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TV Series Review

"For sale: One summer camp with cabins, archery range, tire swings and a picturesque slice of lake. Nice income property for right owner, esp. one who enjoys blasphemous Satanic rituals. Sold as is: Previous owner not responsible for bleeding trees, floating corpses, ghostly activity or the ritualistic slaughter of any/all teen camp counselors."

I'm not sure if that's quite the newspaper ad that Deb Carpenter answered before buy this beloved old haunt—er, summer getaway, Camp Stillwater. (And since the story takes place in 1989, newspapers are still completely viable places to try to sell a camp.) But you'd hope that someone might've mentioned that the camp she hopes to revive for the kiddos comes complete with mysterious specters and a long, dark history dating all the way back to 1871, when several bodies were found bobbing in the lake like so many bloated apples.

Then again, given the way the new owner mysteriously slinks around the place, maybe she already knows.

Breakfast Club by the Lake

Whatever Deb may or may not know about her woodsy camp, the counselors she hires are clueless regarding its dark history—which is a bit odd, since most have a long history with the camp themselves. But perhaps they've been too busy honing their respective stereotypes to pay much attention to local legends.

Alex serves as the counseling department's official jock. Jessie—once known as "Braces"—has blossomed into its designated "hot girl." Blotter's the token stoner. Cricket's the promiscuous one. Blair's the gay one. Joel documents everything on his cutting-edge camcorder. And Drew, a rebel with long hair and a smoking habit, lurks around the edges of the camp because of a deep, dark secret.

But what am I saying? They all have deep, dark secrets. Or, at least, the ones who hope to survive more than a handful of episodes do.

And then there's Amy, the camp's new girl who just screams survivor. (Or so I would assume. She screams so much that the word survivor would have to be in the mix at some point.) She originally planned to serve as a counselor with her BFF from school. But when her friend up and died, she decided to go on alone. Maybe as a tribute. Maybe because all the camp's murders and ghosts would help with the grieving process. But no matter: She's feeling much better now that she's struck up a friendship with hunky sheriff's deputy Garrett "Townie" Sykes, who has reason to be on the property a lot.

Mother, May I Camp With Danger?

One does not visit the Freeform Network—once the ironically named ABC Family—looking for quality family programming. Even so, Dead of Summer is a waste of valuable airtime. Despite the presence of Elizabeth Mitchell (an alum of Lost and Once Upon a Time), this throwaway summer series is simultaneously too light (in terms of plot, character development and credibility) and way, way too dark. It's an homage to 1980s slasher flicks that is as lifeless as the 19th-century corpses we see floating in the lake—and just about as grotesque and tedious to watch.

Content concerns are more numerous than Camp Stillwater's eager young campers. Counselors drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. They gallivant around in their underwear (with the promise of more risqué situations to come). Homosexuality and perhaps transgender issues get thrown into the mix.

Oh, and of course, young people die. Or so we'd assume. We're only one episode in so far, but I can pretty much guarantee that the killer—be he or she living or dead—will be crossing camp counselors off a checklist in quick succession. Given the counselors' collective commitment to stereotype and lack of genuine character, it's almost as if Deb hired them solely as sacrificial lambs. (And perhaps she did.)

And keep in mind the probability that they will likely be sacrificed, not just murdered: Camp Stillwater is apparently the center of heavy-duty Satanic activity, so discomforting occult trappings will surely accompany the gore.

There are some television reviews that I'd end with some variation of this line: "You know, it's a shame. There's a pretty good show in here if it wasn't for the (fill in the blank)." But when it comes to Dead of Summer, there is no better show lurking within. This series is just plain bad all the way through, and in every way imaginable.

Dead of Summer? More like dead on arrival.


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Episode Reviews

Deam of Summer: June 27, 2016 "Patience"



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Elizabeth Mitchell as Deb Carpenter; Elizabeth Lail as Amy Hughes; Amber Coney as Carolina "Cricket" Diaz; Alberto Frezza as Deputy Garrett "Townie" Sykes; Eli Goree as Joel Goodson; Mark Indelicato as Blair Ramos; Ronen Rubinstein as Alex Powell; Paulina Singer as Jessie "Braces" Tyler; Zelda Williams as Drew Reeves






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Paul Asay

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