Nine episodes were provided prior to release
More than a year after its promising debut as part of Amazon’s 2014 pilot program, the ten-episode first season of suburban tennis comedy Red Oaks will be available for streaming tomorrow. As both an ‘80s throwback, and one reminiscent of youth-oriented films from the decade, a streaming service release is probably the hippest thing about the series. The type of coming of age story told by Red Oaks is an unmistakably familiar one, but it’s enjoyable to watch this sweetly mild series play a precise, low-impact game.
With ‘90s revivalism on the brink of claiming the nostalgia crown from the decade’s go-go sibling (let’s set the approaching “Back to The Future Day” as a coronation), the cinematic end of genuine ‘80s appreciation can be felt in the (creatively) bankrupt era grave robbing of movies like Terminator: Genisys and Pixels. In TV land, though, the synth-heavy beat lives on, with The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire, and The Goldbergs all providing very different types of quality programming that just happen to have added appeal to those that remember growing up 30 years ago.
Like those shows, one of Red Oaks’ biggest virtues is how it builds within a “Me Generation” backdrop, rather than just lazily exploiting the decade’s surface novelty. Sure, the first two episodes feature aerobics leotards, cocaine, and a reference to then-booming soap opera Falcon Crest, but even stately Mad Men couldn’t help but indulge in some “Hey, it’s the 19X0s!” winking early on. Through the nine of ten episodes provided, Red Oaks doesn’t jam its period aesthetic down your throat with obvious needle drops (the soundtrack is more Sweet than Poison, more Bronski Beat than “Beat it”), and it’s typically only side characters that speak using then-relevant cultural touchstones.
“This cassingle is boss!” says Josh Meyers’ Barry, a lecherous club photographer who looks and acts like the illegitimate offspring of Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. The version of Red Oaks advertised in the pilot would give more time to this kind of goofball, as the series begins by selling itself as a sensitive, Hebraic Caddyshack tribute. Set in a New Jersey country club during the summer of ’85, the series follows the various goings-on and minor conquests of the club’s staff and members, with 20-year-old NYU student David Meyer (Craig Roberts) being our point of entry.