By Alan Pergament
Why would a so-called family-friendly series like NBC's "Camp" be carried at 10 tonight instead of earlier in the evening?
Perhaps one reason besides giving it an opportunity to air after the highly-rated "America's Got Talent" is because it isn't really all that family-friendly.
The PG-13 pilot that airs tonight on Channel 2 is loaded with sexual situations and coarse language that starts within the first few minutes and is as contagious as poison ivy throughout the hour.
I'm no prude and over the years I've learned that pilots are selling vehicles that intentionally push boundaries, just like teenagers at summer camp.
By hour's end after multiple story lines are revealed, “Camp” at least seems to have its heart in the right place.
However, by that time, a viewer might begin to feel a little sorry for actress Rachel Griffiths, who is used to better material after having starred in "Six Feet Under" and "Brothers & Sisters."
This time, she plays a summer camp owner, MacKenzie, whose husband has left her for a woman 20 years younger than he is and whose camp needs about 20 years of repairs.
The camp has several young, attractive counselors who also are damaged, including a female who may have lost her love of swimming and a male battling a potentially deadly disease.
I have no idea what audience NBC expects to grab with this routine, by-the-book series – today’s youth or yesterday's nostalgic adult?
After reading Sunday's TV Topics, I do have a couple of ideas why Griffiths agreed to slum with this camp. It is being shot in her native Australia, which probably was a bonus equal to her weekly check.
NBC sent along two more episodes after the pilot. I'd bet they probably tone down the language and the sexual situations, but you'd have to pay me Griffiths' salary to watch another episode even it was judged by summer's low standards. Rating: 2 stars out of 4
"Camp" is going head-to-head at 10 tonight with a new FX dramatic series "The Bridge." FX has a good dramatic track record with "Rescue Me," "Justified" and "The Americans" among its triumphs.
So I really wanted to like its latest series, which revolves around the investigation of a serial killer roaming the Texas-Mexican border who is trying to send some kind of message about immigration and the lesser value that the law and the media place on the lives of people of color.
"The Bridge" does have a lot going for it. The opening musical theme, the cinematography and the use of subtitles make the series look and seem different.
However, the robotic nature of the female lead investigator, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger of "Inglourious Basterds"), is a gimmicky distraction. According to the materials supplied by FX, Sonya has Asperger's, which may explain why she has no empathy, plays by the rules when they demand to be broken with common sense, and treats sex coldly.
The first three episodes made available for review don't reveal she has Asperger's. Let's hope it is addressed in the fourth episode. "The Bridge" isn't the first series to deal with Asperger's. A young character and his parents in NBC’s excellent “Parenthood” have been showing viewers some of the issues that result for years.
Sonya’s crime-solving partner on loan from the Mexican police, Marco Ruiz, has enough humanity for both of them. He is played by Demian Bichir, who steals every scene he is in by exhibiting a low-key decency while being surrounded by ugliness and indecency.
The cast also includes Ted Levine ("Monk") as Sonya’s understanding boss, Annabeth Gish as a rich widow who learns her powerful husband isn’t what he seemed to be, and Matthew Lillard as a frightened, washed-out investigative reporter in El Paso.
“The Bridge” isn’t without its flaws, but it has style and an intriguing plot that makes it a far better bet than going back to a sophomoric "Camp" tonight. Rating: 3 stars
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