“Think Anawanna-wanna, speak Anawanna-wanna, Live Anawanna-wanna! Ugh!”
Salute Your Shorts is a relic of a time where Nickelodeon was just… “better.” Thankfully, the show has barely shown its age since it premiered almost 25 years ago. Sure, there’s the neon clothing and mullets are bound to make an appearance, but Salute Your Shorts still works as an exaggeration of the summer camp experience…something akin to Nickelodeon’s “wholesome” teen sitcom take on Meatballs.
Based on Steve Slavkin and Thomas Hill’s novel “Salute Your Shorts: Life at Summer Camp,” the series sets down on Camp Anawanna—a more low rent summer camp where various kids spend their summer. Since there’s such a large cast no specific character takes priority, allowing each episode to follow the various misadventures of these teenagers through a variety of perspectives. The closest thing to a main character we get is a new camper, Michael, whose first experience at Camp Anawanna involves campers Bud and Donkeylips stealing his clothes and running his trunks up a flag post for all the camp to salute.
Salute Your Shorts‘s diverse range of characters, all of whom end up in some wacky mishap during their time at Anawanna, adds to the series high entertainment value. Despite being polar opposites, they have some great chemistry. In the boy’s bunk there’s Michael, your average new kid; Bud (Danny Cooksey), the bully; Donkeylips, Bud’s overweight enforcer; and Sponge, an intellectual (nerd). In the girls bunk, there’s Telly, the sporty girl; Dina, the prima donna; and the more down to Earth optimist of the group, ZZ. It should be noted that mid-way through the series, Michael inexplicably goes home and he’s replaced by the more charismatic and mischievous Ronnie Pinsky (Blake Soper).
Supervising this mischievous crew of campers is the constantly put upon counselor “Ug” Lee. “Ug” is constantly on the heels of the group and their antics—especially Bud, who is constantly matching wits with him. As with most shows of this kind, the adults all have an “uncool” factor to them, and yes, “Ug” always ends up in the receiving end of his campers’ pranks. It helps that actor Kirk Bailey, who plays “Ug,” handles the physical comedy like a pro.
Salute Your Shorts works surprisingly well within the confines of its limited setting (and budget), delivering a slew of creative and very funny episodes, many of which are considered the best from Nickelodeon’s golden age of 90s-era programming. Like several other shows on Nick at the time, there’s some really risqué humor on display that probably wouldn’t make it into today’s youth-oriented television. One example occurs in the first episode when Bud offers Michael a look at a nude magazine. Another occurs when “Ug” is accidentally egged and feathered, and Bud tells him to go “pluck himself.” It always works, though, because the show embraces the inherent silliness of its premise.
The series ended in 1993 when, allegedly, the location of the series was set to be relocated and the cast didn’t want to move. Rather than recast, Nickelodeon merely cancelled the series. It lasted a total of 26 episodes with subsequent airings on Nickelodeon and its sister channels over the years. Salute Your Shorts still has a passionate fan base—most recently the hilarious horror themed episode “Zeke the Plumber” received his own t-shirt at Fright Rags—and the many of its cast went on to various degrees of success. Danny Cooksey became a very prominent voice actor while Venus DeMilo is still an active character actress. In recent years (2012, 2015) the cast indulged fans by re-uniting at “Comikaze” and the “Everything Is Festival.”
Surprisingly, Salute your Shorts is not on DVD or Blu-Ray. This is pretty sad considering a special edition from Shout! Factory would be incredible. You can, however, buy various episodes on Amazon and Itunes. The show can also be found online and it occasionally appears on cable channel Teen Nick’s The 90’s Are All That line up.