Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Pilot Review: Camping

Camping (HBO)
Premiered October 14 at 10pm

I was very curious about this show since it marks the return of two well-known, award-winning actresses to television for the first time since the projects that originally made them famous. Jennifer Garner starred in the action series “Alias” over a decade ago, and Lena Dunham created and starred in the HBO dramedy “Girls” considerably more recently. I don’t think I ever would have pictured them working together, though the stranger thing is that this show is based on an existing British series, which seems like a bit of a surprise for the innovative Dunham who usually works on her own material. The product is definitely peculiar, featuring Garner in a comic role that finds her being incessantly chatty and equally anal, driving everyone around her - and viewers watching - crazy. Garner is committed, to be sure, and she plays the part to the fullest effect. I know that he has an extensive resume in other work, but my only prior experience with David Tennant is from his incredible, deeply disturbing turn as Kilgrave on “Jessica Jones,” and so seeing him in this completely harmless, nearly personality-free part seems like a waste of his talent, though he does just fine. Brett Gelman, from “Married” and “Fleabag,” feels like a perfect fit for this show, as does Juliette Lewis, and I like seeing Chris Sullivan from “This Is Us” in a more overtly comic role. I’m interested enough in seeing what those who greenlit this show did to try a second episode, but at this point I’m just feeling more drained from such a frontal and aggressive presentation than anything else.

How will it work as a series? Is the entire series supposed to take place over the course of just one weekend? It’s reminiscent in many ways of “Togetherness,” but it’s limited in both its setting and its setup. Seeing whether episode two delves more into the characters and offers other avenues for the plot is going to be crucial to whether this show can actually be successful in the long run.
How long will it last? The reviews are far from terrific, which might be a problem given that Dunham’s previous show premiered to much greater acclaim. The British original lasted only six episodes, and this one has already improved upon that with an eight-episode order. I feel like HBO wants to partner again with Dunham and will opt to renew it, but I think two seasons will be its lifespan.

Pilot grade: B-

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