There will be nothing on television this year to match the glory of Paul Rudd jumping off a motorcycle in the first five minutes of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Spare me your Don Draper Coke commercials or Bloodline plot twists.
The moment the jean-jacketed Rudd haphazardly ditches his bike on the grass of Camp Firewood, I knew that there was nothing crazy about an entire TV show based on a quirky 14-year-old cult classic. First Day of Camp was the right and just thing to do, not just for Wet Hot fans, but for the human race.
The long-awaited Netflix original series debuted last week and managed the seemingly otherworldly task of corralling almost all of the film's now super-famous original cast. Yes, that includes Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black and, of course, Rudd. But creators David Wain and Michael Showalter (who reprises his role as Coop and shows that 14 years changes some people more than others) didn't stop the star wagon there. They also brought to the series Jason Schwartzman as Garofalo's assistant, Jon Hamm as an assassin named The Falcon, John Slattery as the camp's outsourced theater consultant, Lake Bell as, appropriately, a hot counselor and Kristen Wiig as a preppy goddess at rival Camp Tiger Claw.
The movie took place on the last day of camp, so naturally, and true to its title, the series takes place all on the first day — a day crammed with romantic subplots, a sneaky government plot to inexplicably destroy the camp and a coming-of-age story, all tied together with the sort of nonsense you'd expect from Wain and Showalter. If you haven't seen the movie? First off, what the hell is wrong with you? But fear not: First Day stands on its own, and because it's a Netflix series, it's all there for you to devour in one sitting, if you're the sort of person who takes one sip of outstanding comedy, then finds yourself freebasing it until your laughed-out body is left convulsing in the corner.
For those of us who saw Wet Hot in a theater of confused onlookers back in 2001 and have been waiting for more absurdity since then, there's some joy in savoring the series at a more leisurely pace. ♦