It’s called Red Oaks. Season two premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video — which is why most Canadians have never heard of it. The streaming video service, similar to Netflix, is only currently available in the US, UK, Germany, Australia and Japan. There are many rumors that it is poised to enter Canada. November was once seen as a target; some now say January.
The Canadian doing all the scene stealing is Ennis Esmer (above), featured on both The Listener and “Young People F–king.” More about him later.
When Amazon does arrive, Canadians will finally have access to the excellent, shot-in-Vancouver series The Man in the High Castle. That blend of sci-fi and well-scripted war drama is also into a second season. The Canadian studio Thunderbird is involved, but there was never a sale to Shomi as there was for other Amazon fare such as Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. Amazon, it is believed, held content back for their own entry into the Canadian market.
As a TV critic, I get screeners to Amazon fare and this fall all my favourite new shows come from this service. Wait till you see Fleabag, I Love Dick or Good Girls Revolt, a suddenly very timely series that just premieres two weeks ago on Amazon and looks at female journalists in the late ’60s. I wasn’t crazy about Crisis in Six Scenes, the series Amazon got Woody Allen to do for them, but some of his fans might like it. More promising, I thought, were recent Amazon pilots featuring Jean Claude Van Damn and a re-boot of The Tick.
This flood of terrific new content set to crash the Canadian market isn’t exactly great news for places such as CBC. How do you cut through the clutter when they keep widening the field? In order to compete in this increasingly border-less business of television, CBC will have to someday become a binge-able, Over-The-Top service, me thinks. That’s a whole other story.
Set in the mid-’80s, Red Oaks is a coming-of-age tale about a young NYU student named David (played by Welsh actor Craig Roberts) who spends his summers working as a tennis pro at the snooty Red Oaks Country Club. The club owner, a real dick, is played by Paul Reiser.
Check out this supporting cast: Gina Gershon plays Reiser’s character’s wife. David’s parents are played by Richard Kind and Jennifer Grey. Look closely in Season Two and you’ll see Mark Lynn Baker working a Bris. This thing is set in the ’80s and cast with several ’80s stars.
The pilot and several other episodes were directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), who is also an executive producer. Amy Heckerling, who directed “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” helps put the ’80s stamp on this series.
The New York Times was bang-on with its review of the pilot: “… not a sendup of 1980s coming-of-age comedies or even a tribute to them, but a surprisingly straightforward extension of the genre. It’s as if the spirits of John Hughes, Harold Ramis and the young Richard Linklater had all gotten together to consult.”
Esmer plays Nash, the senior tennis pro at the resort and David’s boss. He’s lazy, sweet, conniving, charming and hilarious. It’s a character that could have veered into cartoon territory but Esmer gives this cad heart and soul. You can’t wait for him to get back on screen.
Oliver Cooper, as David’s buddy Wheeler, will remind you of a young Jonah Hill. Gage Golightly plays David’s girlfriend Karen, the club owner’s daughter and a flinty, less-than-sympathetic character.
The good news is that Season Two is even better than Season One. Reiser and Kind — who once acted together on Mad About You — have great storylines in the new season. Reiser’s character in particular gets more complex and interesting as the series goes on.
Red Oaks returns Friday on Amazon — unless you live in Canada.