Why Does Henry Have Emmys In 'Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later'? This Joke Is So Meta
A good cult comedy classic withstands the test of time, which is why the the 2001 movie Wet Hot American Summer has launched two successful tie-in television series at Netflix in the last few years. But it’s tricky to reunite a star-studded cast after they’ve all moved on to other things, which is why Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later employs some hilarious measures to explain (or at least smooth over) all of its continuity issues and missing cast members. In the final episode of the new eight-part series, that leads to a scene where WHAS's Professor Henry Newman has Emmy Awards on his office shelf. Why would a scientist have all those TV trophies?
In the original film, David Hyde Pierce’s role as Professor Henry Newman was essential to the, uh, “plot:” in addition to proving a worthy love interest for Camp Counselor Beth (Janeane Garofalo), he led the nerdy kids in a successful attempt at saving the camp from a falling piece of Skylab. He also appeared briefly in the prequel series First Day Of Camp, which revealed why he left left his quest to get tenure at his university and moved to his cabin just outside the camp.
But this time around, it seems Pierce couldn’t make his schedule work with the filming of Ten Years Later — so showrunners David Wain and Michael Showalter (who also appear in the series as Yaron and Coop) came up with an ingenious fourth wall-breaking to include him anyway.
Spoilers beyond this point! In the final episode, Mitch the Talking Can of Vegetables (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and Greg (Jason Schwartzmann) are trying to hack into Ronald Reagan’s secret Star Wars defense satellite program to stop a nuclear missile from destroying Camp Firewood. You know, like you do. Trouble is, they need a way in — and they know just the guy at NASA to help them do it remotely.
Never mind that remote video chat technology wasn’t exactly available in 1991 (neither were laptops like the one Greg is carrying around in the scene); it becomes immediately clear from the second David Hyde Pierce shows up that he filmed the scene from his personal office. After he delivers a few hilariously improvised lines about authorizing Sat-Comm access to the guys at the camp, he addresses whoever was responsible on the show’s crew for helping him record — and the showrunners kept all that footage in.
“Hope that was okay. Let me know if you want to do it again and good luck with the rest of the shoot,” he says as he peels away his fake mustache and grabs one of the Emmy awards off his shelf. He won four of them during his tenure playing Dr. Niles Crane in Frasier.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they told Pierce to look bored and confused on purpose, like he was coming up with his own lines off the top of his head, just so it would add to the joke. I mean, why else would he walk away with an Emmy award before ending whatever Skype session they were on together?
Wet Hot American Summer has always played pretty fast and loose with the rules of… well, reality, so the fact that they’ve chosen to lampoon their own tricky filming schedule like this is a pretty genius move. That’s the absurdity fans have come to expect from Wet Hot American Summer, and it’s nice to see Ten Years Later find ways reach new heights of weirdness.