Amazon Studios have always done things a little differently. Firstly, their door is always open to creators wishing to submit material. Secondly, when they produce that material, it’s for the audience to decide if it is of sufficient quality to warrant further investment. They make a pilot available, people watch it, and its fate is determined by user comments and ratings. Among the latest of these offerings is Red Oaks – a comedy written by Joe Gangemi (Wind Chill) and Gregory Jacobs (Criminal), directed by David Gordon Green (Prince Avalanche) and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh. To say it is worth checking out is an understatement.
Starring Craig Roberts (22 Jump Street), Paul Reiser (Mad About You), Richard Kind (Obvious Child) and Jennifer Grey (The Bling Ring), the show is set in the 1980s, and sees a college student take a summer job as an assistant tennis pro at a country club. Roberts plays that young man, who appears to be at something of a cross-roads, as he provides us with a window onto this stylized scenario with an ensemble of eccentric characters. With this premise and character structure, the show sits squarely in the sitcom genre – so what is it about this one in particular that has the potential to stand out from the countless others that jam our TV schedules? Three things: writing, performance and direction.
Based on the short previews provided by this teaser trailer and behind-the-scenes snippet, it is evident that the writing of Red Oaks is beyond that which you would find in your average sitcom. The plot certainly seems to zip along swiftly, the characters are very funny, and their dialogue is snappy and delicious – which brings us to performance. From what we can see here, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that this cast of notables are operating at the top of their game in this project.
Richard Kind and Jennifer Grey are always reliable, but it seems clear that Paul Reiser and Craig Roberts own their scenes. Both are turning in efforts that see them fill every inch of their roles – using their physicality to great effect, as well as their comic timing. While it’s heartening to see TV veteran Reiser continuing to provide the goods, it is revelatory to see the young Roberts do the same. Then there’s the direction. David Gordon Green looks to be bringing his wealth of cinematic experience to bear on this television pilot, and it is all the better for it.
As Red Oaks is available on Amazon now, these promotional clips certainly suggest that it is one to watch – and having done so, get involved in the process of determining its fate. Since the streaming service is currently the only one to let audiences have their say directly, it’s a facility worth using.