Primary Wave Entertainment, 2017-
Peter Farrelly and Bobby Mort
📷 : Licensed from Adobe Stock
Movies and TV shows with heart, positive vibes, and warm messages
Movies and TV shows about drugs or with disorienting presentations
In recent years, anti-bullying efforts have altered the subject matter of many comedies. Most mainstream half-hours have taken on a more wholesome approach to storytelling, highlighting family and relationship struggles. For many cable and streaming companies, comedies have shifted to dramedies, and the humor results from the characters’ overexposure to each other or complicated psychology.
Loudermilk chooses a different route, opting for the older style of somewhat obscene humor. After his career as a music critic is cut short, Sam Loudermilk, played by Ron Livingston of Office Space fame, leads a support group for substance abuse that meets in a church basement. While this profession leads you to believe that he is a sensitive and caring individual, Sam is kind of a jerk. The critic in him never fades into the background. Every episode opens with him picking a fight with a stranger over their behavior, throwing out opinions he could have easily kept to himself.
Nonetheless, our protagonist strives to help people fight addiction and he excels at it despite his antagonistic nature. Sam’s ability is underscored by the show’s inciting incident; a rich widow asking him to rehabilitate her troubled teenage daughter, Claire (Anya Savcic, Big Sky). He obliges, and over the pilot episode, we see how his flaws as a human still manage to make him good at his job. His visage of apathy sets him apart from your stereotypical counselor and allows him to subvert the expectations of the cynical people he meets.
Loudermilk’s imperfections set the tone for much of the series’ humor, as the recovering addicts in his group do not exhibit much tact either. On the surface, they are not easy characters to wrap your arms around. The group consists of deadbeat dads, womanizers and bookies, with Loudermilk himself having nearly committed vehicular manslaughter before finding his calling as a support group leader. However, they possess a shared redeeming quality, in that they acknowledge their wrongdoings and their need for help. They have reached a stage of self-improvement that many, addicts or not, never reach.
Having this de facto family of misfits allows the series to create a diverse cast, with people of different ethnicities and nationalities represented as well as a character with a disability. The show does not shy away from storylines concerning sexism, ableism and racism, but still takes jabs at all the characters regardless of their background. In a strange way, the series exhibits a more progressive tone than many of the more culturally sensitive modern comedies. Despite their differences, the members of Loudermilk’s group bond through their efforts to mend their relationships and stay clean. We see them reconnect with people that they’ve hurt, and struggle exhibiting patience or with changing how they communicate.
If you know people battling addiction, many of the show’s recurring messages may hit home. Though not overtly stated at any time, it hints at the fact of life that you cannot change the past; you can only strive to do better going forward. We see this play out specifically among Loudermilk in his attempts to atone for harsh music critiques, Ben (Will Sasso, MadTV), Loudermilk’s best friend and roommate, and Mugsy (Brian Regan), a member of the support group who abandoned his family. A line that Claire throws back in Loudermilk’s face multiple times is that “getting clean is easy; living is hard.”
In the end, Loudermilk effectively tackles difficult subject matters and shows how a group of people who are not at all family-oriented can still somehow form a family. While it is difficult to think of a strong comparison, Orange is the New Black comes close, as we see many of its main characters ponder how they wound up in prison and how to cope. It would be easy to observe the style of humor and dismiss Loudermilk as juvenile, but the show’s ability to humanize its main characters and portray the struggle to self-improvement with pinpoint accuracy make this half-hour series a tempting watch.