HBO and REI Present: Camping

HBO teamed up with REI to preview their new series Camping in Seattle, Denver, and Washington, D.C. over the course of the last week. Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to attend the D.C. screening.

I’m a long-distance hiker and mountain climber, so REI is quite possibly my favorite store and such a dangerous place for me to spend any amount of time. I was more than happy for an excuse to spend a couple of hours in my happy place. HBO and REI promised a night of camping tips, snacks, and an episode of the show before it airs. Since Camping premiered the first episode on Sunday, those of us in D.C. got to preview the second episode.

Full disclosure: I haven’t watched episode one. I only knew the basics about the premise of the show prior to watching the second episode. I knew it was a remake of a British series about friends going camping for a birthday celebration. I knew that it starred Jennifer Garner and David Tennant. That was it.

I wanted to love Camping. I really, really did. I love David Tennant and everything he does. Camping, unfortunately, was a disaster. I don’t think that not seeing episode one really impacted my experience watching episode two. In fact, I think that if I had already seen episode one, I would have skipped the event altogether.

None of the jokes seemed to land with the audience at REI. Sure there were a few chuckles here and there, but overall, we sat in an awkward silence. The humor felt forced and awkward. In addition, there was no redemption in the characters – they were all massively unlikable, especially Jennifer Garner’s controlling Kathryn and Juliette Lewis’ free-spirited Jandice.

Luckily, the rest of the event was a hit: the “bug juice” and make-your-own-trail-mix bar were perfect pre-show treats, and the wine, beer, and appetizers afterwards helped me to forget the painful show I’d just sat through. The hiking tips were definitely aimed at people who don’t do much camping, but it was still a fun, casual atmosphere.

Overall, Camping is a big miss at HBO – but at least they know how to throw a good party.