New season of ‘Bunk’d’ continues old messages

Rick's Reviews

Peyton List (left) and Miranda May are reunited on “Bunk’d.” (Photo courtesy of ABC/Disney)

(KGET) — The Disney Channel series “Bunk’d” – launching its fifth season at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 – continues to be a show designed to entertain while presenting important messages. Before COVID-19 forced families to huddle at home, “Bunk’d” promoted the great outdoors and the need to unplug. That message continues while providing a family-friendly viewing option during the quarantine.

Miranda May plays Lou Hockhauser, a former camp counselor who is now owner of the struggling Camp Kikiwaka. She describes her series as being an important show since the day it launched.

“Camp has been around forever. I feel like from the first season parents would be like ‘This is what I used to do as a kid.’ Or kids would say this is what I want to go do,” May says. “I think that it is something that has always had that effect especially now with everything going on in the world.”

“Hopefully everyone is staying home and this is such a great escape. Not only to laugh but to also remember that it will be coming back as long as we all do what we are supposed to do.”

The way May and company will be looking to entertain and inspire with the fifth season starts with the beginning of another summer at the camp in rural Maine. There are familiar faces among the returning campers including characters played by Mallory James Mahoney, Raphael Alejandro, Will Buie, Jr. and Israel Johnson.

Fans of the show will spot another familiar face as Peyton List – who played Emma Ross in seasons 1-3 of “Bunk’d” – makes a guest starring appearance in the season opener. Her character left to take the fashion world by storm but has returned to the camp to find the confidence she’s lost.

List’s return gives her a chance to explain her departure.

“People are always going to make rumors about the reason for leaving a show,” List says. “People thought it was this big dramatic exit. My contract was up and that was it. It wasn’t anything dramatic.”

“I get to come back and revive the role and play it again.”

List has been working on other projects since being away from camp including the series “Cobra Kai.” It felt like second nature for her to step back into Emma’s fashionable shoes.

At the same time, List didn’t remember how difficult it is to do comedy until she was back on the show. Her memory of it during her original time was that it was a lot easier.

“I told Miranda that it was stressing me out but I am so happy to be here,” List says.

The part that was the easiest for List to handle was the idea her character had lost her confidence and needed help finding it. She has felt those moments of uncertainty numerous times in her career.

“Even at 20 years old, I thought ‘I am done. I will never work again.’ I was trying to put up a front like I was OK,” List says. “I was honest with my friends. They said I had to put value in other things other than work.”

“When you are such a workaholic it is hard not to put so much self-worth into that.”

May can understand List’s feelings as she also has had an acting career away from Camp Kikiwaka that ranges from Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie” to the feature film in “The Heartbreak Kid.” Acting has always been her focus starting when her family went on a trip to Florida when she was 8 and during the travels she made them buy her an expensive pink T-shirt with the big red words “Lead Actress in a Comedy Series” across the front.

The big passion for May is stand up comedy but “Bunk’d” is very special to her because of the positive messages it presents including the need to put down the electronics and appreciate the real world.

“That has been a very consistent part of the show,” May says. ‘We don’t have our cell phones. You rarely will see the kids on a laptop or iPad. We will have it there occasionally because it is important to keep the show real and relatable.

“But for the most part everyone is out having real time with each other. Real conversations with each other. Real adventures. We are doing things that we have kind of shied away from in the real world now. And, I think it is important to bring that back.”

The debut of the fifth season of “Bunk’d” that continues that message will be followed by the debut of the new Disney Channel time travel/mystery “Secrets of Sulphur Springs.” It will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Jan. 15.

Griffin Campbell (Preston Oliver) is a pre-teen who has moved with his family to a rundown hotel where his father was raised. He soon discovers the hotel has a mystery that he looks to solve through a magical portal into the past.

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