Volume 6, Issue 32!
“TV Review: Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later”
Wet Hot American Summer is one of my favorite comedies of all time, so getting not one, but two follow up Netflix series is pretty insane to me. After the hype of First Day of Camp, the first Netflix follow-up that aired two years ago, I had completely forgotten about the sequel series Ten Years Later, and it seemed like Netflix did too (you can chalk this up to either lack of interest on their part or the fact that they have too many original programs, your choice). My love for the original Wet Hot is pretty deep, so any follow up to that is going to be held to a pretty high standard in my eyes, and while Ten Years Later has some very solid and funny moments, it’s easily the weakest installment of the Wet Hot “Trilogy”.
Probably the most impressive aspect of Ten Years Later is that David Wain and Michael Showalter were able to reassemble (almost) all of the cast for this follow up project. Taking place, you guessed it, ten years after the events the movie, this eight-episode series finds Coop (Showalter), Victor (Ken Marino), Katie (Marguerite Moreau) and the rest of your favorite camp counselors living our their professional lives in various locations around the country. They all come together to Camp Firewood for their ten year reunion, and the typical Wet Hot American Summer hijinks begin.
With anything associated with Wain and Showalter, there’s going to be a lot of fun skewering of genre tropes. In a lot of ways, the two poke fun at the very idea of a reunion show, which has become all the rage thanks to reboots of The X-Files, Gilmore Girls, and Arrested Development (which pretty much kicked off the whole “revival” thing)? There are jokes about what each character has been up to, and the constant reminder that they are “26” is pretty good for a laugh. But after a strong start, there’s a definite drag to the episodes, almost like Wain and Showalter ran out of the “funny ideas” and decided to amp up the absurdity. When Ten Years Later is on, it’s on, and it’s a shame that more of the jokes don’t quite stick their landing. If you were a fan of Showalter’s Ronald Reagan impression in First Day of Camp, well I have some good news for you: you’re gonna get that. A lot.
While there’s a lot of focus on the weird in Ten Years Later, there are a lot of jokes that still stick the landing. Andy’s (Paul Rudd) early grunge style is pretty damn hilarious, and his struggle with being an aging “cool guy” is great (the fifth episode, “King of Camp”, is arguably the best episode of the series because of this). Same goes for Christopher Meloni’s Gene, who’s criminally underused here, but gold every time you see him. I could watch a whole spin off series of Gene, Mitch the can of Vegetables (H Jon Benjamin), Eric (Chris Pine), and Greg (Jason Schwartzman) traveling the country as a demented A-Team helping people solve crimes in a ludicrous ways.
Weirdly enough, Ten Years Later feels less like a sequel to the original movie and more like a continuation of First Day of Camp. There are more characters from the prequel series that pop up here than in the original movie (Bradley Cooper is a no show, but the way the show gets around that is hilarious), and only a few threads from the movie are picked up here, like Coop and Katie’s continuing “will they, won’t they” relationship and Victor Pulack’s continuing quest to get laid. You could probably just watch the two Netflix series and skip the movie entirely and still get the main plot beats (which would be a crime in my book).
They always say there’s a weak link in any trilogy, and it sucks to say that Ten Years Later is that weak link. It’s certainly impressive that David Wain and Michael Showalter were able to get the entire cast back together, but it seems like they were in such a rush that they used the earliest takes they could get. There’s a fine line between funny and being weird for the sake of being weird, and the original Wet Hot and the prequel series walked that line brilliantly. Ten Years Later, however, doesn’t know when to cut back. By the end you’ll find yourself laughing at the absurdity of the plot, but also asking the same questions that the characters have.