We can laud Game of Thrones for always staying two steps ahead of its audience. We can champion Twin Peaks‘ inclination to wade eternally against the grade. But if there’s one franchise that truly lays waste to all efforts at predictions and theorization, it’s the Wet Hot American Summer-verse. Truth be told, we have no idea what to expect from the cult classic film’s 16-years-in-the-making sequel series, set to hit Netflix on August 4th. And that’s not because creators David Wain and Michael Showalter have made it their business to keep all cards close to the vest, much in the way Game of Thrones‘ creators strive to, and David Lynch seems preternaturally disposed towards. But because quite literally anything can happen in the world of Wet Hot.
Still, we can’t help but try to extrapolate a bit from the above poster for 10 Years Later, shared first by Vanity Fair(where you can see the fill-sized version). The image sparks intrigue early by introducing a brand new character in the first (bottom) row: Alysa Milano’s Renata, who, as Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson gleaned from a chat with Wain and Showalter, is playing the nanny to the daughter of McKinley (Michael Ian Black) and Ben (we’ll get to that).The rest of the row should be immediately recognizable: Nina Hellman’s Nurse Nancy (who, though a smaller character in Wet Hot and First Day of Camp, was seen smooching Showalter’s Coop in the sequel series’ first trailer, suggesting a bit more in the vein of story), Amy Poehler’s teen theater counselor-turned-adult partier Susie, and Michael Ian Black’s McKinley, whose entire arc may as well be about his trading in of his thigh-high shorts for leg-length pants (but may in fact have more to do with the fact that, per the trailer, his nanny seems to want to murder him). And if you look closely, you’ll also catch sight of Mitch, H. Jon Benjamin’s dead camp director-turned-talking can of vegetables.
Row two also has some new, as well as slightly renovated, faces: To combat the ageless punim of Paul Rudd, 10 Years Later has soaked him to the bone in ’90s grunge; fans who caught the 10 Years Later trailer will recall that Andy’s storyline will involve a series of desperate attempts to save Camp Firewood from some unspecified grave fate, though he may also be contending with a new camp bully (whom we’ll introduce later on).
Next to Andy are newbies Mark Feuerstein and Sarah Burns, whom, as Vanity Fair‘s Robinson learned in her chat with Wain and Showalter, will play a “super couple” who’ve been fixtures of the camp all along. (It seems, in fact, that their familiarity among the cast will play as a joke in contrast to audiences’ having never seen them before.)
Next is Marguerite Moreau’s Katie, a big business hotshot who’ll team up with her old flame Andy to save the camp, followed by Zak Orth’s JJ, who’ll likely be resigned to hilarious side gags and over-expressive reactions to mundane happenings. Beside him is newbie Adam Scott, whom EW has confirmed is actually playing the Ben role twice upheld by the now absent Bradley Cooper (which is hilarious).
Per Vanity Fair, our next player Elizabeth Banks’ Lindsay–who, if you’ll recall from the prequel series First Day of Camp, was actually a 20-something lifestyle journalist who sneaked into Camp Firewood in the name of a story–will be investigating a mystery with the help of the curiously not-pictured Marlo Thomas and Dax Shepard. Finally, Michael Showalter’s franchise unhero Coop.
Third row: Showalter plays double duty as the caricature of President Ronald Reagan we met briefly at the end of First Day of Camp. An even more surprising returning player: Jason Schwartzman, whose counselor character Greg was brutally murdered in the prequel series. (Granted, he may be playing another character entirely… but he also may not. Wet Hot has really no reverence for the laws of reality.) Eric Nenninger and Kristen Wiig, both of whom played pompous rich teens from the neighboring Camp Tigerclaw in First Day of Camp, also return, ditto the prequel series’ lustful coupe of Yaron (David Wain) and Donna (Lake Bell).
We don’t know just yet how any of these characters will come into play in 10 Years Later, we do know a bit about what we’ll see of Ken Marino’s Victor. Though the trailer showed us that Victor’s adopted a newly liberated lifestyle of bar-stripping, his encounter with a camp crush seems to send him right back into his old sex-pertinent anxieties.
And speaking of which: Janeane Garofalo‘s camp director Beth, who admits regrettably to being forced to sell Camp Firewood, alongside her 1981 love interest, Associate Professor Henry Newman, as played (to perfection) by David Hyde Pierce. Note: We haven’t seen any hint of what Pierce will be doing in the new show, as he was omitted from the trailer entirely; though this may mean that he’s only playing a bit part in 10 Years Later, the revelation that he’s included whatsoever is indeed a relief.
The fourth row begins with your pal and mine Jai Courtney (#jaibless) as Garth McArthur, whom Vanity Fair tells us is an indie actor wannabe who, as we know from the trailer, has a love affair of some sort with Poehler’s Susie. Next up is Christopher Meloni’s fan favorite Vietnam War vet and camp chef Gene, who comes out of seclusion to learn that he seems to have a 10-year-old daughter with Molly Shannon‘s perpetually heartbroken art counselor Gail. (Sitting between the two is Mad Men vet Rich Sommer, who played a Camp Tigerclaw rich kid in First Day of Camp.) A.D. Miles, now with scraggly long hair, sits next to Shannon, and rounding out the row is Joe Lo Truglio’s Neil, who works at the bar with his lifelong pal Victor.
Now, though things seem to be going okay for the ostensibly upbeat Neil, the placement of his old girlfriend Shari (Beth Dover, Lo Truglio’s real life wife), whom we met in First Day of Camp, at the top of row five may suggest the two have since split. Next to her: David Wain as a sax-tooting Bill Clinton, Chris Pine as First Day of Camp‘s reclusive rock star Eric, and Josh Charles as the prequel series’ chief antagonist, rich kid Blake.
Marisa Ryan marks the first OG character we see in the top row, and the trailer suggests she’ll be reigniting her old flirtations with Marino’s Victor. Next to her is newbie Skyler Gisondo, whose camp present day counselor character Deeg will supply a bit of trouble for former Big Man on Campus Andy. In the same vein, John Early looks to be playing nemesis to Poehler’s Susie. (Early did appear briefly in First Day of Camp, though it’s not clear if he’s reviving the same character or creating a new one.)
Lastly, we close on Freaks and Geeks vet Samm Levine, who may not have shown his face in the original Wet Hot American Summer, but who did provide his voice for the loudspeaker-happy Artie the Beekeper, and who will play the character in the flesh this time around.
Oh, and then we have Michael Ian Black as George H. W. Bush.
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Then again, everything is subject to change, since Wet Hot American Summer is ready, willing, and able to decontextualize any and all of its elements in the name of a laugh. Let us know what you hope to see in the new series!