Red Oaks, on the other hand, should’ve gotten the weekly release treatment. It’s a nostalgic homage to multiple ’80s films, with great acting from Richard Kind, Paul Reiser, and Jennifer Grey. But it demands a certain kind of audience (while watching, I kept wondering if I was too young to fully appreciate the fuzzy ’80s nostalgia), and viewers who are patient enough to let elements of the narrative float around, rather than build big stories. There are some bizarre missteps, such as an honest-to-god body swap episode that is well executed (and directed by Amy Heckerling) but feels so jarring and dissonant with the down-to-earth atmosphere of the show that it pulls you far enough away from the original narrative that it’s hard to simply enjoy it.
The trouble with Red Oaks‘ binge-ready format is that the show has the exact opposite effect of Casual: the more I watched, the more I grew tired of the program, and gradually started to like it less. It meandered, it lost my attention, it began to feel repetitive. Red Oaks is not a terrible show, but it’s one that would’ve made a better 90-minute movie than ten-episode series. The problem is that there isn’t much content in the individual episodes, which can be fine if there’s a week between each new one — but watched in rapid succession, the aimlessness becomes an increasingly serious issue. You begin to get the feeling that you’ve seen this before, and it’s because you have: about 30 minutes ago.
Casual and Red Oaks both illustrate the benefits of and problems with binge-watching. Their release schedules should’ve been switched, but both are perfectly watchable. The trouble is in deciding how to watch them.