The summer before my second senior year of college I talked my way into a job as a counselor/arts-and-crafts teacher at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. Despite having negative experience in those two fields I sought out the job because a few weeks prior I watched a marathon of the Nickelodeon summer camp reality show “Bug Juice.”
At the time a series of bad decisions had brought my self-esteem to an all-time low. I thought a few months of adulation by young people and the possibility of hooking up with the other counselors were just what I needed. Never mind the fact that drinking Franzia white zin and smoking cigarettes (my two favorite leisure time activities) were strictly verboten, I was going on an adventure.
Because of this, I have always had a soft spot for summer camp movies. So you can only imagine how happy I was when I discovered “Beaver Falls” which is actually a show and not a movie and it really doesn’t matter. I didn’t even care that “Beaver Falls” was not a particularly funny show, relying heavily on stereotypes, clunky humor, and the notion that Americans yell all the time and hate people who aren’t winners. Actually, that last part was pretty on the nose, but they could have approached the subject with a little more finesse. None of these things prevented me from ignoring my child for most of a weekend in order to devour two six-hour seasons, the first on Netflix, the second gleaned from totally legal, legit, and copyright-protected sources found on the internet.
“Beaver Falls” debuted in 2011 after what I can only assume was the most bizarre production meeting since that Monica Lewinsky “Bachelorette”-type dating show where all the guys wore masks.
Imagine if you will a group of English TV execs saying, “Let’s make a show about three guys, two English, one Scot, who go to America to be counselors at a California summer camp called Beaver Falls. The cast will be made up of Brits, Americans, and Brits playing Americans. It will be filmed in South Africa.”
Someone said, “By Jove, I think you’ve got it!” and “Beaver Falls” was born.
Flynn, the Glaswegian, (Sam Robertson [If you visit his IMDB listing do not, I repeat do not, look at the photo. The day it was taken Sam got some very bad advice regarding the use of a flat iron.]), is both the leader of the guys and the hottest. You’ll find the two often go hand in hand. Right away he bones the camp director’s wife, as you do, then turns his attention to the underage lady campers. But there’s more to Flynn than just mindless sex and statch rape. He’s running away from something. We know this because he won’t take calls from his mom.
The other guys in the group are Barry (John Dagleish) and A-Rab (Arsher Ali), who is of Pakistani descent and totally OK with being called A-Rab. Barry is your stereotypical stoner guy who falls in love with the unattainable lifeguard, Kimberly (Natasha Loring). He manages to get close to her by a) not being a dick like her Son-of-Zabka boyfriend and b) trading marijuana for swimming lessons. Pay attention guys because these are two super-efficient ways to land a girl.
A-Rab is nursing a broken heart because, back in England, his girlfriend, rather than accepting his proposal of marriage, humiliated him in public. He, like Flynn, is running from pain. Later in the series [SPOILER ALERT!], we learn what Flynn’s pain is. He’s got Lou Gehrig’s disease.
[Record scratch] What? I thought this was a lighthearted summa’-time sex romp?
Yep, during a touching moment, Flynn drops his guard to Rachel (Kristen Gutoskie) one of the lovely lady counselors and tells her he’s dying. Upon first viewing, I assumed that this was a line Flynn fed Rachel in order to garner a pity fuck. But no, in the show Flynn really does have ALS. I applaud the writers for giving the characters depth, but that’s a really bizarre choice. Couldn’t he have a dead dad whom he never got along with, then missed his chance to tell the old man how much he loved him? That would work just as well, right? No, he’s got to be dying.
Unnecessary melodrama aside, I was struck by the fact that when Flynn made this confession he didn’t say he had Lou Gehrig’s disease, he said he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Rachel didn’t immediately recognize the diagnosis so Flynn said, “You know, like Stephen Hawking has.” Oh, well that made perfect sense to her.
I realize that it’s silly of me to assume the rest of the world associates ALS with an American baseball player, but for the “American” girl in the show not to mention it was odd. There is the chance that, while Rachel knew of Stephen Hawking and his disease, she was unaware that ALS is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. However, I find that scenario to be unlikely.
The show is peppered with idiosyncrasies that wouldn’t read to an English audience but were glaring to an American viewer. At one point there’s a camp-wide birthday party where instead of singing “Happy Birthday” everyone sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” That would never happen. Furthermore, they didn’t even finish up by saying “Which nobody can deny.” They used the UK version and said “And so say all of us.” They couldn’t even Americanize the wrong song.
While Flynn, Barry, and A-Rab aren’t getting high, trying to score with hot chicks, and losing control of their fine motor skills, they are counselors to a rag-tag band of misfits. In a banal and borderline offensive move, the guys are put in charge of the Chunk Bunk.
The tyrannical camp director (Todd Boyce, who played Doug’s asshole dad on “Hollyoaks”) grouped all the fat kids into one cabin. Hilarity ensues. There’s Thurston (Alex Wall), who latches on to A-Rab in a prepubescent possibly gay way. He went so far as to kidnap A-Rab’s ex-girlfriend when she showed up because he, like all of us, really wanted A-Rab and Rachel to get together. There’s Jizz (Wesley Lerwill) who masturbates rather than speaking, leading to a lot of gag-inducing incidents. Smallie (Joshua Warner-Campbell) is short, fat, and black. His clothes look like the costume department used a 1991 issue of Vibe for inspiration. Brandon (Jacob Chapman) is kind of a prick because he thinks he should be in the jock cabin instead of in there with those lose-bags. Finally, there is Rick Jr. who is pissy and wears suspenders all the time. His dad is a washed-up pro golfer who frequently humiliates his son. All of this is secondary because Rick Jr. is played by Hotpie from “Game of Thrones.” It turns out his name isn’t really Hotpie but Ben Hawkey. He’ll always be Hotpie though.
Initially, the residents of the Chunk Bunk aren’t particularly thrilled with their counselors. The Brits fail to organize any fun camp-time activities for their charges and, because they’re British, don’t grasp the concept of decorating their bunk for the camp-wide Decorate Your Bunk competition. However, as the summer goes on, the gang bands together to help each other with their personal problems and by summer’s end, they’re a family.
“Beaver Falls” is a show that shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is. The jokes aren’t particularly funny. The American accents on some of the performers are shaky at best. Listening to them slip all over the place made me realize that I was experiencing the same feelings the Brits must have had the first time they heard Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins”.
The reason I watched all twelve episodes within 36 hours was the same reason anybody watches a show: I had to find out what happened next. When will Kimberly realize that her boyfriend is an asshole and give Barry a chance? When will Barry stop being such a limp dick and stand up for himself? Is Rachel really going to let that little bitch Lily (Scarlett Rose Patterson) blackmail her with the knowledge that Rachel boned Flynn the day A-Rab’s ex-girlfriend showed up? Will A-Rab tell Rachel that he boned his ex-girlfriend? Will it be too late? Will Flynn admit that he’s got real, true feelings for Rachel even though his best friend A-Rab is in love with her? Will Flynn tell Barry and A-Rab he’s got Stephen Hawking’s disease? Why does saying the word “cool” in a Glaswegian accent sound so fucking weird?
I’m sure that some of you out there are gagging to know the answers to these questions and more. If you’d care to speculate please contact me at www.BeaverFallsEroticFanFiction/geocities.edu. All theories will be entertained.
Despite its flaws “Beaver Falls” is a sweet show full of attractive people that will make viewers feel nostalgic for things that have and haven’t happened. For me, it was reliving my experience as a camp counselor, at least what I imagined they’d be like. I never made it up to Pennsylvania that summer. I met a guy and realized I was having too much fun hanging out with him and drinking white zinfandel to spend a summer in Pennsylvania dealing with homesick kids and killjoys. I called the camp director and told him I was so sorry but I couldn’t possibly make it that year because I was pregnant.
You can email Erin Lady Byrne (email@example.com) or find her on Twitter @ErinLadyByrne where she’s got swimming lessons she’s looking to trade.