I'm finally caught up on the first seven episodes, and I really like this show. Although I do love some of the shows that MSCL alumni have created/been involved with (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, Wonderfalls, Roswell, Relativity), this is the one that feels the most like MSCL.
The others had well written realistic characters, some of whom I loved, but this is the show that somehow recreates so much of the feeling of MSCL - what it's like to be a teenager, to feel alienated, to have unexpected moments of joy, to wonder why you don't fit in, to struggle with finding your place with your peers.
Even though I've never been to fat camp, I was able to relate to almost every character and their situation at camp (being in a new social setting, finding your footing among strangers, plus the age old "ooh, boys!" feeling). There are moments that really echo the magic of MSCL and make me so nostalgic for Angela and co.
Some of the MSCL influences are minor, like Will's colorful streaks. Other times they're much larger. The episode "Spirit Quest" reminded me a lot of the Halloween episode of MSCL. There's a storyline about how Becca and Chloe were friends at camp the summer before that had definite shades of Angela/Sharon.
Despite all the issues I mentioned, it's not all angst all the time. There are plenty of light comic moments. The campers are obsessed with a reality dating show called Love Handles ("I only have nine onion rings in this basket to give away."). The Huge satire of Twilight is a teen novel called Phantasma but instead of a vampire, the RPattz character is a ghost. Every reference to Phantasmia is hilarious. Some awesome snippets:
This girl comes to this new town, right, and she keeps seeing this guy everywhere, like, he keeps appearing and then reappearing and appearing and then reappearing, ‘cause he basically is everywhere, ‘cause he’s like a ghost. It’s romantic.
Say it, just say it.
Are you still afraid?
Yes, I’m afraid…of how badly I want you.
I would do anything for you Callie. I even swore to protect you from the Ghost Tribunal. But now I realize that the best way to protect you…is to stay away from you.
You can’t mean that. If you loved me, then you’ll stay with me. No matter what.
I waited 300 years to find true love. Before you came, I had no hope that I would ever feel anything again. You changed me, Callie. And I need you to know that. Before I go.
Let me die and we can be together.
Paul Dooley is also awesome, from ripping out pages while reading a book to comments like "That Lady Gaga sure works hard at whatever it is she does."
The actors playing the kids are pretty uniformly excellent. Each kid as a distinct personality, which I can imagine wasn't the easiest thing to do with so many secondary and tertiary characters.
And I love that Mark Piznarski (who directed Why Jordan Can't Read, Halloween, Pressure, and Betrayal) has now had two tv characters named after him: Piz on Veronica Mars and Dante Piznarski on Huge!