The premiere date for season two of Red Oaks, Nov. 11, may just be ideal for the Amazon half hour after this stressful week that was. While so much of what stands out on premium cable and streaming skews dark and anxious, Red Oaks, set at a country club in the mid 1980s, is sunny and sort of bright.
While it features a lot more tennis than golf, the series is frequently compared to Caddyshack. “It’s a very gentle show,” says star Paul Reiser. “It’s not edgy, nor is it trying to be. That’s one of its strengths—it doesn’t yell.”
Perhaps the most stressful parts of the show are when Reiser’s character, a rich a-hole named Getty, screams at assistant tennis pro and protagonist David.
Jennifer Grey plays David’s mother. “It’s not preachy,” she adds. “It’s not depressing.”
Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi created Red Oaks, whose executive producer ranks also include Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green. Reiser got to know the producers when he worked on HBO’s Behind the Candelabra with them. Reiser acknowledges that viewers may not recall him in that Liberace biopic (he played Scott Thorson’s attorney). “I was way behind the candelabra,” he says.
It’s hard to gauge which shows among the Nielsen-bereft streaming platforms is a hit, but it’s probably safe to say that Red Oaks is not. Grey notes that most of her colleagues don’t realize she’s a regular on a show right now. Reiser says much of what he’s worked on in his career is “a slower draw.” Even his marriage: “After the first 12 years of marriage, you’re gonna like me,” he quips.
Season two features a “coming of age for all the characters,” says Gangemi, “including the middle-aged ones,” such as lothario tennis pro Nash as he turns 40. The show also ventures away from the New Jersey club that gives it its name, with visits to Paris and Atlantic City, among other destinations. Some name directors are involved in the new season too, including Hal Hartley and Amy Heckerling, whose Fast Times at Ridgemont High is an influence on Red Oaks.
The creators, like many producing series these days, say television has largely taken over the projects that used to end up as independent films. “TV fills that gap, where it’s more character focused. It’s anti-heroes, it’s not necessarily a Marvel movie,” says Gangemi. “That’s all migrating to television.”
Reiser (Mad About You, Diner) and Grey (Dirty Dancing, It’s Like, You Know) have had long, accomplished careers in both television and feature films. Reiser says making an Amazon Studios show feels a lot different than making one for a more traditional network. “They’re not watching the ratings, they’re not scheduling it, coupling it. It’s exempt from a lot of the television considerations,” he says. “You really are making a movie for eight weeks.”
Both appear to like the streaming experience. “I love Amazon—they deliver the next day,” jokes Grey.
“NBC does not,” adds Reiser.