In his childhood, Bobby Mair (shown here) was blessed with intervals of benign neglect.
“A lot of people talk about over-protective parents,” he said. “But mine were busy doing their own thing …. No one seemed to mind that a 5-year-old was watching a horror film.”
That may have been the perfect training ground for his career as a comedian … and as the host of the first reality/horror/sometimes-comedy show to reach the U.S.
“Killer Camp” debuts Thursday (July 16), as the CW network plugs schedule holes with shows that have aired elsewhere. Viewers will get to to see some odd concoctions.
British TV already had a horror game show called “Release the Hounds,” said Steph Harris, a “Killer Camp” producer. Now programmers were trying to concoct a variation.
“They were talking about Mafia and werewolves and a mummy,” she said. “Then someone said, ‘Let’s do it like an ‘80s American horror film.’”
Ah, yes … like “Friday the 13th,” the 1980 film in which a not-yet-famous Kevin Bacon and his lover were simultaneously speared mid-consummation. It wasn’t really intended for 5-year-olds.
But Mair says he found a VHS tape of the film at home and popped it in. “It was terrifying.”
And it was good career preparation, Mair is a Canadian comedian, married to British comedian Harriet Kemsley. They live in England, which helped when “Camp” wanted an American-type camp counselor.
He’s the one who greets the campers … just as one of them is blown up. He explains that one camper will die each day, until contestants figure out which one of them is helping the killer.
Viewers will assume the campers are actors. They’re not, Harris insists; “they’re genuine people.”
Well … the guy who gets blown up was a production staffer, she said. Later, campers were happy to see him in one piece.
And there was some acting, she said, in the “very stylized” opening scene, showing the campers as archetypes – the flirt, the geek, the loner, etc. From then on, Harris said, reactions were real. Contestants, ages 18-30, only knew they were there – filmed in a woods in Lithuania – for a show, she said. “They knew there was going to be a twist, but didn’t known any more.”
Chances are, they realized this was all a game. Some of the early humor comes as the contestants approach imminent death with British-style calm.
But emotions took hold, Mair said: Contestants became friends; when one “died,” a friend was gone.
He saw that at the nightly campfire, when he would deliver an elaborate (and gory) tale of who died and how. “People would be crying and asking me to stop. It was like a Shakespearean monolog.”
That’s not something you would predict about a Canadian 5-year-old watching a horror film: Some day, he would be in a Lithuanian woods, delivering Shakespearean news to brooding British folks.
– “Killer Camp,” 8 p.m. Thursdays, CW, for five weeks starting July 16
– Other shows – from England, Canada and beyond – will join the CW schedule in August