TV review: ‘WTF’ podcast sensation makes small-screen leap with ‘Maron’

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From the May 2, 2013 edition

Marc Maron, who has been a talented standup comic for 20 years, never saw the notoriety he felt he deserved. Then he started the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast and quickly became one of the hottest names in the industry, resulting in book deals, top-selling comedy records and, now, his own television series.

“Maron” is basically an adaptation of Maron’s real life. Each of the first three episodes feature Maron addressing a personal issue and a guest star coming by his garage for a podcast — Dave Foley, Denis Leary and Jeff Garlin, in that order. There’s probably not a huge difference between Maron’s actual day-to-day life and what’s portrayed on screen.

Many will compare “Maron” to FX’s Louis C.K. project “Louie” because Maron is similarly the driving force of the series (writer, star and executive producer), but “Louie” and “Maron” are very different. “Louie” presents C.K.’s life through a kaleidoscope of strange, dark and occasionally ridiculous vignettes that feel like meditative dreams more than reality. “Maron” has a straightforward single-camera comedy structure. I doubt we’ll see Maron having unnerving sex with Melissa Leo or stalking a bully for most of an episode like notorious storylines of “Louie.”

“Maron” may not have any of the imagination or originality that defines “Louie,” but it’s a strong series. There are hilarious moments, usually involving Maron interacting with the guest stars. Leary poking fun at Maron’s girly-ness results in a great back-and-forth and Maron calling Leary — star of “Rescue Me” and longtime firefighter supporter — a “fake firefighter” is pretty great.

The humor is solid, especially if you’re a fan of Maron’s standup, but the serious elements are the most worthwhile. Maron isn’t shy about divulging his own neuroses or using them as inspiration, and that’s nicely handled here. It’s usually just Maron alone, talking into the podcast microphone — or to one of his cats — and while that could come off as a silly, here’s-what-this-means voiceover, it’s poignant and relatable. The audience may not have as many issues as Maron, but they’ll connect all the same.