Fall may seem like an odd time to review a show that takes place during summer. Then again, Red Oaks is an awfully autumny name for a comedy cured in warm weather. So as with most of life's contradictions, I'll accept that the truth lies somewhere in the middle and get the heck on with it.
The Amazon Prime original Red Oaks (2014-2017), not to be confused with Twelve Oaks (although both have some Scarlett, ha ha), is about a Jewish North Jersey country club in the '80s. Our hero is David Meyers (Craig Roberts), the club's twenty-year-old assistant tennis pro. In the first scene of the first episode, David's dad (Richard Kind) has a heart attack on the tennis court during a discussion about David's future. But Oaks isn't always as serious as an ER trip -- even if pompous club president Doug Getty (Paul Reiser) does tangle with Johnny Law. It's summer, it's fun. And David is at least sometimes carefree as he navigates the do's and don'ts of country club life along with his stoner-slash-secret-genius bud Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) and cartoon character of a womanizing tennis pro Nash (Ennis Esmer) one entitled member -- and love interest -- at a time.
Because true to form of the age of angst, David has girl problems. And parent problems. And what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life problems. All of which he battles from his bicycle. That's right. What we have on our hands here is a classic manchild. Not only does David lack wheels, he lives with his parents instead of at NYU. Still, despite his failure to launch, he wants more from life than a wife and a desk job. Even if his high school girlfriend Karen (Gage Golightly) is content to remain in their hometown forever.
As an emissary from the '80s, Red Oaks offers music somewhere between New Wave and the background track on an after-school-special. And then, of course, there's the fashion. Although more realistic than the day-glo sweat bands and leopard leggings that come prepackaged as Halloween costumes, it's nonetheless iconic, with bowler hats, striped leotards, and Laura Ashley-esque florals swathing the artist, aerobics instructor, and costumer that they respectively represent. What's more, Jennifer Grey, Gina Gershon, and Josh Meyers (yes, Seth's brother) round out the "adult" cast. Although the maturity level of Meyers's cheesy photographer is debatable.
Red Oaks brims with life's big and not-so-big questions but leaves plenty of room for funny. Introspective and bittersweet, it's a character-driven joy ride that takes a nostalgic look at coming of age in the '80s.
So, fall. Get out there and jump in a pile of leaves. Just look before you leap.
There are worms in there.