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Audience network's Loudermilk is as fresh as its title character is sour


Ron Livingston (2nd from right) plays title character in Loudermilk. Audience net photo

Premiering: Tues., Oct. 17th at 7:30 p.m. (central) on Audience
Starring: Ron Livingston,Will Sasso,Laura Mennell, Anja Savcic, Eric Keenleyside
Produced by: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Mort, Christopher Long, Bart Peters, Mark Burg, David Guillod

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Ron Livingston has made a series of strong impressions -- mostly on HBO -- in Band of Brothers, Sex and the City and Boardwalk Empire. Add the cult movie Office Space, a gift that keeps on giving.

Even so, here’s an actor who, at age 50, deserves his own show and a defining role. Loudermilk, which joins Hit the Road in premiering Tuesday, Oct. 17th on DirecTV’s Audience network, shows strong signs of becoming what both he and we deserve. The venue remains comparatively obscure, but Livingston’s first front-and-center TV vehicle turns out to be a real find.

He plays Sam Loudermilk, an irascible recovering alcoholic and former rock ’n’ roll journalist who’s a brusque substance abuse counselor when not doing janitorial work at a Seattle bank. Each of the four episodes made available for review begins with him carping about something or other to someone or other. In the opening half-hour, a woman with a long list of specialty coffee orders puts Loudermilk off his feed. It’s one thing to step aside and open a door for her but quite another when she then gets in line ahead of him.

He otherwise lets off steam at the Immaculate Heart community center, where the oft-disapproving head priest, Father Mike (Eric Keenleyside), compares Loudermilk to “an Ikea chair” on the comfort front.

“I’m not a miracle worker, like the bearded guy that you love so much,” Loudermilk retorts. It’s one of many lines that work to perfection in a comedy that exudes a winning, rough charm.

If Loudermilk wants to keep ramrodding these meetings, though, he’ll have to make a personal house call on a parishioner’s drug addicted teenage daughter, Claire Wilkes (Anja Savcic). Father Mike insists on no less, and he also expects a good faith effort. Otherwise the church will be closed to him.

Claire ends up becoming a series regular after Loudermilk very grudgingly allows her to crash in an apartment he shares with his sponsor, Ben Barnes (Will Sasso). But first he asks, “Why can’t you just find a park bench or an abandoned railroad car?”

Also co-starring is Laura Mennell as apartment building newcomer Allison Montgomery, who moves in across the hall. Loudermilk has more than a platonic interest in her, but complications ensue.

The lead character’s sour ball demeanor is somewhat reminiscent of Ted Danson’s comportment in Becker, which now seems to be eons ago after wrapping its six-season CBS run in 2004. Loudermilk shares Dr. John Becker’s annoyance with the world at large, but in more graphic and pointed terms.

Several of Loudermilk’s “patients” also are fleshed out during these first four episodes, including a former rock band drummer with stunted arms and a wayward father who hasn’t communicated with his daughter in 10 years. None of the resolutions, such as they are, come off as sappy. This series is too savvy for that.

Livingston excels as the point man, making Sam Loudermilk both his own worst enemy and a guy who would be damned interesting to be around. This is one of the ongoing TV season’s better new comedies. All it needs now is to be more readily available, which is nothing that a same-season streaming deal with Netflix, Amazon or Hulu couldn’t bring about.

For now, though, DirecTV’s Audience network primarily is interested in building its brand and coaxing consumers to buy into it. Loudermilk is a firm step in that direction.


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