A grumpy guru leads path to sobriety in ‘ Loudermilk’
Asamemberin good standing of the Ron Livingston Appreciation Society, I am always happy to see the star of “Office Space” and “Band of Brothers” at work. He is usually up to something; it is not as if he needs my good thoughts to findwork.
Lately, he’s been in the Alia Shawkat sitcom “Search Party” and has a recurring role on “Dice.” Now he’s the star of “Loudermilk,” a 10- episode comedy from AT& T Audience Network, available through DirecTV and AT& T U- verse. Yes, a telephone company makes TV; it’s a crazyworld!
Created by Peter Farrelly, who with his brother Bobby co- directed “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” and “Colbert Report” writer Bobby Mort, it’s a generally appealing show, if not in every respect convincing. In spite of the fact that Farrelly directed all the episodes, on the evidence of the six ( of 10) available for review, the showfeels unsure of what itwants to do.
Loudermilk— he’s one of those characters everyone calls by his last name, like Quincy or Columbo— is a former music journalist turned maintenance man and a former drunk turned sobriety meeting leader. Although he declares himself done with writing, Loudermilk is still full of opinions, about music and other things, and he shares them, irascibly, without hesitation or regard for the interest of the person he’s talking with, or at.
Livingston is 50 now, but there is a sense in which he has always been 50— that as a young man, he was just waiting for the years to catch up him. ( At the same time, he’s a “young 50.”) As a leading man, he’s a solid guy with something just a little too askew, a little too internally rumpled, to be wholly successful as a leading man; it’s also what’s kept him interesting. The priestwhose premises Livingston uses for his sessions tells him, “You’re not warm and fuzzy. You’re hard and angular and uncomfortable. You’re like an IKEA chair that leads sobriety meetings.” That fits.
Loudermilk shares an apartment with his sponsor and self- described only friend, Ben ( Will Sasso). Although I watched all six of the available episodes, it occurs to me that I can’t saywhat Ben does apart from sharing an apartment and occasional misadventures with Loudermilk, and argue with him about the coffee maker. ( He’s a comic, maybe? He jokes a lot.) It’s a nice apartment too, and rents in Seattle, where the Vancouverproduced series is set, aren’t cheap.
Into their life, and their apartment, through a bit of convenient blackmail comes Claire ( Anja Savcic), a troubled rich girl well down the Highway to Hell. Upon meeting, she’s a cartoon version of a teenage junkie, sullen and raccoon- eyed and stripping for money, with an equally cartoonish mother who calls going to rehab “enrolling in one of those heroin schools.” WhenClaire gets clean — with such easy alacrity it can hardly be called a spoiler ( except for the ease and alacrity)— her part improves as well. There’s always the threat she’ll backslide, but as such stories go this is no “Days of Wine and Roses,” let alone “The Panic inNeedle Park.”
Meanwhile, across the hall, there’s a new neighbor, Allison ( Laura Mennell), who interests Loudermilk and who seems interested in him, although there will be many stones in this path, most of them are placed, you will not be surprised to learn, by Loudermilk himself.
Loudermilk is portrayed at times as a grudging counselor, and at other times an overly involved one. And though I can’t speak from experience, my guess is that some of the tactics he and others employ here in the name of recovery cross traditional boundaries, and, even when they get results, can seem ill- considered, liable to backfire and potentially dangerous.
Although it feels contrived at times, or willfully outrageous— this is Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly brothers, remember — it can also be authentically charming. Livingston and Sasso have especially good chemistry, and Savcic fits inwell with them. Irish Balladeers, cover band LightWeight and Creative and Performing Arts Academy of NEPAaswell as fire hoopers and spinners. Guests can check out balloon artists, a jack- o’- lantern carving competition, tarot card readings, an arts and crafts tent, a bonfire sculpture by Brian Murray of Reclamation Industrial Furnishings and a large- scale art installation that highlights the standing stone blast furnaces.
Each year, the festival explores a different culture in its educational component, Morin said, and this time visitors can head to the cultural tent to learn more about the Irish andWelsh immigrants and the culture they brought to Northeast Pennsylvania.
In seven years, the bonfire has turned into a placewhere arts, culture, heritage and history meet, and Morin believes it will continue to growwith the community’s support.
“We’re really looking forward to ( the festival),” he said. “To get to do this festival for the last seven years straight and always have such a great response from the community ... it’s just a great, fun night.”