Three Memorable Shows: ‘Red Oaks,’ ‘Chernobyl’ and ‘My Cousin Vinny’

My candidate for one of TV’s most underrated shows is “Red Oaks,” a comedy/drama that largely takes place at a Jewish country club in New Jersey. 

David Meyer (Craig Roberts) is an NYU student and aspiring film director who works there as assistant tennis pro. He falls for the daughter of the president, Skye Getty (Alexandra Socha), and one story line follows their compelling and unpredictable romance from New Jersey to Paris to Greenwich Village. 

No less compelling are the subplots about their parents, aided by fine performances by Richard Kind and Jennifer Grey as David’s Dad and Mom and Paul Reiser as Skye’s Dad and the club president. 

The supporting cast is superb, including David’s pal Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) and his boss, Nash (Ennis Esmer). There are many things I love about “Red Oaks:” its sweet nostalgic look at the 1980s, its touching humor (e.g. a brilliant body-swapping episode), its terrific soundtrack, and the fact that it doesn’t go on too long. It has exactly the right number of episodes and ends on a perfect note. Everyone in your family will enjoy this show. On Amazon Prime.

If you passed on HBO’s award-winning miniseries “Chernobyl,” I quite understand. Why immerse yourself in another disaster in our year of trouble. But you should catch up with this gripping show, which dramatizes the 1986 explosion and the cleanup that follows. 

Many think that the worst nuclear disaster in history led to the breakup of the Soviet Union. 

The series won critical acclaim for its exhaustive research and stunning production design. Don’t try watching this on your phone, but you can appreciate it on an average size TV. (The average TV screen these days is 55 inches.) 

You probably won’t recognize any of the fine cast, except for the star, Jared Harris, who had a major role in “Mad Men.” 

Yes, the show is grim, but not all is destruction and death. There is much emphasis on the quiet heroism of firefighters, miners who dig a crucial tunnel, and other front-line workers. Also exposed is the infuriating response of government leaders, who refuse to listen to the scientists and care only about spreading lies to lighten the disaster. All too familiar. On HBO Max.

Dying is easy; comedy is hard. But you need some laughs after “Chernobyl,” and so I need a sure thing. 

Nothing can be surer than this 1992 film about Vinny Gambini, a Brooklyn personal injury lawyer who drives down to Alabama with his girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito, to defend his cousin and another youth (or “yute”) who have been falsely accused of murder. 

Many of you know I’m talking about “My Cousin Vinny,” which is always worth a second look. 

For you lucky newbies, Joe Pesci, who turns out to be a wonderful actor when released from the bonds of playing gangsters, plays Vinny. Marisa Tomei is Mona Lisa, and you have never met a more charming and sexy gearhead. She won an Oscar for best supporting actress. The two stars and their hilarious dialogue carry the film, but it is also a suspenseful courtroom drama with a surprise ending. 

Rent it, from $2.99 on Amazon Prime, YouTube and others.

 

Ed Ferman is the former editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and has been an editor at the Cornwall Chronicle for many years. He has lived in Cornwall since 1969.

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