As the edgy comedy Loudermilk debuts on AT&T’s Audience Network, the series represents yet another notable filmmaker trying their hand in television. Peter Farrelly, whose films include There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, created Loudermilk alongside Bobby Mort (formerly of The Colbert Report). Beyond a few Seinfeld scripts decades ago, Loudermilk, which stars Ron Livingston as a saturnine substance-abuse counselor, represents an uncommon venture into TV for Farrelly.
Farrelly said he had “zero interest in television” when he first arrived in Los Angeles in the ’80s. It’s a vastly different story in 2017. “TV is where it’s at,” he said. “It’s a better place to be. You can do more in TV than you can do in movies.”
Farrelly is the latest in a litany of celebrated filmmakers who have come to the same conclusion. Woody Allen developed Crisis in Six Scenes for Amazon last year. Steven Soderbergh had The Knick on Cinemax, then The Girlfriend Experience on Starz. Jane Campion does Top of the Lake for SundanceTV. Seth Rogen has Preacher on AMC and Future Man coming up on Amazon.
Marty Kaplan, the Norman Lear chair of entertainment, media and society at USC Annenberg, said the vast amount of networks offering scripted series has opened the door for filmmakers eyeing television. “In the creative community, TV used to be the last stop,” he said. “Now it’s the first stop.”
Several filmmakers lament that it’s increasingly difficult to get a movie made, unless the film is an extension of a comic book or video game. Fewer character-driven films exist. “It’s very hard to get a regular movie made,” Farrelly said.
So he is focused on Loudermilk. The show is set in Seattle — “a great music town,” said Farrelly — and the title character has a music critic background. While he aims to aid the substance abusers in his orbit, Loudermilk’s feisty nature stirs up trouble with most everyone he meets.
The show was initially intended for Amazon, Farrelly said, but that network did not opt to move ahead with it. Audience Network went straight to series with Loudermilk, though the network vetoed the project’s original name, Alcoholics Unanimous. “They were wide open, they trusted us,” said Farrelly, after sharing the series “bible” with Audience Network executives. Audience Network did not make an executive available to speak.
The network did not give much in the way of notes during the script stage, but hit Farrelly with about 50 of them after the first episode was shot. He said his heart sank when those landed, but adds that the executive suggestions were actually pretty darn constructive. “There were around 30 good notes,” he said. “That’s a huge percentage.”
Farrelly, who directed all 10 episodes in the first season, believes TV series squeeze too much information into the pilot. Loudermilk unhurriedly adds character details throughout the course of the season, which Farrelly said makes for “a really sweet arc” for the series.
Loudermilk debuts Oct. 17, the same day that comedy Hit the Road debuts on Audience Network. The latter is about a family band called Swallow that is traversing the country in a cramped tour bus. Jason Alexander plays the patriarch.
Loudermilk garnered a favorable review in The Washington Post. “This surprisingly appealing dramedy from Peter Farrelly and Bobby Mort symbolically picks up where Gen-X totems like Singles and Reality Bites left off decades ago, packed with cynical but hilarious Louie-like moments of honesty,” wrote critic Hank Stuever. “There’s a tender heart that beats beneath Loudermilk’s misanthropy.”
Farrelly acknowledges that it’s tougher to deliver edgy humor now than it was when There’s Something About Mary or Shallow Hal came out, since an individual put off by a joke that they find off-color can play it up big on social media. “I try not to give a f---,” he said. “You can’t think about what other people are going to think.”
Farrelly is hardly done with the movie business. He’s working on his first drama feature, called Green Book. Set in 1962, it follows a New York bouncer who chauffeurs a piano prodigy throughout the Deep South.
But the famed filmmaker is eager to tackle more television. “I’d like to do another year of this,” Farrelly said of Loudermilk. “This was fun. We had a ball.”