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‘LODGE 49’: WILL THE DUD ABIDE?

August 4, 2018

If you can imagine “The Big Lebowski” remade as tragedy, you’re getting close to the spirit of “Lodge 49” (9:05 p.m., AMC, TV-14). This hard-to-categorize series combines off-beat and downbeat humor with a long meditation on the evaporation of the American dream in blue-collar Long Beach, Calif.

Wyatt Russell stars as “Dud,” an aptly named 30-something beach bum whose career as a surfer ended with a snakebite in Central America, resulting in a wound that will not heal. Just as his name is one letter short of Jeff Bridge’s legendary Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, he lacks Lebowski’s stoner audacity.

As “Lodge 49” begins, Dud appears licked by a life that has just barely begun. He and his twin sister, Liz (Sonya Cassidy), saw their relatively comfortable existence vanish after the sudden death of their father and the discovery that their family home had been mortgaged to the hilt. Dud is frequently seen haunting his old neighborhood, much to the outrage of the current owners, who bought the place in a foreclosure sale.

This distinction alone points to how far we’ve come, or sunk, since the 1998 premiere of “The Big Lebowski.” It was never entirely clear how the Dude supported himself, but you knew he didn’t depend on his parents for either income or self-esteem.

The show’s title refers to a secret society or fraternal organization that Dud stumbles upon after finding a member’s ring on the beach. He’s inducted into the lodge by Ernie (Brent Jennings), a plumbing supply salesman with gambling debts and loan shark problems, not to mention the hots for another lodge member’s main squeeze (Jocelyn Towne).

“Lodge 49” touches on any number of contemporary themes, from the decline of the middle class to the disappearance of social organizations and places where people can gather unrelated to family, work or consumerism.

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