“Lodge 49” on AMC
Deadpan comedy, down-and-dirty nihilism, magical realism, corporate conspiracy and a bit of alchemical weirdness combine in AMC’s oddball series “Lodge 49.” Described, rather accurately, by the network as “uncategorizeable,” the show centers on burned-out ex-surfer dude Dud (Wyatt Russell, son to Kurt and Goldie), who bums his way around Southern California, metal-detecting on the beach for donut money and crashing in the apartment he no longer rents. Following the mysterious drowning death of his beloved father, Dud is on something of a downward spiral. Fate hands him a new path in life, however, when he finds a fake gold ring with the image of a lynx on it. It’s the sigil of a dusty old fraternal lodge out by the airport. Soon, Dud has joined the semi-secretive order (mostly because they have their own tavern)—but also because he may be some sort of “chosen one” who will lead the Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx back to … something or other.
Though it revolves around Dud, the show functions as more of an ensemble. In time we get to know Ernie (Brent Jennings), Dud’s mentor in the lodge who’s dealing with his own financial problems while trying to maintain an on-again-off-again relationship with a newspaper reporter (Linda Emond). Dud’s twin sister (Sonya Cassidy), a waitress at a Tilted Kilt-esque bar, is on her own path of coping/non-coping with her father’s death. She’s also struggling with some serious debt, brought on by her father’s death and her brother’s general vagrancy. There’s also a budding romance between Dud and an older, depressed HR employee (Jocelyn Towne)—though she doesn’t appear until episode three. The supporting cast is all compelling—which is good, because our man Dud is a bit of, well, a dud. He’s a genial dunderhead, and his simple attraction to the camaraderie of the lodge feels genuine. But at the end of the day, Dud isn’t the most charismatic of main characters. He feels like a lightweight, philosophy-free Xerox of The Dude from The Big Lebowski.
The “story” of “Lodge 49,” such as it is, is in no hurry to assert itself. Is there supposed to be some sort of magical “X-Files”-esque mystery at the heart of all this? Hard to say. The show is mostly just a leisurely hangout among mismatched friends, an hourlong sitcom with the punchlines boiled away by sadness and surreality. Despite the unusual setting and quirky characters, this is no “Northern Exposure.” With its repeated themes of economic uncertainty and emotional shellshock, there are far more moments of grim reality than wacky humor.
The meandering pace and ambiguous tone of “Lodge 49” aren’t likely to hook viewers right away. Stick around for three or four episodes, though, and you might be curious enough to tough out the first season of what is most likely to be a short-lived item of cult curiosity.