Red Oaks Review: Timeless wonder

Chad White

Red Oaks
Seasons 1-3
Amazon

Summer in the city.

Streaming comedy shows tend to waver in terms of quality. Netflix has more hits than misses. Hulu is desperate for a half hour it won’t cancel after three years. And Amazon seemingly leaves the decision in the hands of their subscribers (only to not pick up some shows that were well regarded). Yet there are more hits than misses on the online shopper’s platform, even if they – again – decide to kill shows because they won’t reach a wide audience. One such A+ work is Red Oaks.

A gem in a streaming world full of coal, Red Oaks is a period dramedy set in the 80’s and follows a young filmmaker working at the titular New Jersey country club. David Meyer (Craig Roberts) has to deal with snooty members, trying to become his own man, his parents eventual divorce, a couple of relationships that leave him heartbroken and much more. It’s good he has his friends Nash, Wheeler and Misty (Ennis Esmer, Oliver Cooper, and Alexandra Turshen respectively) to help steer him in the right direction.

Each season takes place over the course of a summer. Season one deals with David’s losing his first relationship, the start of another and decision to move to the city. Two has him and his creative equal/soulmate Skye (Alexandra Socha) on the rocks after time a part. And three is David’s graduation into adulthood, with him thanklessly working as a production assistant all the while trying to get a foot into directing.

That’s not to say David is the only character granted a storyline. Each one of his friends and parents are given their own arcs, many of which don’t pay off in the end. It’s not a bad aspect, per se, because not every story needs to be wrapped up. Season three brings along drama on all fronts from Misty and Wheeler’s relationship being threatened to the sale of Red Oaks. Episodes make ample use of the half hour run time to properly explore the issues at hand. In the end, the audience can only assume the outcome of many of the relationships. Other supporting characters also include Paul Reiser, Richard Kind, Jennifer Grey, Josh Meyers, and Gina Gershon.

Creators Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs (The Knick) expertly crafted tightknit stories with help from their writer’s room. Red Oaks was funnier than it needed to be as it relied on dry wit rather than in your face references. Although, the third season did feel rushed. It was six episodes as opposed to the usual ten the other two seasons had. Stories wrapped sooner than they should’ve, feeling more spotty than complete. It would’ve been nice to let the final moments ruminate instead of the expedient nature in which it was portrayed.

How did this show go under the radar for so long? When it first began in 2014, it had little to no competition in the streaming space. Netflix hadn’t landed a original comedy until Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aired in March 2015. And Hulu wasn’t having luck with original shows period. Red Oaks – coming of age and all – was way ahead of its time. The concept is fit for a one-off movie yet the crew was able to expand it into 26 episodes. It flirted with TV-MA themes while remaining mostly friendly to all audiences (i.e. less nudity than your average streaming show now but heavy on the cursing). Perhaps it was Amazon’s lack of advertising. Red Oaks had all the right ingredients to be a hit.

Should you watch Red Oaks?

Red Oaks is one of the best streaming comedy shows. It had the heart, the wit and the talent to succeed. It’s just a damn shame no one is talking about it. Three seasons is nothing to scoff at though. I just wish it could’ve gone on for a few more episodes.