It’s rare that I come across a piece of entertainment that I love. I am hyper-critical and as such I’ve decided to slow my posts. I’m not interested in putting more negativity out there. The Internet’s already over-flowing with it. So going forward, I’ll only be sharing things I really enjoy. Let’s get to it.
HBO’s series Barry, starring Bill Hader, is the best new show on TV. It’s about a emotionally distant hitman in search of inner purpose and meaning. When a contract takes him to Los Angeles, it inadvertently leads him to an acting class where he gets bit by the acting bug. A conflict ensues as Barry tries to balance his job as a hitman with his newfound passion. The show feels a bit like Breaking Bad – it’s about gangsters and assassins in suburban environments. While that show was about a man at the end of his rope – desperate enough to turn to crime – this one is the reverse. Barry doesn’t want to be a killer. He tries to justify his job by saying he only takes out the bad guys. When he stumbles across Gene Cousineau’s (Henry Winkler) acting class, he finds a girl who captures his interest and a new way to express the emotions that are bubbling within.
It’s Three Genres in One.
The show is a deft balance of comedy, action and drama. All three elements are in play, in balance, and working perfectly. The scripts are funny, emotionally engaging and at times shocking. Barry is written as realistically as can be for such a tale. This is not a Will Ferrell comedy. The stakes are real and so are the characters’ choices. Hader’s Barry is always true to character and his motivations lead to interesting plot turns. Most comedies don’t have the balls to upset the audience emotionally. Barry doesn’t care. It’s not here to please everyone – it’s true to itself. The protagonist is three-dimensional and he makes choices you wouldn’t. The situation is played for laughs, drama and action, but it never denigrates it’s main character.
It’s a Showcase for New Directing Talent
While the show is not an action show per se – the scattered moments are standout and would suffice in any quality action film. In particular, episodes 5 & 6 step up the mix of visuals and sound into true action-artistry. Keep your eyes on the Director, Hiro Murai, he’s gonna be huge. He even directed a music video that you might have heard of – Childish Gambino’s This is America. It should also be noted that series star Bill Hader co-created the show and wrote and directed three episodes. I think we’ve just barely glimpsed his true talent. He’s elevated himself above silly comedian and I can’t wait to see what comes next from him.
The Actor’s are Enjoying Themselves.
The performances are all wonderful as well, with Henry Winkler in particular standing out. This is his best role since he was the Fonz. Really. I loved every minute that he was onscreen. Bill Hader is strong. Sarah Goldberg as his love interest does an amazing job as a self-obsessed ingenue and love interest. And Anthony Carrigan as Chechnyan gangster, Noho Hank, provides much of the comedic relief with his fascinating line readings.
It Doesn’t Overstay It’s Welcome.
The show is paced right with eight, thirty minute episodes. I watched it all the way through twice. I wish other shows would take a page from this playbook and stop dumping thirteen hours per season. It diminishes the entertainment value. You can binge this sucker in four hours. HBO has already renewed it for season two. If you’re looking for something to replace that crime-in-suburbia vibe that Breaking Bad gave you – this is it. Watch it now or wait for it to sweep the Emmy’s. I don’t think diversity pandering can steal the prize this time. Barry is too fucking good at it’s job.