In Which We Regret Every Relationship But One

A Very Good Year

by ETHAN PETERSON

Red Oaks
creators Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs
Amazon

The women in Red Oaks are completely variegated. Their desires are manifold; they have men at their beck and call. How to choose just one man? It is a difficult task, but one they take up with aplomb. Karen (Gage Golightly) falls in love with a creepy photographer who is really into magic after she and David (Craig Roberts) break up. Their wedding takes place late in the second season of Red Oaks, after he makes her give away her cat.

David’s mother is a divorcee who dates a lesbian comic but can’t take things past second base. One of the great pleasures of Red Oaks is that her son is exactly like her: this accomodating but resolute person who takes other people’s wishes into account — just below her own. Jennifer Grey still looks fantastic, and her scenes are filled with an elegant authenticity. Her ex-husband (Richard Kind) is completely miserable now that he is alone, although he was not exactly super-enthused by married life either.

At the end of the 1980s, everything else is great. 1986 was such a special year. The men in Red Oaks do not seem to realize this. They are constantly unhappy — they feel they are not getting enough from the women in their lives, that these women are not overly committed to them, or at least not as much as they should be.

One night Misty (Alexandra Turshen) realizes she wants to be with a Jewish guy. As soon as Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) finds out that the woman of his dreams actually wants to be with him, he makes every excuse not to be with her. He considers going to school upstate to avoid life with a lifeguard.

Craig Roberts was a bit stiff during the first season, but he comes into his own during Red Oaks‘ Paris episode. His girlfriend Skye (Alexandra Socha) is the most unlikable, most pretentious person in this entire milieu. In his heart, he pretty much loathes her. She constantly abandons him to snort cocaine and paint the worst portraits anyone has ever seen. When they break up, he gives her a movie he made of her smoking in a bed. It is very derivative.

Her mother (Gina Gershon) has some serious difficulty holding her alcohol. She has been married to Paul Reiser for twenty-five years, showing us the real outcome of Mad About You. Reiser is on trial for financial crimes, being prosecuted by a young Rudolph Giuliani. Some of the season’s final episodes are directed by Gregg Araki, and they do a fantastic job of widening the frame of Red Oaks. The show is at its most dull when it takes place in the restrictive country club environment it became tired of satirizing. Ultimately the show’s creators made the difficult choice — to take this all very, very seriously.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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