During a recent interview for writer/director David Wain’s new movie A Futile and Stupid Gesture, our own Steve Weintraub got to ask a question that has been on his mind since Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp aired on Netflix. With the original movie, the prequel, and the sequel Ten Years Later … what’s the correct viewing order? Wain explained his take:
“I would have answered this differently when we first made First Day of Camp, but I would suggest you watch it in production order, which is to watch the original movie, and then watch First Day of Camp and then watch Ten Years Later. Because it was made in that order, it was conceived in that order, and it makes the most sense even though it’s not the chronological story order. I would say the same about The Godfather; some people say no, watch it in chronological order, [but like The Godfather], the prequel of Wet Hot was designed to be be seen after you’ve seen the movie.”
So there you have it! The Godfather is an interesting example, because my first thought was actually Star Wars. There are a couple of different ways you could go about it, but when it comes to the movies, starting with Phantom Menace and the prequels takes away a lot of the emotional punch of the original trilogy. As for Wet Hot, the biggest joke is that in First Day of Camp, the already adult cast is older than in the events of the movie. That doesn’t make sense if you watch in chronological order.
Wain’s thoughts on the viewing order for Wet Hot are not surprising, though. The order in which the works — novels, books, movies — are conceived is indeed usually the best, because often the prequels will fill in gaps in the mythology explored in later works. That mythology doesn’t carry as much weight if you’re just taking it at face value, without the bonus of knowing how it plays into the later story (see: the can of mixed vegetables). That’s the joy of seeing a prequel to a beloved film or franchise. As for Ten Years Later, well, it explains itself!
In any case, when getting your friends hooked on Wet Hot American Summer, just remember to tell them to start with the original, and go from there — it’s all a delight.