Camping premieres October 14th on HBO.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Chris Flanagan
People are awkward. And awkward people are funny when forced to be around one another.
This concept makes being able to watch a group of awkward adults thinking their lives are together who then slowly become an unraveled emotional mess is oddly satisfying and can birth a natural form of comedy that eerily imitates real life.
Camping, based from a British TV show sharing the same name, follows a group of friends on a camping trip meant to celebrate a major birthday for one of their own but as the trip drags on and plans to begin to change the polite veneer that everyone enters the campgrounds wearing quickly gives way to their true personalities and real baggage they brought with them.
Created by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, the American version boasts an incredible cast drawing from both the comedic and dramatic world. Brett Gelman and Bridget Everett are two hilarious standouts who use their background in improv to lift every scene they are a part of to the unexpected as if the story could go anywhere at any given time. On the other side, Jennifer Garner and David Tenant help round out a more grounded side of the group who both play oppressed adult figures who at times come across as annoying but also strangely identifiable in their individual frustrations towards other people. However, it is Juliette Lewis as Jandice who steals the show in its early episodes as the free-spirited wanderer who descent upon the group causes chaos and hilarious one-liners every time she’s onscreen.
I really enjoyed Camping but part of that enjoyment lied within the thought that this show serves as a warning to those who might start to believe that as adults they have everything under control. Its message has a unique and unsettling way of holding up a megaphone to those subtly awkward interactions in life with other people that, while hilarious, can also expose our true selves. Sure, adulthood can be freeing but it also comes with its own set of scares and challenges that are just as difficult to navigate as any former point in life.
Camping s presented as a comedy but it is able to delve much deeper into certain issues adults come to face as they grow older. Issues that we learn to mask or run from but eventually we will have to confront. The poetic tragedy with the show lies in the fact that while it was sometimes difficult to watch the characters attempt this confrontation, often stopping just short any real progress, it also was compelling because it offered hope that there is the possibility for change and growth for all of us.
I give Camping a B+.