If it ain’t broke don’t fix it — but also if it ain’t broke and Netflix offers you millions of dollars to make another one, accept that money and do the best you can.
I like to think that this was David Wain’s philosophy when he decided to make both a prequel series and then a sequel series to the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer.” The director had long since moved on and up from the film that started it all when he was approached by Netflix with an opportunity that must’ve been hard to pass up: millions of dollars to return to your comedy roots with your best friends. The stakes were both higher and lower for the prequel/sequel series because, although the world was now watching and waiting to see if David Wain could twice more create Jewish summer camp magic, the money was already in Wain’s pocket.
As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about. The years and the fame have not changed Wain — or, at least, not in ways it matters to his fans. Wain may be working with a bigger budget but the money doesn’t make a difference. His goofy, irreverent, at times nonsensical sense of humor is what made “Wet Hot” the favorite movie of quirky teens everywhere and it’s also exactly what makes “Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later” imminently binge-able.
The eight part series is set at Camp Firewood as the junior counselor class of 1981 joins together for its 10 year reunion. All of our favorite characters take a break from their now real lives to revisit the spirit of Camp Firewood — and, as they find out, to save it. The sequel series packs it all into eight episodes, including a homicidal nanny, the conclusion to Coop and Katie’s non-romance, and (spoiler alert! spoiler alert!) Mark’s long-awaited sexual awakening.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about “10 Years Later” is how gracefully its sense of humor has aged. Comedy has changed dramatically in the years since our new millennium began. Shows like “Sex and the City” and “King of Queens” tend to elicit cringes nowadays with their outdated, politically incorrect humor that so consistently relies on poking fun at the “other.” Today, shows like Issa Rae’s “Insecure” and Julie Klausner’s “Difficult People” have found great success in doing exactly the opposite — getting their laughs by pointing out just how ridiculous the establishment is.
“Wet Hot” also ravages the norms of society, if in a less obvious, less highfalutin way. Both the classic film and the series that followed it up make a satire of civil living. David Wain created a world devoid of both time and physics but full of warmth and love. And “10 Years Later” makes it clear that this world appeals just as much today, if not more, as it did 17 years ago.
Becky Scott is the editor of The Schmooze. Follow her on Twitter, @arr_scott