There's a hot new hangout for teens at 'Camp Wilder'

September 18, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Mom and dad are dead; ain't life great?

That's the underlying message of "Camp Wilder," ABC's new sitcom that premieres tonight as part of the network's hit "TGIF" package for kids and teens. And, despite heavy competition from three other new series, "Camp Wilder" looks like it could be a big winner.

This is a show with lots of kids and teens and only two adult characters. And one of the adults acts like a teen, while the other one's only purpose seems to be serving as an object of ridicule.

The "Camp" in the title refers to the Wilder House, presided over by 28-year-old Rickie Wilder (Mary Page Keller), a single mom and registered nurse.

Sharing the house with Rickie are her teen-age brother, her teen sister and Rickie's young daughter.

Rickie's teen siblings live with her because their parents are dead. There's still a grandma, but she lives in her own house and is mainly used as a threat, as in the following exchange.

Rickie to teen brother Brody (Jerry O'Connell): "Brody, if you don't shape up, I'm going to send you to live with Grandma.

Brody: "Grandma? Rick, you can't do that. Grandma doesn't let me play records or have any of my friends over or anything."

Because Rickie is young and hip (she'd never really send Brody to live with grandma) and definitely not like their parents, the Wilder house is the place where other teens in the neighborhood hang out, making it a kind of happening teen center with food in fridge and an undercurrent of girl-on-boys crushes and boy-on-girls-and-women adolescent sexual fantasies.

Sound stupid?

Maybe, if you're into Diane English and Murphy Brown. But I think ditching mom and dad permanently is smart stuff, and that teen, tweenie and kid viewers are going to love this show -- an even better adult-less fantasy than "Full House."

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