'Camp' review: The NBC show is surprisingly smart

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From left, Charles Grounds as Buzz and Rachel

From left, Charles Grounds as Buzz and Rachel Griffiths as Mackenzie in NBC's "Camp." Photo Credit: NBC

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WHEN | WHERE Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC/4

WHETHER TO WATCH There's a reason this show's at 10 p.m. Put the kids to bed first.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Wednesday's premiere goes in so many directions of plot, tone and taste, you'll need a DVR replay to sort them through. Not to mention a chart to keep track of the characters.

First among them is the redoubtable Rachel Griffiths ("Six Feet Under," "Brothers and Sisters"), playing the owner of a venerable but struggling summer camp. She is, also by the way, owner of a lonely heart and the mother of a geeky teen son, both of which aspects loom big. She's surrounded by a crew of counselor pals, hormonal counselors-in-training and, oh yeah, kid campers, who are so not the point here.

MY SAY The show starts so-so, with a kid-delivered punch in the privates, mean girls, the snooty rival camp across the lake, too fasttalking and too much sex talk/activity.

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But just when you're about to give up, "Camp" -- like its namesake summer experience -- becomes cool.

It turns into a character story, revealed through the camp's interpersonal dynamics. There's the adult tale of Griffiths finding her way through her blown-up life, which somehow works even at its most cliched. There's the outcast CIT triumvirate of secret-bearing newbie Kip (Thom Green), owner's son Buzz (Charles Grounds) and camp-averse clever chick Marina (Lily Sullivan).

BOTTOM LINE The characters, scripts and performances are surprisingly smart -- almost, dare I say, deep. And you still get the comic humiliations, nasty rivalries and teeny bikinis.



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