I’ve only seen two episodes of “Red Oaks,” a new coming-of-age comedy from Amazon that premiered in New York last week, but I’m already convinced that the retailing giant has made another hit show.
When it comes to streaming video, Amazon is often compared to Netflix: Both companies are trying to create original and exclusive programming, in addition to that keeps people coming back.
But unlike Amazon, Netflix’s only focus is streaming, and it’s seen a lot more success than Amazon with its original shows. Netflix shows like “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and Marvel’s “Daredevil” have delighted both audiences and critics, and helped turn Netflix into the largest subscription streaming service in the world.
Amazon’s TV shows are available as a perk to members of Amazon Prime, the company’s $US99 per year free shipping loyalty program that also comes with a host of other goodies. The company’s biggest success to date has been “Transparent,” a comedy drama that stars Jeffrey Tambor as a man transitioning from a man to woman. It’s won Emmys, Golden Globes, and critics’ praise.
For Amazon, “Red Oaks” may be another “Transparent.” That is, it could be the type of show that people feel like they need to see or they’re missing out. I left the theatre after watching two episodes and couldn’t wait to see more, which is the same way I felt after a few episodes of “Transparent” last year.
“Red Oaks” takes place at a wealthy country club in suburban New Jersey in 1985. It stars Craig Roberts as David Myers, who’s home from NYU for the summer and working as an assistant tennis pro at the Red Oaks country club.
David is interested in filmmaking, but his father, Sam, played by the always endearing Richard Kind, has other ideas for him. He’s pushing his son to be an accountant, which he thinks is a sensible profession. In the first episode, he congratulates David on his summer job at the club, saying “there’s going to be a lot of wealthy people who are going to remember you when they need someone to do their taxes.”
The series chronicles David’s adventures at the Red Oaks country club in work, love, friendship, and sex. He works for a hilarious, philandering tennis pro played by Ennis Esmer), encounters a creepy photographer played by David Myers, and gets pushed around by Getty, a club president, who’s played by Paul Reiser.
And Jennifer Grey plays David’s nagging but loving mum, who, as it is, is struggling with her own identity.
Netflix and Amazon have different end goals in creating original programming. Netflix only makes money from subscriptions, so it needs a steady stream of original and exclusive programming that keep people paying each month.
But Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world, makes most of its money from selling actual things. Amazon knows that Prime subscribers spend more money than non-subscribers, so Amazon does everything it can to get more people to join Prime.
And that’s where good movies and TV shows come in. Amazon’s goal in making and licensing content is to make its Prime loyalty program as valuable as possible: to get more people to sign up, and stay signed up, for Prime. In other words, if the free shipping isn’t enough to get you to sign up for Prime, Amazon hopes the TV shows, unlimited photo storage, streaming music service, early access to products, and more, will be.
So Amazon needs to make movies and TV shows that are so good that people not only feel like it’s worth it to be a Prime member, but also attract more people to the loyalty program.
And with both “Transparent” and “Red Oaks,” Prime appears to be well on its way to becoming an essential subscription for people who like good TV.