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Series / Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

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Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, is, as the title implies, a Prequel to Wet Hot American Summer, a 2001 cult comedy documenting the last day in session of Camp Firewood. The vast majority of the film's cast—many of whom have had their careers take off since the original—return to play themselves fourteen years later and two months younger.

The series premiered on Netflix on July 31st, 2015. A Sequel Series called Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later premiered on August 4th, 2017.


Caution: Massive spoilers below. Even for a show that relies heavily on the Rule of Funny as this one does, it's Troperiffic to the point where the names of the tropes themselves can be spoilers. You Have Been Warned.

This series contains examples of:

  • 555: Even this subtlety is dispensed with, as the real estate agent's number given to Newman is written as "(PHONE)NUMBER."
  • And Starring: This trailer takes it to extremes, using "and", "also with", "also", "also also", "plus", "featuring", "don't forget", "guest starring", and the Hebrew word for "featuring". To top it all off, Jon Hamm gets an "And Introducing" credit.
  • Angry Chef: Played with. At the beginning of the series, the camp cook, Jonas Jurgenson, is incredibly kind and mild-mannered, and is played by the same actor who played the angry chef in the original film. Turns out that Jonas just is an assumed identity of Gene Jenkinson, and once he is reminded of his past identity as Gene the Vietnam vet, he transforms back into the angry chef we remember from the original movie.
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  • Artistic License – Law: Parodied with Beth and Greg's lawsuit against the government. Sayings are thrown around without meaning, lawyers can leave the courtroom in the middle of a trial, and the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs based off a floppy disk that isn't even put in a computer.
  • Ascended Extra: Across the board, as the multiple episodes give the large Ensemble Cast more room for development.
    • Lindsay really only exists in the film as a lust object and as someone for Andy to cheat with to prove he's a scumbag. Here, however, she's given an extensive backstory as an undercover magazine reporter and an arc about her investigating a camp legend.
    • Similarly, Abby in the film is a lust object for Victor and has a brief running gag about her promiscuity, and that's it. Here, she's revealed to be a camper who literally becomes a woman when she gets her period.
    • The champion of the trope is undoubtedly the can of mixed vegetables. In the film it had about two lines and came out of nowhere, but now it has an entire backstory and origin.
  • Baleful Polymorph: After Mitch falls into the toxic waste, his spirit is transferred into the can of vegetables he was carrying.
  • Beard of Sorrow:
    • Eric.
    • Gene. It's the biggest piece of character growth in the series.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Andy and Katie during the staff party.
  • Big Damn Movie: An inverted version of the trope, as this is a TV series that is prequel to a movie, but the TV series is much more epic, with a government conspiracy subplot and the rivalry with Camp Tigerclaw being more prominent.
  • Black Comedy Burst: While the series is already something of a Black Comedy, Ben dropping a casual joke about his dysfunctional family and his father's suicide is by far the darkest humor in the show.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Greg and Jim Stansel courtesy of the Falcon. Greg somehow manages to get out some dying words with a hole in his forehead. Until 1991, when it's revealed those weren't dying words. Also, Greg is now a cyborg.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • When Lindsay is listing the people she met in her article, she straight-up calls Jackie Brazen "Weird Al" Yankovic.
    • "What a strange way to wrap a gift." "Yeah, it's easier for multiple takes."
  • Brick Joke: Possibly the longest on record. In the film, right after being chewed out by Gene, Gary seems to randomly pick up a can of vegetables and say to it "Maybe you should talk to him." Later, the can actually does talk to Gene. We're meant to believe that Gene is just crazy, and that Gary might be a little odd as well. However, this series reveals that the can is actually Mitch, his soul fused with the can thanks to toxic waste. Gary isn't crazy. He just thinks Gene could use a heart-to-heart with Mitch. It took over 15 years for the joke to be completed.
  • Call-Forward: Numerous calls are made towards the original movie.
    • The opening of the first episode is similar to the opening of the movie—counselors dancing at a campfire the night before, to the same music.
    • Mitch asks Gene "Are you a part of the problem, or are you the solution?" In the film Beth says the same thing to Victor.
    • Michael Showalter again plays two characters. This time, it's Coop and President Reagan.
    • Victor is once again being chased and is stopped in his tracks by a very simple obstacle.
    • The can of mixed vegetables mentions it can suck its own dick. It says the same to Gene in the film to encourage him to be honest about his fetishes.
    • In the film, Beth tells Henry, "I have to go meet Jim... Jim Stansel. You know Jim - He's that guy." In the series, guess what the name of the lawyer is!
      • Made slightly grisly by the fact that Jim Stansel gets shot.
  • The Cameo: The Indoor Kids from the movie briefly appear as punks in a convenience store. Their outfits contain nods to their original roles; for example, Mork Guy has his rainbow suspenders and Cure Girl has a Cure shirt.
  • Coming-Out Story: Ben's storyline is this, with McKinley as his Closet Key.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • During his fight with the Falcon Gene ends up against the fridge, which he starts humping.
    • Gail starts the series engaged to a man named Jonas, marries Jeff on a whim somewhere in the middle, and by the end she is engaged to Ron.
  • Country Matters: Courtney attempts to insult Katie by calling her a "country girl" but she ends up stumbling over the subtlety.
  • Dawson Casting: Some of the most blatant in history, as the movie was already guilty of this, then the series occurred 15 years later. The worst offender, though, is Abby, who is first shown as a tween who believes Boys Have Cooties before getting her first period... then emerging from the bathroom stall as 41-year-old Marisa Ryan.
  • Demoted to Extra: Associate-Prof. Henry Newman gets his origin story told in a cold open, then disappears completely until a cameo at the end of the series. Justified, since the film was established as his first interaction with the camp.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: During the Final Battle with Tigerclaw, Coop mentions a peace treaty signed three years ago. (For reference, the show takes place in 1981.)
  • Doomed by Canon:
    • Not necessarily fatally, but it's a Foregone Conclusion that all the new characters at camp must exit somehow by the end of the series, to justify their absence from the original film. Mind you, for a few characters, the verdict is death—or, at least, the death of their human body...
    • Averted, though, for the campers. Other than Arty "the Beekeeper" Solomon, the Indoor Kids, and Gail's "therapist" Aaron, the kids in the original film were a mostly undifferentiated mass. That gives First Day of Camp the freedom to focus on several new campers without inconsistency, since it can be assumed they're just background kids in the film. So there's no pressure to find a reason to remove them, and Doomed by Canon doesn't apply.
    • Quite possibly the weirdest example is the phone in the mess hall kitchen—by the time of the original film, the only phones on campus are in Beth's office and the infirmary. It gets knocked off the wall during the fight between Gene and the Falcon.
  • Double Entendre: Courtney loves using them, with increasingly less subtlety.
  • Ensemble Cast: Quite a large one, with even more running storylines than the movie.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Jonas Jurgensen instantly grows a beard and a moustache when he resumes his original identity as Gene Jenkinson.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: As implied by the title, and in the spirit of the original film.
  • Fake Shemp: Ben goes to the personnel party as "DJ Ski Mask", so that character could appear on scenes filmed when Bradley Cooper was not available.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Done repeatedly with toxic waste. Greg even gets out a spoon.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Naturally, since it's a prequel. Particularly, Beth survives the government's assassin and the toxic waste is removed, making Camp Firewood safe. Andy and Katie end up together, and so do Mckinley and Ben. Victor remains a virgin, and Gail doesn't marry Jonas/Gene.
  • Good All Along: The Falcon claims that he was supporting Gene and Camp Firewood all along. But as Beth lampshades, he killed two people in front of her and tried to kill her and Gene. The Falcon eventually just runs away.
  • Government Conspiracy: The government is involved in the toxic waste dumps near Firewood. After Beth and Greg win their case, Reagan instead orders the camp to be destroyed. Eventually the toxic waste is cleaned up and the camp remains open.
  • Hammerspace: Jonas manages to pull an entire outfit out of a small box when he turns into Gene.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Played with when Victor is very poorly hiding from Gene under some pots and pans in the kitchen; the two of them literally could not see each other.
    • More specifically, Victor is literally just standing still, wearing a pot on his head and holding a wooden spoon.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: President Reagan is portrayed as hotblooded President Evil in private, while in public he retains his public persona.
  • Hollywood Hacking: When Beth and Greg order Steve to hack into the government's mainframe, the complicated code is typed in about a second after Steve presses random buttons. The information presented is just a random list of numbers, which the trio, Jim Stansel and the judge treat as irrefutable evidence.
  • I Choose to Stay: Lindsay.
  • Implacable Man: The Falcon.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • When Donna gives Coop a gift, he remarks on the packaging, and Donna notes that it makes multiple takes easier.
    • "You can rejuvenate this place with a new energy. So much so that by the end of August, everyone will feel like they're fifteen years younger."
  • Leitmotif: "Higher & Higher" returns in a slowed-down, orchestral form in Episode 5. It's later revealed to be Eric's Magnum Opus which unites Firewood and Tigerclaw.
  • Liar Revealed: It's revealed that Lindsay is a journalist. Everyone disowns her, then welcome her back once she chooses to stay.
  • The Mole:
    • Lindsay. A 24 year old magazine writer infiltrates the camp.
    • The Falcon, given he was in the same platoon as Gene, deliberately hands the wrong can of vegetables to the government.
  • No Name Given: The Falcon.
  • Obvious Stunt Double:
    • "Andy" riding his motorcycle into camp during his arrival, then jumping off and letting it crash.
    • Claude wears a pair of masks in his first scene, making it clear 52 year old John Slattery isn't doing that pratfall.
    • During the fight between Gene and the Falcon.
    • In the fight with Tiger Claw, Andy's double backflips out of frame, followed by Paul Rudd walking back in.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Eric, despite being shot, falling from a rooftop and run over by a truck. And as of the sequel series, Greg. Somehow.
  • Overly Long Gag: At least half the jokes. Hey, you try writing four hours of decent comedy!
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • A hair clip is all it takes for a 24 year old woman (played by a 41 year old actress) to be completely believable as a 16 year old. She also doesn't bother to come up with any kind of backstory for her teenage persona and occasionally makes outdated references to her own youth.
    • When Beth and Greg sue the government, Jim Stansel suggests that they change their appearance. The next shot is a bathroom where shaving sounds are heard, and clumps of hair are seen in and around the sink...only to reveal Beth and Greg unchanged in appearance.
    • Victor is hidden from Gene with a pot over his head and some kitchen spoons in his hands.
    • After Eric fakes his death, all it takes is him shaving his Beard of Sorrow down to a Porn Stache in order to stay hidden.
  • Prequel: As mentioned.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: With many of the actors having become much bigger names since the original film, the show makes for a fun game of "Guess who had the most free time to work on this thing." Most severely, all of Bradley Cooper's scenes had to be filmed in a single day, resulting in his not getting much screen time with Amy Poehler despite their characters' romance (plus his time wearing a ski mask so another actor can take over).
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Jefferson Starship's "Jane", the opening song of the film, here becomes the show's theme.
  • Reclusive Artist: In-universe with Eric, who was part of a band based in Firewood, then suffered a Brian Wilson-esque Creator Breakdown. Lindsay helps him out of his hermit status.
  • Retraux: This teaser, made to look like a period-authentic advertisement for the camp, complete with scanning issues and static befitting a thirty-five-year-old videocassette recording.
  • Rich Language, Poor Language: The preppy snobs at Camp Tigerclaw speak with an exaggerated posh Connecticut accent that sounds almost English, while the heroic Jewish slobs at Camp Firewood have standard American accents.
  • Running Gag: The stock pottery smash sound effect comes back, and it's just as out-of-place as ever.
  • Schizo Tech: The Government Conspiracy is so powerful that they have modern cell phones. One of them thinks Greg overheard his giving the order to destroy the camp, when he just wanted to ask about "that metal thing in your hand."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Claude tries to copy Gene Wilder's entrance from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but can't stick the landing.
    • "Weird Al" Yankovic's character hypnotizes someone into believing they are a "constipated weiner dog," a nod to his song "Albuquerque."
    • The Final Battle between Firewood and Tigerclaw recalls The Outsiders.
    • At one point during the staff party, you can hear Victor yelling "I WANNA DIP MY BALLS IN IT!", calling back to Ken Marino's previous role on The State.
    • Lindsay's plotline is a spoof of Never Been Kissed.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Jeff interrupts Gail's wedding to Jonas, declaring his love for her. The two then decide to have a Second Meeting Marriage since they're already holding a ceremony. All three parties and the wedding guests seem perfectly okay with it.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The sound of a pot breaking whenever someone throws something off the screen, a tradition carried over from the film.
  • Theme Music Withholding: "Higher & Higher", the film's iconic Training Montage theme, is subtly teased throughout the series, with a minor-key instrumental version getting some use in background tracks, and an occasional few notes from a soundboard hinting that Eric might be its creator. It finally shows up in its full glory in episode eight, where Eric uses an extended version to end the battle between Camp Firewood and Camp Tiger Claw and get them to mosh together instead.
  • Trojan Gauntlet: Played with with a Bait-and-Switch. Victor has to get protection before having sex, and the clerk calls for a price check. Turns out it was for the mundane items he tried to buy alongside...which is portrayed as somehow being even more embarrassing, to the point that he's yelling at the clerk to just let him buy the condoms and lube.
  • The Quincy Punk: there is a whole gang of them trying to cause trouble in the store (see The Cameo); ironically, most of the damage to the store is actually caused by The Falcon.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ben doesn't know that he's "creative."
  • Would Hit a Girl: The Falcon puts a gang of punks in the ground and does not care at all that they have a female member.
    Cure Punk: [muttering sorely] My uterus.