Theres life after Stranger Things, and its called Red Oaks

Let’s face some unsavory facts: The first season of “Stranger Things” is over and the show won’t be back until 2017. If you’re anything like me, there’s a gaping Eggo waffle-shaped void in your soul where Eleven and the rest of the Hawkins, Indiana, gang used to reside.

Was it the best new television series of 2016? Yes. Was it a wildly inventive breath of fresh air while lovingly harking back to the ’80s-era horror and sci-fi pop culture made iconic by Stephen King and Steven Spielberg? Absolutely.

Tennis instructor David Myers (Craig Roberts) photo/amazon

In times of great sorrow and impending doom, the Jewish people have always turned to a higher power for guidance. When Haman sought to destroy us, Esther fasted while Mordechai draped himself in sackcloth and ashes and took to the streets as a sign of mourning. When the Greeks ransacked the Beit Hamikdash, the Jewish Holy Temple, the Maccabees still lit the menorah as a sign of faith. And the Jewish nation received salvation: Haman’s plans royally backfired and the oil lasted for eight days.

What I’m trying to say is this: One should never lose hope, even in the darkest of times. Amazon Studios’ “Red Oaks” is another 1980s coming-of-age series that packs some serious Jewish overtones, making it just the remedy to turn to in these “Stranger”-less times.

Luckily, “Red Oaks” recently released its second season on Amazon Prime, so you can binge your heart out, much like I did when I finally decided it was time to take a look into the world of a bizzaro country club populated almost entirely by Jews.

A Jewish country club is an intriguing idea in and of itself. Simply put, it’s as much a main character as it is the eponymous setting of “Red Oaks,” and it’s here in Season 2 that we return to the ballad of character David Myers, tennis instructor and novice filmmaker. David, played by Craig Roberts, personifies nebbish (Yiddish for a person, especially a man, regarded as pitifully ineffectual, timid or submissive.) David’s finally shacked up with the girl he’s been pining after the entire last season, who also happens to be the free-spirited bohemian daughter of country club president Doug Getty (Paul Reiser), who is a total jerk.

Getty can be a bully, but he’s a guy that you love to hate. This season, he’s facing a war on two fronts. As a man who likes control over everything — from his daughter’s love life to his Wall Street investment firm — he finds things slowly slipping out of his grasp. He’s under investigation for trading fraud and the club board is trying to unseat him as president due to his “embarrassing” legal troubles.

Can he win back the presidency and avoid jail time? Season 2 does a tremendous job at balancing Getty’s precarious situations.

In a way, David finds himself in a similar situation. His parents are divorced, NYU has no room for him in its film program, and his relationship is in danger of hitting the rocks like a ship in choppy waters without a lighthouse to guide it. David is torn between his mother and father, torn between his rejection from NYU and his hazy future that he now must face, and torn between his quaint hometown in Jersey and his girlfriend’s hippy dippy pretentious art scene in Manhattan.

“Red Oaks” is like a parable for the ’80s as a self-contained, naive decade of neon-colored leotards, flamboyant hairstyles and synth-pop. In the mid-’80s, the world was rapidly changing with the AIDS epidemic and advancing technology. By the time the 1990s rolled around and we marched toward a new millennium, the over-the-top partying of the last 30 years (i.e. hippies, free love, disco, drug use, etc.) was beginning to peter out. People needed to sober up, grow up and step up to take control of their lives and the growing problems of the world.

In the midst of this commotion, the country club is the only place where things make sense, at least for a little while, because things are simpler at the club. Characters return there again and again, despite their mounting problems, to teach a tennis lesson, smoke a joint, go for a swim, or try to curry favor with a wealthy Jewish widow.

In the periphery, we see bar mitzvahs and brit milahs going on at the club, true representations of the show’s recurring theme: growing up and hitting those important watershed moments in our lives.

Despite the varying ages of “Red Oaks” characters, they all have some growing up to do; they just need to take the necessary steps, which lead to some wacky hijinks.

At face value, the series is a follow-up to famous teen movies from the ’80s, like “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles,” but a little more mature in my humble opinion, with a hard undercurrent of Jewish ethics to boot. Values like honoring one’s parents and derech eretz, proper living, are a recurrent theme.

There you have it. “Red Oaks” is a comedy, to be sure, but there’s more beneath the surface, including profound lessons about life and Judaism.

So while you’re waiting for “Stranger Things” to return, I urge you to give “Red Oaks” a chance and let it be your salvation, restoring your faith in modern television like a lit menorah at Hanukkah.

As the Yiddish saying goes, “Onkuken kost kain gelt” — “It costs nothing to look” — unless you count the Amazon Prime subscription.

Josh Weiss is a senior at Drexel University in Philadelphia. This article originally appeared at

Josh Weiss

Josh Weiss is a senior at Drexel University in Philadelphia.