You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Red Oaks’

Craig Roberts, Richard Kind, Jennifer Grey, Gage Golightly, Paul Reiser, Ennis Esmer, Oliver Cooper, Alexandra Socha, Josh Meyers

Another valentine to the ’80s, “Red Oaks” is a series without many original beats, but which nevertheless assembles its familiar ones in a pretty digestible package. Mashing up “The Graduate,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Caddyshack” into one big bowl of borsht, this Amazon dramedy focuses on a college-age guy at life’s invariable crossroads, trying to figure out what he wants – and doesn’t – while working as an assistant tennis pro at the local country club. Although the writing commits some unforced errors, where else can boomers find a show featuring Exile’s “I Wanna to Kiss You All Over” on its soundtrack?

David Meyers (Craig Roberts, betraying none of his British origins) is a Jewish student at NYU living in suburban New Jersey, who, in the opening sequence, is hitting balls with his father (Richard Kind) when dad suffers a heart attack. Thinking he’s headed to the great beyond, the old man blurts out a series of confessions about regrets and his loveless marriage to David’s equally unhappy mom, played by Jennifer Grey, who, here, has indeed allowed life and society to put baby in a corner.

David’s tennis prowess puts him in contact with the club’s wealthy president (Paul Reiser) as well as his distant but alluring daughter (Alexandra Socha). Meanwhile, David’s high school girlfriend Karen (Gage Golightly) faces her own temptations, with a sleazy photographer (Josh Meyers) chatting up her future in modeling. Elsewhere, David’s best pal Wheeler (Oliver Cooper), a valet at the club, has graduated from dealing pot to cocaine, hoping to impress a pretty lifeguard.

Created by Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi, and counting Steven Soderbergh among its producers, “Red Oaks” (named after the country club) features plenty of coming-of-age staples, and far too many slow-motion shots of guys who don’t look particularly athletic serving and volleying. The show also veers into a couple of unfortunate interludes near the end, including a “Freaky Friday” send-up, where David and dad swap bodies; and an episode in which the protagonist, who moonlights as a videographer, is hired to film homemade porn.

Still, the show’s central conflict – the fact that David doesn’t want to end up an unhappy accountant like his father – is universal and relatable, and Roberts is appealing and vulnerable in the lead. The show also conjures a clear sense of time and place, from the hairdos to the songs, and gets good mileage out of Ennis Esmer as a tennis pro hoping to cash in on his access to the rich and powerful.

Granted, “Red Oaks” (the entire season of which was made available) is the kind of low-octane vehicle that won’t build on Amazon’s step up into the big leagues with “Transparent.” But it’s generally in keeping with that show’s bittersweet, indie-film sensibility, and happens to land at a moment where the 80s are, almost simultaneously, all the rage, and beginning to grow a bit tedious.

In premium TV terms, the series is probably too derivative to be scored as a clear winner. But in terms of possessing qualities that should inspire the audience that does tune in to stick around until match point, “Red Oaks” serves up a pretty good game.

TV Review: 'Red Oaks'

(Series; Amazon, Fri. Oct. 9)

Production: Filmed in New Jersey by Gabdec Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, Gregory Jacobs, Joe Gangemi, Steven Soderbergh, David Gordon Green; co-executive producers, Antoine L. Douaihy, Karey Dornetto; supervising producer, Shawn Harwell; producer, Derrick Tseng; director, Green; writers, Jacobs, Gangemi; camera, Tim Orr; production designer, Chris Spellman; editor, Colin Patton; music, Chad Benton; casting, Carmen Cuba. 30 MIN.

Cast: Craig Roberts, Richard Kind, Jennifer Grey, Gage Golightly, Paul Reiser, Ennis Esmer, Oliver Cooper, Alexandra Socha, Josh Meyers

More TV

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Blake Jenner What If TV Show

    'What/If' Star Blake Jenner on Creating Chemistry With Jane Levy, Renee Zellweger

    Blake Jenner first rose to fame in 2012 when he won “The Glee Project” and therefore earned a role on “Glee” proper. In the years since, though, he graduated from teen heartthrob status to meatier, edgier roles in films such as “American Animals” and now the Netflix limited series “What/If,” in which he stars opposite [...]

  • Mario Lopez Candy Crush

    Mario Lopez, Seth Kurland Set Latinx Family Comedy Series at Netflix

    Mario Lopez and Seth Kurland are teaming up for a new comedy series at Netflix. Variety has learned that the streamer has given a 16 episode order to the multi-cam comedy “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” co-created by Lopez and Kurland. In the series, when Ashley Garcia — the world’s only 15-and-a-half-year-old robotics engineer [...]

  • HBO logo

    TV News Roundup: HBO Announces Recipients of 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship

    In today’s roundup, Fox Nation announces a fresh slate of programming for the summer and HBO announces the recipients of its HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. DEVELOPMENT: HBO has announced the recipients of its 2019 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship. The eight writers selected out of the 3,000 submissions will participate in an 8-month program of master classes and [...]

  • Big Bang Theory

    'Big Bang Theory,' 'Manifest' Among Top Live+7 Gainers of 2018-2019 Season

    With 2018-2019 broadcast season wrapping up, certain shows stand head and shoulders above their competition in the Nielsen Live+7 rankings. Live+7 data is currently available only through May 5, but the top dogs will likely see little change once the final numbers are in for the traditional September-May season. The top gainer in adults 18-49 [...]

  • Anna Kendrick Paul Feig

    Anna Kendrick, Paul Feig Team for Comedy Anthology Series at WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Anna Kendrick and Paul Feig are coming to the WarnerMedia streaming service Variety has learned that the upcoming streamer has ordered the romantic comedy anthology series “Love Life,” the first season of which will star Kendrick with Feig executive producing. WarnerMedia has ordered a 10-episode first season of the half-hour series. Lionsgate Television and FeigCo [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content