By Darren Johnson
Like Woodstock, everyone claims to have been there — in this case, the first season of “Seinfeld” — but the real numbers don’t lie. Most everyone didn’t catch on to what ended up being an all-time great comedy series until season three or four. Just like that little farm field in Upstate New York couldn’t have possibly had a whole generation there.
And I have a feeling — hidden way up on the dial on the IFC channel — the Marc Maron vehicle “Maron” may be one of those shows that we all claim we realized was genius from the start.
Season 4 is on IFC now. If you have cable, catch it on demand. You really don’t need to watch Seasons 1 to 3, as this season works as a standalone, but previous seasons are on Netflix. You can also catch it on IFC’s web site.
Season 4 is a complete reboot for this series — and, yes, I did watch Seasons 1 to 3 originally, as I also listen to Maron’s free and popular WTF podcast a good deal, and felt I’d lend my support to his TV effort, as if Time Warner Cable somehow would tell IFC about my lame viewing contribution.
But the series was waning for me a bit. Louis CK’s “Louie” was kind of the same thing, but it did it first, and was even more absurd and edgy. Then there were shows like “Veep” on HBO, even though that show seems a bit too smug and insiderish for its own good. Then shows the mainstream likes — say “Mike and Molly,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” — are soulless, mindless and the exact same show week after week.
But, CK predictably self-destructed his show, and now “Maron” has upped the pace and the zaniness. While Seasons 1 to 3 were autobiographical — Maron was just playing himself, albeit a bit exaggeratedly, as a podcaster — in Season 4 we find him strung out on prescription drugs and living in a storage unit, a total departure. I won’t reveal any other spoilers, but a real genius stroke comes when Maron is bunked with Chet Haze — Tom Hanks’ much maligned rapper kid — in rehab. Finally, we see Haze as three-dimensional and able to laugh at himself.
The show is now better than “Louie” was, not just in its better production values but also the scenarios ring truer; all the characters in rehab, the Narcotics Anonymous sponsors, his narcissistic elderly parents; they’re believable, and there’s nobody like these characters currently on TV. Besides, we get the added multimedia value of Maron’s real podcast, to get us excited about each episode.
This show’s growth has been fun to follow, and maybe it wouldn’t have been allowed enough time to blossom on a more popular channel — because, in reality, Woodstock was just some nowhere stop off the New York State Thruway that somehow got the word out and got the world to, allegedly, gather there. So, good on IFC. This should be the show that puts them on the map, and we’ll all lie and say we were there from the start!
Darren Johnson, owner of Campus News, earned his MFA in Writing from Southampton College and once was the New York Press Association’s “Writer of the Year.” “It’s New to You!” is a regular column that finds hidden gems on Netflix and similar. Find more reviews on http://nu2u.info.