By Darren Franich
October 30, 2019 at 05:32 PM EDT
type
  • TV Show
Network
Genre

Lodge 49 has been canceled by AMC, so now is the moment for the glorious ascension of Lodge 49. The producers are shopping the series. Infinite networks with infinite airtime will find room for such a wondrous TV experience.

I have tried to explain the series before. I praised the splendid first season, currently streaming on Hulu. I exulted over the utterly transcendent season 2 finale, which grappled joyfully with the question of why so many good things in life can only happen after (or right alongside) so many bad things in life. Still, it’s important to describe just what precisely Lodge 49 has accomplished. Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max, Apple, CBS All Access, Pop TV, Facebook Watch, YouTube, streaming, cable, broadcast, premium: I hope you are listening.

Lodge 49 begins with Sean “Dud” Dudley (Wyatt Russell), a sorrowful ex-surfer living rough in sunny Long Beach, Calif. Dud’s father disappeared, leaving the family’s pool supply business in deep financial waters. Dud’s sister Liz (Sonya Cassidy) carries the economic weight of their debt, crushed into cynicism and corporate citizenship. Dud, for his part, seems to carry the whole existential weight of the lonely modern age.

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Coincidence leads to destiny. Dud finds a ring emblazoned with the logo of the Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx. It’s a Freemason-ish organization, a global social club whose outposts tend to feature a hangout tavern. The local Lynx organization operates out of the Lodge numbered 49. That’s where Dud meets the other (real?) hero of the series, Ernie Fontaine (Brent Jennings.) Ernie’s an industrial plumbing salesman on the far side of middle age, and yet he’s also a dreamer and a romantic.

The Lynx have fallen on hard times. Everyone on Lodge 49 is struggling through confusing circumstances. Ernie has rekindled a romance with his long-ago high school girlfriend Connie (Linda Emond), who’s secretly suffering from debilitating brain seizures. Connie’s married to Scott (Eric Allan Kramer), a harbor patrolman who looks like a Bond villain’s henchman and fusses like a lonelyboy romantic (God, he can sing!). On Lodge 49, you can’t judge any book by its cover. Very few Lynx members really believe in the order’s alchemical mysticism — but miracles do seem to keep happening. That becomes an obsession for Blaise (David Pasquesi), the local philosopher-slash-marijuana-dispenser. Actually, everyone is some kind of local philosopher. The best deep supporting character on TV right now is Burt (Joe Grifasi), a pawnbroker who seems to carry the whole moral calculus of Long Beach history in his cash-counting brain.

The show is recognizable as an inheritor of the tradition of Lost and Battlestar Galactica, those classic long-run mythology serials that tease out four-dimensional mysteries across decades of story time. Season 2 of Lodge 49 hit a new high in the standout episode “Circles,” set partially in the 1960s, with characters from the past seemingly interacting with the present-day ensemble. That hour also featured a scene where Liz steps through a door in California and winds up in Antarctica — which is precisely one-sixteenth as weird as the brain-nuking cliffhanger that ends season 2.

But Lodge 49 also moves at the leisurely, gentle pace of a cheerful sitcom. Events trend absurd, and guest stars stun. In season 1, Bruce Campbell achieved new stratospheres of Bruce Campbell-dom as a Palos Verdes real estate grandee who was some kind of SoCal god. In season 2, executive producer Paul Giamatti appeared as L. Marvin Metz, an unhinged writer prone to jumping out windows. Now, look, I want to say that L. Marvin Metz is a character out of Jose Luis Borges, a novelist planning a 100-book series who believes that he possesses any skill he grants his characters. But now that I’ve mentioned Borges, I feel it’s urgent to lighten the mood with this all-purpose L. Marvin Metz GIF:

Why is Paul Giamatti shoving his head through a map of the world? Why is there already a hole in that map of the world? Don’t you want to find out, Mr. Bezos? Lodge 49 is an utterly unique experience even in this age of 10,000 shows. It’s a recognizable farce with a bent for contemporary satire — Olivia Sandoval deserves all the prizes for her recurring role as Janet Price, an Elizabeth Holmes-ian megalomaniac — and it is also a heartbreakingly sensitive story about people who need other people.

We live in a hyperbolic moment for TV drama, big budgets and huge star personalities arms-racing the whole medium toward new heights of melodrama. You could say that Lodge 49 is a show about regular people, but it’s more proper to say that creator Jim Gavin and showrunner Peter Ocko have crafted a series about how fascinating cosmic every regular person is. (“We are special,” Dud explains, “No more special than anyone else, you know what I mean.”) The whole cast is doing career work. There’s a moment in season 2 when Dud gets a new job on the sales desk of a plumbing supply company, and from Russell’s ecstatic reaction you’d think he won 10 lotteries. (The major achievement of Lodge 49 is that it makes the industrial plumbing industry look awesome and quite noble; people will always need toilets.) And Jennings is the sensitive everyman our wounded nation needs. There’s a scene in season 2 where he gives a long soliloquy about the daughter he lost years ago, sorry sorry I’m wiping tears away just thinking about it. Did I mention there’s a road trip to Mexico, and a shark, and a bolt of lightning?

There was a time, not so long ago, when 2019’s mainstream entertainment was cult material. Zombie horrorshows, magical warfare, Thanos-punching superheroes: This was not billion-dollar subject matter when I was a kid. The lesson, easy to forget, is that the future lives on the fringe, just waiting to be discovered. We live in an understandably cynical age, and for all its evocations of economic struggle, Lodge 49 still feels like a forward-looking project — not quite optimistic, but deeply hopeful that we can all find each other again in the ruins. The show had small ratings in a crowded cable landscape, and it still grew a dedicated following. Membership will keep climbing. The show will continue. The door will open, I know it will.

Related content:

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 2
episodes
  • 20
Genre
Premiere
  • 08/06/18-10/14/19
Status
  • Cancelled
creator
  • Jim Gavin
Performers
Network
Complete Coverage
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