Wednesday, December 29, 2010
CAMP RUNAMUCK - Homer & Jethro
It's December 29th…here's a post on "Camp Runamuck," and you're wondering: "Why would anyone care about a summer camp…in winter?" Well, so were the execs at NBC, who by this time were solemnly checking the ratings for their sitcom about a boy's camp (and the efforts of its counselors to connect with the all-girls "Camp Divine" across the lake). But by winter of 1965, it was obvious that this show about campers was not warming up viewers, who instead were watching "The Flintstones" on ABC or Robert Conrad's spy-Western "Wild Wild West" on CBS.
However, in sympathy with the ill spirit of conjuring up a summer camp in winter, the Illfolks blog presents you with not only the original Frank DeVol instrumental, but the ambitious lyrical version from Homer & Jethro, who musta thunk that the show would be a hit and propel their "Old Crusty Minstrels" album to the top of the charts. They probably would've done better to cover Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah," which was probably the inspiration behind the development of "Camp Runamuck." Sherman's novelty song was a hit in the summer of 1963, won a Grammy in 1964, was exploited via a fresh "1964 version" single the following summer and then its own board game in 1965 along with a children's book.
"Camp Runamuck" was simply not cut out to last more than a season (it's 26th and final episode aired April 15th, 1966). The show had a "zany" cast, but they were all minor sitcom actors who could be very funny in a supporting guest role, but didn't have the major skills to carry a series. Head counsellor Dave Ketchum was much more memorable as hapless Agent 13 on "Get Smart," mildly confused Dave Madden wasn't even much on "Laugh-In," and there was little for other sour or bumptious actors (Leonard Stone as the camp doctor, Hermoine Baddeley as the owner of the girls' camp) to do for big laughs. The lead was Arch Johnson, owner of "Camp Runamuck" but not the most hilarious of "blustery" and exasperated sitcom heavies. Probably the most notable cast member was Nina Wayne (brunette sister to infamous dizzy blonde Carol Wayne).
Some Brits might remember this series. The BBC actually imported "Camp Runamuck" as a Saturday morning kiddie show back in the 70's. One good thing about the piracy that has caused much fewer movie releases, and more mindless TV reality shows, is that budget-conscious cable stations and streaming video sites are starting to pick over the funny-bones still lying in the vaults. When very few new sitcoms last six episodes and are a total loss, a full 26 episodes of an old oddity sounds pretty good!
There were many one-season wonders back then, sitcoms that had a weak premise but professional writing and acting. Consider "It's About Time," about astronauts going back in time to encounter cave dwellers Imogene Coca and Joe E. Ross or "The Smothers Brothers Show" (Tommy, lost at sea, returns as an angel seen only by brother Dick). I don't think the alternatives are Jonathan Ross, Judge Judy or "the Kardashians visit the Jersey Shore." PS, if you were wondering if you'd ever get to see the legendary "worst sitcom of all time," you can. The Jerry Van Dyke-Ann Sothern novelty "My Mother the Car" is now streaming your way via Hulu.com.
CAMP RUNAMUCK - instrumental TV THEME SONG
CAMP RUNAMUCK - sung by Homer and Jethro