Review: Bunk’d ‘Welcome to Camp Kikiwaka’

The Ross siblings arrive at Camp Kikiwaka and discover the camp director, Gladys, has hates their mom, who snagged the guy Gladys liked and the title best counselor when she was at camp in the pilot episode of Disney Channel show BUNK’D. “(I hate Christina Ross) With every bone in my body, including my artificial hip,” Gladys tells the Ross kids during registration.

A spin-off of the Disney Channel show Jessie, BUNK’D features the three of the four Ross kids from the series that ran for four seasons.

Emma (Peyton List) is a counselor in training who has no camp experience and doesn’t like kids – “they’re sticky” – but has high expectations to live up to her mom, who could assemble a s’more in two seconds flat and make a dreamcatcher that actually caught dreams. “I should be in Milan for Fashion Week, but instead I’m stuck here picking bugs out of my teeth,” she says to her supervising counselor in the Wood Chuck cabin Lou (Miranda May), a 4-H cover girl who refers to bugs as nature’s popcorn.

Ravi (Karan Brar) is a CIT in the Grizzly cabin with Xander, the guitar-playing dreamboat counselor Emma and Gladys’ niece Hazel waste little time fighting over. He brings a big pet lizard with him and is anxious to learn the rules that the laid back Xander all but ignores. The youngest Ross, Zuri (Skai Jackson), is a camper in Emma’s Wood Chuck cabin with Tiger Mom daughter Tiffany (Nina Lu).

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After adjusting to strange camp customs – Ravi is convinced when they start doing the Kikiwaka chant that they’re in a cult – and cut throat color war competition, the Ross kids end up in the woods with a Kikiwaka (the giant ravenous demon beast who roams the woods) on the loose thanks to Hazel, who sends Emma a fake note from Xander asking her to meet him in the woods. Stranded in a tree, the gang works together to try to scare off the monster.

Keeping true to the Disney Channel form, Xander ends the episode leading the camp in a Camp Kikiwaka song around the campfire and new friendships that are solidified between Zuri and Tiffany and Ravi and his smelly camper Jorge (Nathan Arenas).

The pilot is more or less what you might expect from a Disney Channel sitcom set at a sound stage summer camp and while it’s hard to compare it to the summer camp show of my youth – Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts – the series at least promises to be a family-friendly depiction of summer camp that focuses more on the goofy hijinks of the campers than the staff. And that’s never a bad thing.

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Stray observations:

-Poor Timmy. His parents’ check bounced so he has to sleep by gate until his parents can pick him up in the morning.

-While Emma has a lot to live up to as the daughter of a super counselor, the bar is pretty low for CITs. Lou’s last CIT took her campers to pet the hibernating bears. “Bears don’t hibernate in the summer?” Emma says. “Exactly,” Lou tells her. “It was a lot of paperwork.

-Tiffany’s stereotyped Asian character runs thin, but the fort she somehow manages to build out of all her books on her first day is pretty cool.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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