The Great Salute Your Shorts Debate: Michael vs. Pinksy


In Season One, the new camper was the blond, athletic Michael Stein. In Season Two, after Michael left camp due to a case of the chicken pox, viewers were introduced to the floppy-haired, smooth talkin’ Ronnie Pinsky. Budnick ran both of their shorts up the flagpole. However, this is the only similarity between the two characters. SYS fans are divided, placing the debate over Michael and Pinksy alongside arguments about Mike vs. Joel and Claudia Wells vs. Elisabeth Shue.


In preparing for this piece, I read a recent debate on the Internet Movie Database’s forums for SYS entitled “Michael vs. Pinsky.” The majority of the participants who cited Michael as their favorite asserted that Pinsky was too similar to Budnick. However, they’re overlooking the big picture here. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a Pinsky man, but my point here is not to argue this position. Instead, I want to analyze the very risky move that the SYS writers and producers attempted to pull off by replacing Michael with Pinksy in the second season.

Essentially, Michael is the straight man. In the first episode, he stumbles off the bus, naïve and completely unaware of his surroundings. As viewers, we enter the camp with him, meeting the eccentric cast of characters.  Ultimately, Michael is the most normal, traditional-looking camper and is the only boy camper who does not go by a nickname or his last name.


Pinsky, on the other hand, is the opposite of the straight man (note the use of his last name); he’s an eccentric, like the rest of the characters and, in effect, understands the world of Camp Anawanna. Case in point: during the two-part episode, “Budnick Loves Dina,” Budnick turns into a “classy guy” to please Dina. Realizing that things are off balance, Pinsky presides over a meeting of the other campers to brainstorm a solution. Despite the fact that this is only his third episode, he fully understands that Budnick needs to be turned back into a jerk to restore balance to the universe. This is in stark contrast to Michael, who typically relies on Sponge to explain why certain events have transpired or why certain campers have behaved in a specific manner. With Pinsky, the writers have replaced the naïve outsider with a knowledgeable insider. However, that does not mean he is exactly like Budnick. Yes, he can be a bully and a schemer, but he is also a philosopher and thinker, often giving the other campers advice and quoting from famous philosophers (his favorite being Baloo the Bear).

Of course, the debate will continue, but, hopefully, when the DVDs are released fans will be able to fully understand and even appreciate the daring move of Season Two. After all, when director Howard Hawks’ now classic slapstick comedy, Brining Up Baby (1938) was released audiences had a hard time dealing with the lack of a straight man, as both Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant play complete nutters chasing around a leopard. Now, however, it’s regarded as one of the funniest comedies of all time. In the same way, Pinsky’s episodes deserve reassessment. In the meantime, put on some Rilo Kiley, sit back, and patiently await the DVD release of Salute Your Shorts!

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