[Review] Wet Hot American Summer

With a name that sounds like something you’d get from the top shelf of a video store, the TV series ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ is the latest Netflix original series to be released.

The 8-parter serves as a prequel to the 2001 film of the same name, capturing the events of day 1 at Camp Firewood, Maine, in the summer of 1981. In turn, the film captures the events of the last day of camp, some eight weeks later.

The TV series boasts an all-star line-up of actors and actresses that featured in the film and returned for the prequel, including Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks.

With each episode coming in at just under 30 minutes, I’ve watched every episode already, as the series was released in full on 31st July. I’ve also watched the film, which I was unaware of until I started to do a bit of research after watching the first episode.

As a complete newcomer to Camp Firewood and its interesting inhabitants it worked well to watch the TV series first and then the film, appreciating the nods to the film that were included in the TV series.

To put it simply, the TV series perfectly complements the film.

You soon get over any potential awkwardness of thirty and forty-somethings playing teenagers, and with a large variety of characters – from the horny virgin to the computer nerd – the casting is spot on. The actors were, of course, older than the characters they were portraying in the film as well, but you soon get over that too.

The backgrounds of certain characters are revealed in the TV series while favourite characters from the film – I’m thinking of Victor here – are given more airtime. For some characters, like Gene, you are given such a fantastic backstory in the TV series that when you watch him in the film, it just works.

The beauty of the TV series and film is that they also work independently. The film didn’t need a prequel; you meet the characters, experience a day in their lives and then everything gets wrapped up at the end. It’s exactly the same in the TV series.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted comedy that’s in a similar vein as American Pie but a lot more fun and with a much better soundtrack, Wet Hot American Summer and its TV series prequel are definitely worth a watch. They’re also proof that Paul Rudd really hasn’t aged…

PS. I’ve had ‘Jane’ by Jefferson Starship, the TV series and film’s opening theme, on repeat while writing this post. I suggest you do the same so you too can get into the Camp Firewood spirit.

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