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'Maron': Left-Coast 'Louie' Arrives
May 3, 2013  | By Eric Gould

Anything seem familiar about a standup comic playing himself in a sitcom, always on the losing side of an ex, his job, and virtually everything else? By now it's a well-mixed formula, and although Larry David and Louis C.K. didn't invent this mini-genre, it's hard to imagine it could be done more richly.

As IFC premieres Maron in his self-titled show, premiering Friday, May 3 at 10 p.m. ET, one can certainly understand his temptation to emulate the Louie world of poetic disaffection (this time set in Los Angeles). But Maron originally must have seemed like a suicide mission, given the perfection of its predecessors. Could Marc Maron, or anyone else, improve on it? And do we really need another alienated, middle-aged misanthrope, no matter how clever?

Actually, there might be room for one more. Maron, for those not familiar with his work, is a well-traveled stand-up comic (appearing almost 50 times on Conan O'Brien's shows) who had a career as a talk-show host for the now-defunct left-wing Air America. He then went on to do his own podcast, WTF with Marc Maron.

Denis Leary guest stars on Marc Maron's IFC series, Maron. Leary is also co-producer of the show.
His downloadable talk show, which is available on iTunes, has Maron probing other similar-minded comics, such as Denis Leary (co-producer of the the series, who guest stars with Maron in episode two, at right). WTF shot to the top of the iTunes podcast lists, due in part to Maron's confessional, rapid-fire, Lenny Bruce-style rants.

Since Maron is playing a version of himself, the series reflects his life by having him record his podcast from a studio set in his LA garage. Similarly, his interviews are with actors who also play themselves, including Leary, Dave Foley (Newsradio), and Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm).

As the show's tag-line goes: "He's got issues. Sharing isn't one of them." It's in front of the microphone, spewing, where Maron obviously is in his element. The interviews and monologues are keystones of the podcast show, and also the best part of Maron.

In the first three episodes sent for review, Maron's raw, machine-gun observations touch on the need for approval, being a real man, and not liking your family. Meant to be self-indulgent, they nevertheless excavate down to some tough, hard-won truths.

Otherwise, as a sitcom, the Maron premiere gets off to an uneven start, with a contrived, happenstance meeting with his bitter (fictional) ex and her gloating boyfriend. Maron then stalks an online heckler who regularly comments on his WTF website.

Episode two fares much better, with Leary making his guest appearance, taunting Maron for his reluctance at having to go into the crawl space under his house to pull out a rotting critter. Maron's repulsion is, of course, ironic, since he has no trouble mucking around in the darkness of his psyche in front of a national radio audience.

Judd Hirsch guest stars on IFC's Maron
Judd Hirsch (left) arrives at Maron's bungalow in Episode 3, playing Maron's long-lost, deadbeat father. Their dysfunctional adult relationship brings some seasoned gravitas to the Maron brand of squirmy dread, and ups the series' game.

Maron might not be blazing any new trails into what we've now come to expect as the Russian Doll sitcom routine: a fictional persona nested within the guise of a real one (or vice versa, depending on your point of view). Yet Maron's modern angst gets down to some winning, authentic moments.

And as it does, Maron might win a place on your Friday night DVR schedule.

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