Review by C.J. Bunce
The humor of AMC’s new series Lodge 49 pulls from those oddball, off-the-wall comedies of the past. The unlikely situational family antics of the Eddie Izzard series The Riches. The dance between fantasy and reality that was Jeremy Piven’s series Cupid. The pathetic and at the same time hilarious lead played by Caroline Dhavernas in Wonderfalls. And that modern chaos and confusion you can find in the Zach Galifianakis show Baskets. Plus it has a lodge, which is pretty cool, but not in that cool woodsy lodge vibe of shows like Twin Peaks or Wayward Pines. No, this is a lodge as in Elks Lodge, or more like the Water Buffalo Lodge from The Flintstones. Part Cheers’ bar and part, well so far it’s mainly only like the Cheers’ bar, where the sad sack young lead, aptly named Dud (played by 22 Jump Street, Cowboys and Aliens, and Escape from L.A. actor Wyatt Russell) finally finds a place where everyone knows his name. Sean “Dud” Dudley is an update on the 1980s (or 1960s, or 1970s) surfer dude, complete with surfboard and Volkswagen Thing. His lack of money and ambition coupled with his positive attitude and continuous projection of a sense of inner peace makes this update to the archetype all the more real for today.
Three episodes in and we’re still not quite sure where this story will go. Dud and his twin sister Liz, played by Sonya Cassidy (Humans, The Woman in White, Olympus) are a year past the death of their father, who died in a surfing accident off the coast of Long Beach, California, where they still live. Dud can’t move on, so he continues to swim in the pool of his childhood home (until the current residents get a restraining order) and he stifles more than one sale of his dad’s shop (by urinating on the window during a showing by the realtor). Meanwhile Liz is left to work as waiter at the TV version of Hooters, caring only about the tips since the rest of her pay is garnished thanks to her co-signing on her father’s $80,000 debt. She is threatened by her bank, bailed her brother out once to the tune of $3,000 (so far) for taking a loan from a local loan shark, and yet she seems to have her act together as much as that is possible, keeping an apartment where she and her brother can gain a bit of relaxation watching TV on the couch at the end of each crazy, crazy day.
Where does the Lodge of the title come in? That’s the lodge for the “Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx,” a local lodge Dud stumbles across–or was it fate? Will we learn Lodge 49 is really more like Warehouse 13? The eccentric, seemingly immortal Grand Poobah of the Lodge is played by the great Canadian character actor Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks, The Fog, Timecop, The X-Files). Other minor roles are filled in by familiar faces, too, like Eddie’s boss, played by master comedic actor Brian Doyle-Murray (Caddyshack, Wayne’s World, Groundhog Day), and the owner of the payday loan shop, played by Joe Grifasi (Splash, Brewster’s Millions, Big Business, Batman Forever). And look for everyone’s favorite genre actor Bruce Campbell and Chuck’s Vik Sahay as recurring characters in later episodes. Another big name to know: Paul Giamatti (The Illusionist, Lady in the Water, Paycheck, American Splendor) is executive producer of the show. More trivia? Wyatt Russell is the son of actors Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, and half-brother of Kate Hudson.
We’re not sure yet where the other major characters will fit in, although creator Jim Gavin and showrunner Peter Ocko give as much attention to retired sailor-turned plumbing supply salesman Ernie played by Brent Jennings (Moneyball, Medium, Brubaker), a good guy who is also behind on his debts, but not so good as to pass on the opportunity to swindle Dud out of $2,000. The Lodge is modern enough that it lets minorities and women in (this gets a light joke in the show) and that provides room for Connie (Law & Order and The Sopranos’ Linda Emond) to be a regular member of the Lodge, the wife of a cop (The Librarians and Beverly Hills Buntz’s Eric Allan Kramer) who is also a member, and sometimes lover of Ernie. But the most intriguing member of the Lodge is Blaise, played by David Pasquesi (Groundhog Day, Veep), the resident Lodge philosopher and bartender. Blaise talks the talk of apothecary (selling marijuana and similar “herb therapy” from his shop), and tells Dud about the fantastical origins of the Lodge, yet he’s firmly footed enough in the real world to guide Dud back to reality when he seems to be buying into the Lodge mythology too literally.
You may not know why you like it, but you will. It’s odd, it’s quirky, it’s contemporary, it’s real, and it’s fun. Lodge 49 airs Mondays at 9 p.m. Central on AMC. You can stream current episodes free at the show’s website at AMC.com or watch the entire season with an Amazon-AMC season pass.