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THE TV COLUMN: Little Rock native stars in 'Lodge 49,' potential AMC hit

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For more than a decade, AMC has been the home of innovative, must-see TV -- the kind of old-fashioned appointment television that was around before we could record the series and make our own appointments.

The long list of outstanding programs begins with Mad Men (2007-2015) and includes Breaking Bad and its spinoff prequel, Better Call Saul, the Pierce Brosnan Western The Son, Humans, Dietland, Halt and Catch Fire, Killing Eve, Preacher, The Killing and The Walking Dead and its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead.

Granted, these serious adult dramas are not for everyone. Some enjoy simpler TV for its escapist value. They don't want to invest a lot of time or emotion with complicated characters or convoluted plots. They prefer a standard cop show where the crime is committed, the perp is tracked down and arrested and justice is served -- all within the hour the show is on the air.

And that's fine.

But for others, each of the above dramas requires commitment and tells a fascinating and nuanced tale with memorable characters. With Hollywood concentrating on blockbuster superhero films, TV is where the outstanding drama lives. If there was ever a golden age, this is it.

Drama is one thing, but how does AMC handle dramatic comedy? We're about to find out when Lodge 49 debuts at 9 p.m. Monday. There will be 10 episodes of what AMC is labeling "a modern fable."

The series stars Little Rock native Brent Jennings. The 67-year-old Hollywood veteran is a 1969 graduate of Central High who went off to college in Boston, moved to New York to become involved in theater and then transitioned into film and TV.

Jennings has appeared in a number of films and in episodes of more than two dozen TV shows ranging from Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues to Modern Family and Murder in the First. But he is perhaps best known for his role as Oakland Athletics coach Ron Washington in 2011's Oscar-nominated Moneyball opposite Brad Pitt. That may soon change if Lodge 49 becomes the hit that AMC hopes.

Lodge 49 follows a quirky group of "broken" characters still dreaming in Long Beach, Calif. As creator/writer Jim Gavin tweets: "Lodge 49 is about alchemy, plumbing, donuts, debt, service jobs, love, time and all manner of SoCal knuckleheadedness."

Wyatt Russell (Black Mirror) stars as former surfer Sean "Dud" Dudley, who is optimistically drifting along following the mysterious death of his father and the failure of the family business.

The 32-year-old Russell, by the way, is the only biological child of longtime Hollywood couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. His half-siblings include Oliver Hudson and Kate Hudson.

Jennings portrays Ernie Fontaine, "a Navy veteran, plumbing supplies salesman, longtime bachelor, working-class Renaissance man, and Luminous Knight of the Ancient and Benevolent Order of the Lynx, Lodge 49." He becomes Dud's mentor.

The lodge is a refuge for flawed people that may just be the answer for Dud, who seeks to recover the idyllic life that he lost when his father died.

Others include:

Sonya Cassidy (Humans) as Liz Dudley, Dud's twin sister. She's deeply cynical and pragmatic and searching for a way out of the crushing debt her father left her.

Linda Emond (The Big Sick) plays lodge member Connie Mills, an old-school journalist on her third husband, Scott Mills.

Eric Allan Kramer (Mike and Molly) is Scott, a Long Beach Port Harbor Patrol officer who also plays drums in a surf rock cover band.

David Pasquesi (Veep) portrays Blaise St. John, the lodge's resident philosopher/bartender. He also runs his own marijuana dispensary.

Lodge 49 is new territory for AMC and will remind some of series such as Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me. The series takes its time getting up to full speed, however, but it's worth the wait.

• Better Call Saul. Season 4 kicks off at 8 p.m. Monday on AMC. The prequel to Breaking Bad is one of the best dramas on television and it returns with an understandably subdued season opener.

Spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you haven't figured out what happened in the Season 3 cliffhanger.

Last season ended with the apparent fiery suicide of Jimmy McGill's (Bob Odenkirk) brother Chuck (Michael McKean). Sorry, there was no bait-and-switch. Chuck died and Jimmy is devastated.

Season 4 will explore how Chuck's death moves Jimmy closer to the edge and his ultimate transformation into Walter White's shady attorney, Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad.

It's especially satisfying to see that we'll get even more of Breaking Bad stalwarts Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 08/05/2018

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