8 fun ways 'Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp' winks at the movie
At midnight Pacific last night, Netflix released all eight episodes of "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp," the prequel series to 2001's cult comedy favorite "Wet Hot American Summer."
I laughed a lot at "First Day of Camp," even if the length of it made the results more hit-or-miss than the movie was. And as a continuity nerd, I enjoyed watching David Wain and Michael Showalter figure out ways to either set up developments from the film (like the start of Ben and McKinley's relationship) or work around facts stated in the movie. And when I went back to rewatch the film after to check on how it all fit, I discovered even more winks from show to movie than I had previously thought were there. (UPDATE: And then you guys pointed out another fun one.)
Below — and the SPOILER WARNING is on high for the rest of this, so don't read until you've had a chance to watch "First Day of Summer" all the way through — are some of my favorite ways the show worked with, or around, what was said in the film.
H. Jon Benjamin is camp director Mitch AND a sentient can of vegetables.Photo Credit: Netflix
H. Jon Benjamin has a tiny but extremely memorable role in the movie as the voice of a can of vegetables that convinces camp cook Gene to finally accept his many perversions and admit them to the rest of the camp. At the start of "First Day of Camp," Benjamin appears in flesh-and-blood form as Camp Firewood director Mitch. Is it a coincidence that the two characters sound the same? Nope. At the end of the second episode, Mitch falls into a pit of toxic waste while carrying a can of his favorite afternoon snack, and the sludge somehow places his mind inside the now mutant can.
Evil Camp Tigerclaw has been there all along.Photo Credit: Netflix
In "First Day of Camp," Josh Charles, Kristen Wiig, and Rich Sommer play counselors at Camp Tigerclaw, the camp for evil rich kids across the lake from Camp Firewood. Camp Tigerclaw appears briefly in the film, as part of the scene where Coop delivers a pep talk to the underdog softball team before what's supposed to be their climactic game against Camp Tigerclaw. Instead, the kids all say that the idea sounds trite, and Coop and the counselor from Tigerclaw agree to call it off. (Note that the Tigerclaw logo on the bus isn't quite the same as the logo used in the TV show.)
Gail used to be with Jonas...Photo Credit: Netflix
In the movie, Molly Shannon's arts and crafts counselor Gail is having a hard time getting over her recent divorce. As she confesses to the kids, she was happy when she was with Jonas, but then they broke up and she married Ron. To fit that into the show — and give Chris Meloni some additional ridiculous things to do — when summer begins, Gene is using the stolen identity of a dead man named Jonas, and is engaged to Gail. But then they break up on their wedding day, because she'd rather be with Randall Park's Jeff, which is confusing because...
... Gail used to be married to Ron.Photo Credit: Netflix
For a while, I wondered if this was a continuity goof, but then Gail and Jeff quickly decide to divorce (on the same day they met and got married), and that night, she meets and falls in love with Judah Friedlander's Ron. By the following morning, she tells Nurse Nancy that she's going to take it slower this time, and is only engaged to Ron. All we know is that it won't last, sadly.
Beth remembers Jim Stansel.Photo Credit: Netflix
In "First Day of Camp," Michael Cera plays Jim Stansel, a disgraced attorney who helps Beth and boy's head counselor Greg mount a lawsuit against the corporation that's been dumping the toxic waste at Camp Firewood. Jim wins the big case, but dies shortly after at the hands of presidential assassin The Falcon. But in the movie, Beth drops his name (in a way that makes it sound like she's making it up) to get out of an awkward conversation with David Hyde Pierce's neighboring astrophysicist Henry.
Lindsay is a counselor AND a rock journalist.Photo Credit: Netflix
The movie was one of Elizabeth Banks' first professional roles, and she has a minor part as Lindsay, a counselor Paul Rudd's Andy lusts after. Fourteen years later, the David Wain and Michael Showalter had a better idea of what Banks could do, so "First Day of Camp" reveals that Lindsay was really a reporter for Rock & Roll World magazine, on assignment to write an expose about Camp Firewood. But by the end of the season, she's gone native, and Zak Orth's JJ declares that while Lindsay the reporter has to go, "Lindsay our friend" can stay, even though she's 7 or 8 years older than the rest of them. By the end of the summer, she's acting like just another teenage counselor.
"Higher and Higher" was written by Camp Firewood alum Eric.Photo Credit: Netflix
In the movie, Gene teaches Showalter's Coop how to win the heart of Marguerite Moreau's Katie in a classic '80s training montage, set to an original soundalike composition called "Higher and Higher." In one of the many "First Day of Camp" subplots, Lindsay discovers that former camper turned would-be rock god Eric (Chris Pine) has faked his own death and is living in a nearby cabin. When Camp Tigerclaw and Camp Firewood go to war in the finale, Eric decides the only way to stop the fighting is to play everyone a song about friendship. That song? "Higher and Higher" — which everyone instantly knows all the words to.
The punks at the convenience store were the geeks from the movie.Photo Credit: Netflix
Full credit for spotting this one goes to the commenters here, who pointed out that the punks the Falcon beats up at the Waterville convenience store were costumed much like the nerds in the movie who help Henry save the camp from a falling chunk of Skylab... and that they were played by the same actors, now grown to young adulthood. A nice way to incorporate some of the actors who otherwise couldn't get away with reprising their original roles.