Jennifer Garner leads the losers under the stars in HBO’s ‘Camping’
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After watching the first four episodes of the eight-part HBO comedy series “Camping,” I was worn out from spending far too much time with so many irritating, obnoxious, self-absorbed and — worst of all — not particularly funny people.
And we’re only halfway through the journey.
From Michael Scott on “The Office” to Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” to Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to the entire cast of “Seinfeld,” some of the most beloved comedy characters of all time regularly engaged in terrible behavior — but even as we cringed, we laughed with them or at them, or with them AND at them. We liked them.
9 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays on HBO
If you found yourself in the company of any of the main characters on “Camping,” you’d move your tent as far away as humanly possible.
Adapted from a British series by “Girls” creators Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, “Camping” sentences us to a long weekend in the company of Jennifer Garner’s controlling, detail-obsessed, constantly whining hypochondriac Kathryn, who has organized a 45th birthday weekend getaway for her pushover of a husband, Walt (David Tennant).
When Kathryn arrives at the Brown Bear Lake campsite, she tells Harry (Bridget Everett) the proprietor: “I’m Kathryn McSorley-Jodell. My husband Walt Jodell and I are checking in. Party of NINE. Eight adults, one child, four nights at the Groupon rate.”
And she’s holding a thick binder with multi-colored tabs as she says it. Yep, Kathryn has planned out every second of the trip, and there will be NO straying from the itinerary. Fun!
As Kathryn constantly reminds everyone, she’s been through an incredible amount of pain, physical and otherwise, in the last couple of years. Much of it stems from a problem with a “dysfunctional pelvic floor.” As a matter of fact, for that reason (among others), Kathryn hasn’t let Walt near her in two years and is deeply offended when he even broaches the subject of sex.
To make matters worse (for us), despite Kathryn’s selfish, grating personality and her constant judging of everyone else, she is a minor social media personality with more than 10,000 Instagram followers. They must all be masochists.
When someone dares suggest Kathryn should be grateful for the good things in her life, Kathryn snaps: “You have no idea what it’s like to be me! Do you even look at my Instagram? ‘Gratitude’ is my most frequently used hashtag.”
Kathryn puts the hell in “helicopter parent.” When her young son Orvis (Duncan Joiner), who is wearing a helmet even though he’s just WATCHING the grown-ups play flag football, gets knocked over, Kathryn rushes him to the hospital, carrying him into the ER and screaming for help as if the poor lad has been gravely wounded. Even after the doctor’s assurances Orvis is just fine, Kathryn insists on keeping the boy in the hospital for hours so he can undergo a battery of unnecessary tests.
That’s not hilariously overprotective. That’s, perhaps we should talk about whether this woman needs immediate psychological care.
Janicza Bravo plays Kathryn’s longtime friend Nina-Joy, who is nursing a grudge against Kathryn after a betrayal. Brett Gelman is Nina-Joy’s partner George, who is constantly fighting battles for Nina-Joy even though she keeps telling him she can take care of herself.
Arturo Del Puerto’s recently separated Miguel shows up with his new girlfriend, the free-spirited reiki healer Jandice (Juliette Lewis, playing a carefree rebel for the 546th time in her career). Ione Skye is Kathryn’s mild-mannered, rather dim younger sister Carleen, whose husband Joe (Chris Sullivan) has recently completed his third stint of rehab. Along for the trip is Joe’s daughter Sol (Cheyenne Haynes) from a previous marriage. Kathryn is outraged about them bringing Sol, because her Evite specified “NO CHILDREN!” Except her own child, of course. That’s different.
Fine actors, one and all, saddled with playing caricatures who have one or two thinly drawn storylines apiece.
None of the characters in “Camping” seems the least bit suited for camping or all that interested in learning about camping. I guess that’s the point; they’re all out of their element in more ways than one as they bicker and banter and slog through their emotional baggage and long-simmering differences.
We’re all going to need a vacation after this vacation.