Rachel Griffiths

Ah, summer camp: hallowed ground for singing "Kumbaya," celebrating rites of passage and forging relationships never meant to withstand the first fall frost. This micro-universe provides the setting for Camp, a new dramedy about the staff and campers at the Midwest's Little Otter Family Camp, where the s'mores being served up are a tad bittersweet. "We wanted to work with the idea that when you look back on your life, the legendary moments always happened during summer," says cocreator Peter Elkoff (Ugly Betty). "There's something so brief and precious about it."

At the center of the action is Mackenzie Granger (Brothers & ­Sisters' ­Rachel Griffiths), a newly ­divorced mom whose first act of ­independence is to take over the cash-strapped Little ­Otter. "She's always been part of a pair, and this is the first year where she's learning to do something on her own and make choices," Griffiths says. Among them? Some backwoods hanky-panky — including, in the premiere, an ­impromptu tryst with an arrogant rival camp owner (Rodger Corser).

But Mackie won't be the only one driven by DEET-tinged lust. Her teen son, Buzz (Charles Grounds), a counselor-in-training, is a typical hormone-riddled adolescent. "His goal is to lose his virginity, and he falls down a lot," says Grounds. Throughout the summer, Buzz and his mom will find themselves on parallel trajectories. "They're both going through big life transitions," Griffiths says.

Another plotline focuses on counselors Sarah (Dena Kaplan) and Robbie (Tim Pocock), longtime summer-only sweethearts whose bond gets tested when Sarah strikes up a flirtation with an author renting a cabin across the lake. "It gets pretty juicy," teases cocreator Liz Heldens. And of course, there will be plenty of camp traditions to provide a sentimental framework for the high jinks. "The summer is punctuated by special holidays," Griffiths says. "You have beats like the Fourth of July and the harvest moon to create memories."

Notably, this quintessentially American experience is being staged entirely in Australia with a mostly Aussie cast, including Griffiths. And life has begun to imitate art: "We're filming at a recreation area on a lake in the middle of nowhere," says Elkoff. "An entire world has been built, and it's incredibly bizarre." Adds Heldens, "The cast has bonded not unlike at a real summer camp — everybody knows everything about each other."

Camp premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on NBC.

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