Saturday, May 18, 2013

TV Watch: "Maron" revisited, following an absolutely terrific Episode 3


Off-the-Marc: Episode 3 (view clip at link)

Look who shows up at Marc's door! Says Marc: "The character in the show is not exactly my father. My dad's name is Barry; the character in the show is Larry. My father is more frightening than Judd Hirsch." However, Marc assures us in "Off-the-Marc: Episode 3" (here's the link again) that all the stories attributed here to "Larry" Maron, such as the incident when he ran over Marc's ankle with his car, can be properly credited to Barry M.

by Ken

I've made the point often enough: I'm suspicious when shows are said to come together only after a couple of episodes. In my experience it has usually turned out that the creators had their act together from the start, but what they were trying to do was sufficiently unexpected that I just missed it for that early while.

In this spirit I definitely plan to rewatch the first two episodes of our old Morning Sedition friend Marc Maron's new IFC half-hour comedy Maron, which I wrote about last week with something less than unalloyed joy. However this rewatch turns out, I think it's important to get on the record that this week's Episode 3, "Jeff Garlin Meets Marc's Dad," struck me as sensational. Where the earlier episodes struck me as pleasantly harmless retreads of fairly well-trod tales of a comic's neurosis and self-loathing, the new one seemed to me trenchant, inspired, and hilarious from start to finish.

As promised last week, in the new episode we were introduced to Marc's father, as played by Judd Hirsch. He turns out to be the kind of dad any of us would recoil from in horror, not least when we recognize traits of him in ourself. "Larry" is a bipolar dreamer 'n schemer, who dreams 'n' schemes in his manic phases, leaving those around him to watch the dreams and self-destruct in his crashed periods.

Suddenly this time out, working with that same premise -- that the TV Marc is a lightly fictionalized version of the real Marc, who seems to see his decades' worth of investment in a career in comedy as a bust -- all Marc's anxieties and frustrations were played out in deeply real, involving character interactions -- involving not just Marc and Larry but also Marc's podcast guest, Jeff Garlin, and Marc's loyal but none too helpful friend comic Andy Kindler.

Anyone who's watched any quantity of comedy on cable knows Andy as the pursuer of the same sort of career in comedy as Marc, and he's quite charming in this episode. Like when he's trying to lure Marc off to the gym with him to work a laundry list of muscle groups -- after which he'll never go back to the gym. Or there's a hilariously painful moment when, as the hubbub in the RV that Larry has parked outside Marc's house starts to draw a crowd on the sidewalk, Andy makes his best stab at crowd control, beginning, "My name is Andy Kindler. You might remember me from Season 7 of Last Comic Standing."

Marc has a funny-sad phone conversation about dear old Dad with his brother Josh in Arizona, which is cut short when Josh has to deal with a domestic situation. "My kids are now beating the shit out of my wife's kids," Josh reports, adding, "Did I screw up my life?"

Marc's sense of hopelessness about his career also came into clearer focus in this episode. True, he did try to sell his profoundly uninterested agent on the proposition that "podcasts are the future of television." But to his podcast audience he confided:
You'll never make a lot of money until you make someone else a lot of money. I mean, you'll make enough to survive, but if you want a vacation home on the cape, or a Sherpa to carry your coffee grinder up Everest, it's not gonna happen -- until you make yourself an exploitable commodity. Not really my thing. But I can tell you this from experience: It's easy to maintain your integrity when no one is offering to buy it out.
Wow! There are heaps of wisdom here, wisdom that I think you'll agree are by no means limited to the comedy business. As I say, I definitely plan to look at Episodes 1 and 2 again, but on the basis of Episode 3, Maron has etched a place on my "must watch" list.

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At 8:32 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

An absolute gem of an episode Judd Hirsch is an amazing actor.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

I'm glad you made a point of Judd Hirsch's performance, ap215. JH is indeed a terrific actor, but he often gets to coast on his inherent likability. There's not much to like in Larry, though, and JH didn't cheat and sentimentalize him. An outstanding performance for sure.



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