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'Lodge 49' Shows Promise
August 6, 2018  | By David Hinckley

The line between comedy and drama, already a distant memory in some television neighborhoods, blurs further in AMC’s new Lodge 49.

The 10-episode Lodge 49, which premieres Monday at 10:05 p.m. ET, plunks a busted-up young surfer into an old-school community service organization, and mines that unlikely pairing for laughs while both sides pick up some learning and some healing.  

Spoiler alert: Some potential viewers aren’t going to make it past the setup. Getting to the laughs here requires enduring one of the most depressing setups in the ever-expanding history of dramedies.

Twentysomething Sean “Dud” Dudley (Wyatt Russell, top) has grown up in Long Beach, Calif., living a life somewhere between a Beach Boys song and basic millennial slacking.

His father ran a surf shop, and Sean was only too happy to join the family business. He surfed, he worked in the shop. He’d caught a good wave.

Then he wiped out.

His father died in a surfing accident. The shop went bankrupt. The family house was sold in foreclosure. Sean took a surfing trip to Nicaragua and got bitten by a snake. The bite was improperly treated, which has crippled his foot and left him unable to surf.

His worldly possessions fit into one surf buggy for which he can barely afford gas. He lives off the charity of his exasperated but loving and supportive twin sister Liz (Sonya Cassidy, above, with Russell), who lets him crash on her couch because he’s otherwise homeless.  

Outwardly, he maintains the surfer-dude attitude, like hey, man, it’s all good. But he hasn’t even ‘fessed up about the snake thing to one of his closest old surfing buddies, Alice (Celia Au), who works in the doughnut shop that’s the closest thing he has to a home.

That is to say Dud is aimless and depressed. In many ways, he seems to have given up.

When we meet him, he’s walking the beach with a metal detector, hoping to find something he can pawn for enough money to buy a doughnut and put gas in his car.

He finds a ring with an insignia and takes it to the pawnshop, where he’s told it’s worthless because it’s not gold.

So he keeps the ring, and wouldn’t you know it, he runs out of gas right in front of the building with a big sign that matches the insignia on the ring.

That would be the Lynx lodge. Sean knocks on the door and meets Ernie Fontaine (Brent Jennings, right, with Russell), a 59-year-old salesman who fears that life has passed him by and recently tried to ameliorate that process by placing a couple of ill-advised bets that have left him $2,000 in debt to some unpleasant people.

Like real-life community organizations these days, the Lynx lodge has been losing membership. The veterans are dying off, and the young folks would rather play video games. Or, in Long Beach, surf.  

So when Ernie and Sean hit it off, and Sean casually asks how one becomes a Lynx member, Ernie invites him to give it a try. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, Sean says sure – the answer that enables Lodge 49 to roll out a full cast of people who have legitimate problems and concerns and also often seem a little off-center.

There, then, we have the nexus at which comedy will be meeting drama. Sean needs to reclaim his life and bring Liz back with him. Ernie needs to make his mark, and that will certainly involve his fellow Lynxes.

Neither, frankly, is the smartest or slickest guy in the room. Still, we like them, and we want this all to work, which is critical in the TV game.

Lodge 49, in some ways, starts from the same place as Showtime’s Shameless: the bottom rung of the ladder. Shameless works largely because its characters see themselves as fighters and survivors, not victims. 

Once Sean stops looking like a victim, to himself and to viewers, Lodge 49 can go have fun.

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