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Monday, July 1, 2013

MARON Saved By A "Mexican Angel"

Article first published as MARON Saved By A "Mexican Angel" on TheTVKing.

I didn't review the first episode of IFC's Maron because I didn't much care for it and didn't know why exactly. I like Marc Maron, who essentially plays a heightened version of himself, similar to Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, but the pilot was just boring. It didn't make much use of Maron's particular comic style and didn't seem to go anywhere.

However, having recently marathoned the entire first season, which ended last night with "Projections" and "Mexican Angel," I have completely changed my mind. From episode two on, it is immediately clear that Maron goes on the upswing, finding its voice and knowing what it is about. Most episodes are kind of meandering, but each have some very funny things in them, and the wandering feels like a conscious choice, not a plodding misstep.

"Projections" is very interesting. While meeting an old friend for lunch (Eric Stoltz, Caprica), Marc imagines how his live could be differently, including seeing himself as a family man, one half of a gay couple, a cook who has given up on his comedy career, and a successful movie star. None of these make Marc happy, nor is happy in reality, which just proves that he is not destined to be satisfied.

"Projections" is the most unique of the first season episodes. It's not completely new to imagine alternate realities, but the understated way in which Maron, not giving into ridiculous, cartoonish situations, does it, sets it apart. It feels a lot like the artistic Louie, created by Louis C.K. Maron perhaps doesn't reach the levels of hilarity Louie has yet, but it's certainly on the right track, and not at all a copy, no matter the dark, depressing similarities.

They say that if you want to be happy, remain ignorant. Perhaps it's Marc's world-weary, hard-fought wisdom that keeps him from achieving emotional and mental peace. Maybe it's because he can't just do what he loves, having not found enough of a following to be the type of comedian he wants to be. Could he still have hope, or is he just destined to always be this crabby person?

The conceit we need to ignore, which is the same one suspended for Louie, is that this show won't get Marc to where he wants to be. With his very successful podcast and now this series, surely Marc is doing what he wants to do, and probably making a decent living at it (on on track to do so). It definitely seems like Marc has a lot of creative control, given how closely the tone of the show matches his public persona. As long as the series itself doesn't add Maron in, though, in some kind of meta twist, the character of Marc is believable enough to sustain the premise.

Marc does have a shot at improving his outlook, as he sort of lets his younger girlfriend, Jen (Nora Zehetner, Grey's Anatomy), move in with him in "Mexican Angel." Marc isn't sure he wants her there, sabotaging himself, as usual. Yet, he definitely has feelings for her, which he admits after being confronted by the "Mexican Angel" outside. Why can't he just accept how he is? Thankfully, she knows exactly the type of guy Maron is, and despite his outbursts, she sticks by him, somehow making it believable that she would do so.

Introduced as someone that seems like a crazy stalker, the more we learn about Jen, the less there is to worry about. I think this shift is achieved because Maron does such a great job of letting the viewer see her from Marc's perspective. When we finally find out in the season finale that much of the issue is just an age gap, it makes total sense. But as someone who much closer to Jen's age than Marc's, I'm impressed at how I was immersed into Marc's viewpoint. This, more than anything else, presents the singular, clear voice of the show, and proves the high quality.

Which is why I'm sad that Maron is over for the year. I have not heard if it will be renewed yet, but I sincerely hope that it is. We need more creativity on television, and Maron is fresh and brilliant.

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