NBC’s ‘Camp’ dramedy aims for summer fun in the Midwest

Summer is the main inspiration for NBC’s “Camp,” a dramatic comedy created by Liz Heldens (“Friday Night Lights”) and Peter Elkoff (“Gossip Girl”).

The hour-long show, which premieres July 10, is set in the American Midwest but was filmed inland from Australia’s famed Gold Coast. The 10 episodes unfold from July to September at fictional Little Otter Family Camp.

“The thing we got to, and that took my breath away, is summer and what that means — particularly when you’re a teenager — and how your life can change over the course of one summer,” Heldens says. “It’s a chance to tell some goofy stories and hit nice moments of poignancy.”


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“Most of the significant events in people’s lives happen over the summer,” Elkoff adds. “You can be someone else for this very brief, wonderful period.”

“Camp” stars award-winning Australian actress Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under,” “Muriel’s Wedding”), who describes the dramedy as “smart and good-hearted.” She portrays Mackenzie Greenfield, owner and director of her family’s bustling yet cash-strapped lakeside getaway.

Mackenzie faces “the biggest crossroads of her life,” Griffiths explains, when she struggles to cope with a messy divorce, a brash son on the verge of manhood, the complexities of new romantic possibilities and the headaches of keeping her beloved business afloat.

Despite the challenges, Mackenzie remains “super positive and slightly naïve,” Griffiths says.

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“This girl doesn’t let life knock her down. She’s a bouncer back,” according to Griffiths. “The world is kind of opening up now, and she has to redefine who she is. There’s some fun stuff to explore there.”

The men in Mackenzie’s life include Cole (Nikolai Nikolaeff, “Sea Patrol”), a young handyman who might have romantic designs on his much older boss; and Roger Shepard (Rodger Corser, “Underbelly”), the sexy but arrogant owner of a nearby upscale camp.

Counselors-in-training at Little Otter include Mackenzie’s teenage son Buzz (Charles Grounds), who fancies himself a ladies’ man destined to lose his virginity before autumn; Kip Wampler (Thom Green, “Dance Academy”), a quiet adolescent with a secret; and pretty Marina Barker (Lily Sullivan, “Mental”), a misunderstood girl seeking a fresh start in life.

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The camp head counselors are Robbie Matthews (Tim Pocock, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) and Sara Brennen (Dena Kaplan, “Dance Academy”), who fell in love during a previous summer at Little Otter. But their relationship is tested when Sara is attracted to an older writer who takes up residence across the lake and when cute young camper Grace (Charlotte Nicdao) develops a crush on Robbie.

After shooting most of her projects inside studios over the past decade, Griffiths said she enjoys working outside “where we’re breathing real oxygen and looking at a real lake and dealing with the physical environment and organizing 100 extras.”

“It’s super refreshing and fun,” Griffiths says. “And the kids are just unbelievable. I feel the show is going to be a nursery for another generation of stars.”

FULL COVERAGE: Summer TV preview

Launching over the summer — a traditionally slow time for television — could be seen as problematic for many new programs. But in the case of “Camp,” with its tales of summer romance and lakeside antics, a July premiere seems appropriate.

“TV is changing so quickly,” co-show runner Heldens says. “This is the perfect time to launch a show about summer.”