Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is, like the movie and prior Netflix season, hit-or-miss, with the ratio leaning more towards miss than before. Still, I enjoyed enough of it to be happy to watch the latest reunion, and I have thoughts on my favorite jokes and ideas from it — with full spoilers for the whole season throughout — coming up just as soon as I’m named King of Camp…
Mitch, sex machine
Mitch’s transformation from human camp director to sentient can of mixed vegetables was one of the highlights of First Day of Camp, and Showalter and Wain make sure to kick the can all over the story, most hilariously when he has sex with a truck stop waitress while traveling to get help for the Reagan crisis. Hey, just because a guy can (bleep) his own (bleep) doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy the pleasure of others.
The champagne glasses go down, down, down
Ten Years Later is more of a general collection of sketches that are sometimes parodying camp movies, sometimes not. After Mitch’s interlude with the waitress, the biggest laugh the new season gave me had nothing to do with Camp Firewood at all, but was a spoof of triumphant movie speeches, as first Neil, then Shari, and then another of Brodfard Gilroy’s party guests give rousing monologues — all of them starting off with them listing where they came from (“Maybe I’m just a son of a meatpacker from Paramus, New Jersey”), end with them loudly announcing that they can now go, and then lead to them knocking over a table of champagne glasses on their way out. It’s a perfect Comedy Rule of Three sequence, in part because the random party guest actually avoids bumping into the table, then comes back for his coat and makes the same mess that Neil and Shari did.
President Reagan makes his old number two make a new number two
Why is Michael Showalter still playing Ronald Reagan? And why is Michael Ian Black now joining him as George H.W. Bush? Because it’s utterly ridiculous, that’s why, perhaps never more than when Reagan bullies his former VP into going to the bathroom on Blake’s waterskiing camp model, chanting, “Your butt is touching my shit, George! Shit on my shit! Shit on my shit!” over and over. Disgusting, strange, great.
Andy is Cliff Poncier
Ten Years Later has a lot of fun with ’90s fashions and trends — someone uses the word “slacker,” followed by Susie saying, “Like that movie that came out five weeks ago!” — but nowhere more than with the new look for Paul Rudd’s ageless Andy, now styled to look uncannily like Matt Dillon’s character from the 1992 grunge romance Singles. Does this mean that Andy is also loved in Belgium?
Chris Pine goes the full Keanu
As camper-turned-rock-god Eric, Pine was already fun in First Day of Camp, but he seems even more energized this time around, sporting an Adam Duritz wig and making his voice sound even more like Keanu Reeves as the now-bionic Eric explains how he and Jason Schwartzman’s Greg came back from the dead, and later tries to save the camp. Pine gets to do movie comedies on occasion (and there’s humor baked into the role of James T. Kirk), but you get a sense that he does things like Wet Hot or his recent Angie Tribeca guest stint because they allow him to be utterly goofy in a way he’s not really allowed to in film.
Henry takes off his mustache
There are lots of moments where actors either acknowledge that this is a show — “Now let’s switch to your storyline, Susie” — or break character utterly. The best of these is the Skype cameo by David Hyde Pierce, whose Henry is finally a full professor who can briefly help with the impending nuclear strike on Camp Firewood. Once he’s done his part, Pierce pulls off his mustache, wishes everyone good luck with the rest of the shoot, grabs one of his many Emmys, and walks out of the room.
“This is our life now”
While the idea that Mark and Claire have been part of the gang all along (accomplished by digitally inserting them into scenes from the movie, occasionally with the help of an actor like Marguerite Moreau standing in frame with them while wearing their old costumes) is amusing, the characters themselves are pretty forgettable. (Especially compared to people Ten Years Later doesn’t have enough of, like Gene.) Instead, the new season’s best addition is Alyssa Milano as psycho nanny Renata. Milano’s tended to do more drama than comedy as an adult, but she throws herself into The Hand That Rocks The Cradle of it all, and the punchline at the end — that she was part of Reagan and Bush’s convoluted prank on the two camps, and thus Ben and McKinley murdered and buried an innocent actress — leads to some great anguished comedy from Adam Scott and Michael Ian Black in the final chapter.
Victor finally gets lucky
David Wain is so good as obnoxiously Israeli bro Yaron — and such a natural fit in a franchise that loves Jewish humor — it feels bizarre he didn’t play him until First Day of Camp. It’s great to have Yaron and Lake Bell’s Donna back here, now pushing their relationship self-help tapes, speaking Hebrew to each other, and inadvertently relieving Victor of his virginity when they enlist him to help solve their fertility troubles. Victor’s desperation to have sex — and utter ignorance of what’s involved, even in his mid-20s — is a good enough joke on its own, but when you add in Yaron’s various fertility rituals, like everyone wearing realistic masks of one another’s faces, it goes to another level.
Reagan, Bush, and Clinton explain the plot
Where some shows like The Good Place put tons of forethought into ensuring that huge plot twists play fair and make sense when you go back and look at the earlier episodes, Wet Hot not only didn’t care if Reagan and Bush’s elaborate prank jibed with what we’d seen in the rest of the season, they turned the complete illogic of it into the joke, with all the campers slowly picking holes in the whole idea, until eventually the two presidents (plus future POTUS Bill Clinton) stop trying to explain it all.
Mitch is human again?!?!?!
This isn’t so much a great joke as a fine conversation-starter to conclude the season. Does the glimpse of Mitch on the beach — now eating from a can like the one he used to be — mean that sometime in the following year, he was magically restored to his old self? Are we (as one TCA’er suggested to me) meant to take the entire story — maybe even the entire franchise — as exaggerated versions of what really happened, as part of Coop’s novel? Is this supposed to be a happy ending for all of Wet Hot, or a tease of whatever a third season might be?