June 29, 2013



In its first season, Marc Maron’s self-created series MARON was more of an uneven experiment than a cohesive series.  Maron tried on several different formats in the course of its 10 episodes on IFC–mordant day in the life, surreal Louie-ish flights of fancy, naturalistic multiepisode story arc–and while some tries were better than others, none really took.

Fittingly, the back-to-back episodes that aired as the show’s season finale tonight were very different in tone and tactic.  The first half-hour, written by Executive Producer Michael Jamin and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (who, for those unaware, has become a very distinctive indie director in the last few years), was Maron at its most Louie-like.  The set-up had Marc being offered a supporting role in a commercial comedy (playing a homeless man–opposite star Bobcat Goldthwait–who thinks the lead’s garbage truck is a spaceship) by an old friend, now a smugly successful movie executive (Eric Stoltz).  The bulk of the action was their lunch, during which Marc dismissed the role as trash and the friend as a sell-out, but also repeatedly fantasized about the different ways his life could have gone if he’d abandoned his so-so comedy career, as he looked at the other people in the restaurant–a family man, a gay lover, the restaurant’s chef.  In the end, he took the part, and we saw the executive’s own fantasy that casting Maron in his movie would give him some of the indie cred he coveted.  It was an interesting notion, with some solid laughs (especially as the sketch with Marc as a husband with kids, as miserable married as he was single) and the Sliding Doors conceit allowed Maron some variety in his own performance, but each one of the fantasies went in an obvious direction, and in any case Louie C.K. pretty much owns the subgenre of poetic stand-up comic surrealism for the forseeable future, simply because he’s so off-the-charts brilliant at it.  Approaching that model so closely just put Maron clearly in the shade.

The second episode, written by Maron himself and directed by Luke Matheny, picked up on the show’s attempt at a serialized narrative, the story of Marc’s developing relationship with Jen (Nora Zehetner).  She’d been introduced as a fan who volunteered to join Marc at a gig for hot sex, and then she showed up in LA, where against his initial instincts that she was unbalanced and he wanted no part of a serious romance, he’d warily become more involved with her.  What’s been provocative about these episodes is that it’s never been clear whether Jen really is meant to have a serious screw loose or if she’s just charmingly off-center and Marc is being misanthropic and paranoid.  That dynamic played out again in tonight’s episode, as Marc discovered that she’d lied about being evicted from her apartment –but it was left ambiguous whether she’d done it to get out of a bad environment or to lure him into letting her move in with him (or both).  That’s an interesting point of view–most shows would have labeled Jen as a lunatic or merely misunderstood early on and just built on that–but it has to be said that these episodes have been held back to an extent by Maron’s own limitations as an actor, which don’t extend much beyond sharp-witted grumpiness.  (Zehetner has been much more effectively multi-faceted as she appears alternately suspicious and guileless.)   There was also an ill-advised conclusion to the episode, because self-consciously introducing a possible “angel” as a joke is still introducing a possible angel.  In any case, this seems a more promising avenue for Maron than more episodes like the ones that had him furiously pursuing an internet troll or sleeping with a woman who wanted him to be a guest on her son’s podcast.

IFC isn’t measured by Nielsen, and the network has been quiet about how happy it may be with Maron‘s reception, so it isn’t clear whether the show is going to come back or not.  For now, it lacks a clear comic or dramatic vision–even the way it uses the podcast that’s given Maron his fame has been unsatisfying, bits of it thrown in for little more than real-life celebrity cameos–and while that’s tolerable in a first season, the show would need to return with more of a direction and a plan next time.  Maron the character may not know where he’s going, but Maron the TV show needs to figure it out.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."