07/22/2013 12:20 EDT | Updated 09/21/2013 05:12 EDT

<em>Summer Camp</em> Rocks


Growing up, I never went to a proper sleepaway camp. I don't know if it's because I wasn't interested or my parents didn't want me to, but I never really thought I was missing anything. That is, until I watched the latest reality series, Summer Camp.

What some kids experienced when they went away -- roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, telling scary stories by the campfire stories, spinning a bottle -- is nothing like the TV version. Because that would be boring. Fans wouldn't watch the latest Bachelor or Bachelorette take their dates to dinner and a movie; they want to see over-the-top outings where the women ski in bikinis or the dudes oil up and wrestle the competition. So, naturally, TV camp is different than real-life camp. It's like Survivor and Big Brother rolled into one, minus the racism, homophobia and sexism (so far). And while it might sound a little been-there, done-that, the difference with past attempts and Summer Camp is that here it makes sense.

Summer Camp features eight men taking on eight women in classic camp games, albeit more heightened. The captain of the losing team must choose two campers to banish to the winning team's camp and there, the winners decide which of the two gets to stay (after they get a last-ditch effort to explain why they should stay) and who gets sent home (by school bus, naturally). As the teams are whittled down, later in the summer, those remaining compete in a Campathalon that will determine which campers will split the $250,000 grand prize.

Summer Camp may be a reality competition, but it's also an ideal way for viewers to take a trip down memory lane. (Well, those of you who were fortunate enough to go away to camp.) It might be nostalgic for you as your remember your first time away from home: your first wedgie, your first pen pal, your first s'more (something I still haven't had, to this day), your first crush, your first kiss, your first heartbreak -- all the experiences, good and bad.

Each of the campers/competitors are labelled accordingly ("geek," "bodybuilder," "clown," "mean girl" -- and boy, oh boy, is she ever) and it's a nice, diverse group of 16. As to be expected, cliques are formed quickly, and the alliances are not surprising. As for the challenges, they might seem Survivor-like but that's more because of the outdoorsy feel. Summer Camp's competitions are more like Big Brother, which is no coincidence since the eight-episode series comes from BB producers Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan. And there's another reality show link here; the show is hosted by American Idol alum Matt Rogers.

Summer Camp is fun and fluffy, the perfect summer series. The concept takes the audience back to a time and place they remember fondly (or want to forget immediately); it's just up to viewers if they want to relive their teen years. The show boasts a lot of heart and takes us on a ride many of us can identify with, even if we didn't get to go to camp.

Summer Camp airs on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Slice in Canada, and on USA in the U.S., Thursdays 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT.

The Ultimate Summer TV Guide