If the pilot of Red Oaks felt like the first act of a movie, “Doubles” feels much more like a middle scene, setting up what’s to come and strengthening characters. Alexandra Socha’s yet-to-be-named Skye becomes less of the unattainable cool girl, and more of a person with her own demons. Paul Reiser’s Getty’s character is fleshed-out more as well. Yes, he’s an asshole, but a valuable one who can teach David as much as he can harm him. “Doubles” portends what’s happening next, while inching the plot forward just a tad.
But it’s Nash who gains the most depth in “Doubles.” In the pilot, he’s this suave man, who thinks he has life figured out. He can eat all the caesars, and leer at all the young women. But while he may be able to use the club sauna with the club members, he’s always among them, never of them. They mock him for betting on the ponies, but don’t give him stock tips when they say that’s the real way to make money (although, Black Monday would have most likely ruined a guy like Nash). But Nash so desperately wants to be a part of this world that he exists on the fringes of that he parrots the same phrases they use to David. It reveals a certain sadness in Nash. He was presented a delusional character to begin with, but “Doubles” proved the depth of that delusion far behind what the surface reading of him.
One of the stock tippers is Getty, the club president, who hires David to come back to his Jersey manse so he can impress a colleague (Tate Donovan) and a win bragging rights and a case of Bordeaux. “We never play for money. We have scruples. This isn’t golf,” Getty says. (Sidenote: Is it because I did not grow up among the country club set that I am not aware of this division between golf and tennis? Nash has his own golf pro enemy, which I chalked up to and Parks And Rec-style library vs. parks department rivalry. But does it go deeper than that? Educate me, country clubbers!) Paul Reiser’s signature role, Paul Buckman in Mad About You, had tendencies that could be called bordering-on-asshole, but they were supposed to be an outgrowth of his lovable neuroses. Paul, on the whole, was a likable character, the same could be said for his eponymous show. It’s refreshing to see Reiser act out, get to play a full on douchebag who has no reason to be anything but. He lives in a fantastic house, he knows it. As Sam puts it, club dues mean nothing to him, he wipes his ass with that kind of money.
While Getty is set up as this semi-villain in that he’s mean to David, it’s the Skye character I’m not sold on yet. She’s exotic and the opposite of Karen. She causes trouble, clearly has her own issues — including an affair with Getty’s associate. But I don’t understand her appeal as a character yet, other than the fact that she is pretty. David has a connection with her, but the knowledge of that comes from David, not from the character itself. She can talk about art, but screws over David in the end, solely for the purpose of fucking with her dad. $150 extra is not as valuable as a favor from a guy like Getty. If anything, Skye’s move demonstrates that Getty is not the ultimate villain after all, maybe he has something to teach David than he knows.
Once again, though, the strongest theme of “Doubles” mirrors that of the pilot: David is being forced to take one road, but everything is telling him to swerve onto another. He hates accounting, he’s good with a camcorder, he’s further dissatisfied with Karen’s desire to be exactly what her parents were before her. She has the chance to do something different with her life, even if that means modeling for Barry. But she doesn’t want escape. The city is smelly and she wants to be where roots are. It’s all reiterated with his conversation with Herb (Borscht Belt great Freddie Roman, who is also the Dean of the New York Friars’ Club). Herb was a proctologist because that’s what his dad told him to be; just like death and taxes, assholes, as Herb put it, will always exist. But that led Herb to living a life he hated. His only out was retirement, a life free from staring at assholes. But considering he has to deal with Getty, perhaps he’s not as free as he thinks he is.
- Check out of the Jackie Curtis paintings by Alice Neel that Skye and David discuss. The “Walk On The Wild Side” lyrics Jackie’s referenced in are: “Jackie is just speeding away / Thought she was James Dean for a day / Then I guess she had to crash/ Valium would have helped that bash.”
- I’m not particularly interested in the Misty-Wheeler relationship yet, although it is nice to see the Wheeler type (the less attractive, less ambitious, usually funnier friend of the everyman lead) act on his feeling for the unattainable hot girl, rather than just sit and pine away creepily.
- I love Barry the photographer (played by Josh Meyers, brother of Seth). Like Nash, he plays a more outsized character than everyone else on the show. It may break with the verisimilitude of the Red Oaks, but he’s funny and I get a kick out of him.