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TV Series Review

Bunk'd, a spinoff of Disney's successful (and marginally better) sitcom Jessie, plucks three of the four Ross siblings—pretty and popular Emma; geeky, giant lizard-owning Ravi; and the precociously cute Zuri—and plops them down at Camp Kikiwaka, a very camp-like camp set in the wilds of Maine.

It was a natural destination, really, given that their parents met and fell in love there as counselors. Indeed, the camp still reverberates with their magical time, and counselors still speak in hushed tones about the future Mrs. Ross' fabled skills: "Her dream catchers actually caught dreams," gushes current counselor Lou. So it's clear that Emma, Ravi and Zuri—the latter two officially "counselors-in-training"—must quickly learn to embrace their family's proud Kikiwaka heritage.

But, alas, Kikiwaka isn't all just hot dogs and s'mores. Gladys, the camp's adult Grand Poobah, has never gotten over her own crush on Mr. Ross and therefore harbors a deep grudge against the kids' mother. And because camp is weird that way, the cycle seems to be repeating itself: Head counselor Hazel—Gladys' daughter—has a thing for hunky, guitar-playing counselor Xander, but he's far more interested in Emma. Nuts, says Hazel, and makes it her mission to weasel in between the two aspiring lovebirds.

All of that—and the presence of the mysterious Kikiwaka monster—is just the minimalist backdrop for yet another joke-rinse-and-repeat Disney sitcom.

Time to Unpack

Disney, as much as fans may appreciate Frozen or a ride on the Matterhorn, hasn't made a truly funny sitcom for years now. But Disney has excelled in concocting (largely) inoffensive, (mostly) clean comedies that the whole family can (kinda) enjoy. Most come stocked with at least one strong adult role model, a smattering of well-meaning kids and maybe a moral or two.

And on Bunk'd? Well, Gladys, the show's silly stand-in for an adult, is an embittered crab of a woman, and her mean-girl daughter's well on her way to being just like her. The show sporadically lauds rule-breaking and authority-flaunting. There's a gross reliance on potty humor for a wan attempt at laughs, and the morals we see are the sorts that we might expect from National Lampoon: lighten up, have a little fun, don't let that evil counselor get you down. It almost feels like the Mouse House's sitcom pitch meeting was mysteriously overrun by Garbage Pail Kids.

Are We There Yet?

Am I being too hard on the show? Maybe. So in fairness, let me say that it's not like Disney turned around and created a camp-y version of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

That's the best I can do.

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Episode Reviews

June 19, 2018: "Let's Bounce!"
Bunk'd - July 31, 2015: "Welcome to Camp Kikiwaka"



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Peyton List as Emma Ross; Karan Brar as Ravi Ross; Skai Jackson as Zuri Ross; Kevin G. Quinn as Xander; Nina Lu as Tiffany; Miranda May as Lou; Nathan Arenas as Jorge; Tessa Netting as Hazel; Mary Scheer as Gladys; Mallory James Mahoney as Destiny Baker; Raphael Alejandro as Matteo Silva; Will Buie Jr. as Finn Sawyer






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