a 10 year reunion, which is then briefly portrayed after the closing credits. But there was always a serious conversation about another film — that “what-if?” And the powers who be — David Wain and Michael Showalter — played it perfectly. They let life happen, and kept the ideas simmering on the back burner. They could have done another movie at any point, but along came a format to open a chasm of potential: Netflix Original Series… Who’s to say what will happen next in the realm of Wet Hot American Summer. Whatever it is, we’ll be ready for it.

Saeed Adyani / © Netflix / Courtesy: Everett Collection

James Sheldon