Livingston stars as addict in comedy, “Loudermilk”

Photo courtesy of AT&T Network

“Loudermilk” is a new TV series that premiered on the AT&T audience network this October. Written by Peter Farrelly (“Dumb and Dumber”), the plot of “Loudermilk” centers on a four-year sober alcoholic. Still, the show differs from other AA based TV series like Netflix’s “Flaked.”

Sam Loudermilk (Ron Livingston, “The Conjuring”) is a substance abuse counselor himself. His uninvolved demeanor and aloof attitude are refreshing when he acts as a counselor. Loudermilk is a man who has been known “to get through to people who have lost their way.”

In the first episode, his experience in counseling leads him to a teenage heroin addict’s doorstep. Some plot points in the story are underdeveloped — Loudermilk is forced to visit an addict’s house even though he has his own substance abuse recovery  group.

He only goes to the house because the minister that provides his group their meeting space threatened to take it away unless Loudermilk made the house call. The minister’s defense for the blackmail is that Sam Loudermilk is the worst behaved counselor that he has even seen.

The gist of the first episode is essentially that Sam’s unlikable attitude ultimately leads to conflict and chaos during interactions with new characters or during his work in the group sessions.

He engages in conflict prematurely, gets “Asshole” written as his name in a coffee shop and is caught pushing an old man down the stairs. Like many first-person centered shows, the audience empathizes with Loudermilk, understanding that he comes from a place of sincerity.

Loudermilk’s lack of social skills puts him in trouble and ruins most of his life. The episode only slightly explores a bit of his backstory, but it is the same removed attitude that allows him to break through to the heroin addict. Loudermilk’s success in being a substance abuse counselor is because recovering addicts see themselves in him.

Since Loudermilk has such a fragmented life, the group members find it easy to confide in him. Even with the heroin addict, Loudermilk put his group session space on the line if he did not get her started on a path to reform.

Despite the stakes, he initially does not pursue the teenage girl with tenacity, and even speaks rudely to her. This treatment stems from a strategy of reverse psychology, but after Loudermilk’s tactics fail, he visits the girl again at a strip club and breaks through to her — getting her to admit that she really misses her father.

This outcome is predictable and too abrupt for a 20-minute TV show. Loudermilk lacks real depth of content, and the writing needs realism. Loudermilk broke through to a teenage girl with a heavy heroin addiction in only two five-minute meetings.

This success is dramatized and does not fall in line with the plotline of “Loudermilk.” The story’s focal points are substance abuse and recovery, two serious themes that should not be reduced to such simple solutions.

The writing is derivative of sitcom-like jokes. After the delivery of a joke, there were awkward breaks in writing, as if the show was written with a laugh track. When Loudermilk first came to the teenage girl’s house, he peeps inside, jokingly looking for “the hoarder’s crew.”

Some material is good in its essence, but the way the content is used is irregular and leads to silences between conversations and cringeworthy moments for the audience. Farrelly’s comedic touch needs a second draft. One-liners and short jokes have no space in “Loudermilk” because they are not suited to the heavy themes.

The plot still throws the audience for a loop by the end of the first episode. Although some portions of the writing are predictable, “Loudermilk” catches its stride as the show continues and more backstories are unraveled.

The story remains interesting, especially with the short 20-minute runtime. The show’s inclusion of many characters and their individual stories keeps the audience wanting more. For viewers that do not care as much for realism like in award-winning comedy series like “Maron” and “Louie,” “Loudermilk” is a good choice.

“Loudermilk” is picturized like a more mainstream TV series and may appeal to a larger audience. The show is still heavily uncensored and adult, at some points turning surprisingly crass and raunchy.

The writing shows potential for laugh-out-loud jokes, and the future of the show is bright due to Farrelly’s legendary comic status.