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TV Review: HBO’s Expertly Cast Dramedy “Barry”

Martha Trydahl Martha Trydahl TV Review: HBO’s Expertly Cast Dramedy “Barry”Photo via IMDb.
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Barry is a surprisingly complex show co-created by Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) and Alec Berg (Silicon Valley). Whatever you do, don’t start watching this series expecting to LOL your way through every episode. Barry is more of a dark dramedy.

Barry Berkman (Hader) is a former Marine who suffers from depression, which Hader and Berg handle very respectfully. Barry’s friend, Fuches (Stephen Root) has dragged him into a decidedly unglamorous career as a hitman in Cleveland. Although Barry is really good at his job, he doesn’t want to continue doing it. But, he also doesn’t care enough to quit. Barry is devoid of emotion. Or energy, really.

Fuches books Barry a job in LA where he is contracted to kill a personal trainer who is having an affair with a Chechan mob boss’s wife. Barry follows his mark (Tyler Jacob Moore) to an acting class where he’s thrown into a scene.

Barry is captivated by the class, and is thrown off his job. Under the stage name Barry Block, he continues to hang out in the acting classes, putting off the job he was hired to do. Obviously, the hit goes south, and Barry further complicates his relationship with the Chechan mob.

The dry humor and overall tone of Barry is reminiscent of the FX show Baskets (starring Zach Galifianakis). While the plot and characters are hilariously ridiculous, none of the characters are laughing. They take themselves very seriously.

The acting students Barry meets are a great example of this: flaky, self-absorbed wannabees who just want to be famous. But Barry’s not looking for fame at all, especially with his line of work. He wants the comradery he finds in the class.

Acting can be especially tough for an emotionally deficient hit man. His classmates are brimming with emotion at any given moment. But as it turns out, acting gives Barry self-esteem, motivation and purpose.

Barry is expertly cast, and Henry Winkler as foul-mouthed acting coach Gene Cousineau is a special treat. In the most recent episode, Gene’s awkward flirting with Detective Moss (Paula Newsome), is hilarious, and includes him getting a reservation under the name Neil Patrick Harris to guarantee a good table.

Ironically, Bill Hader is not the comedic relief in this series. In fact, Barry further establishes Hader’s success as a legitimate actor and director. Hader gave all the funny lines to comedic support characters tasked with lightening the mood. The obvious standout is Anthony Carrigan as Chechen mobster NoNo Hank. My favorite scenes involve Carrigan, by far.

Barry’s love interest, Sally (Sarah Goldberg), is a typical struggling actor, hitting dead end after dead end, and getting played by her “agent.” Barry is desperate to have a relationship with Sally. He fantasizes about a picturesque future with her. But, when he presents her with an extravagant gift of a laptop and calls her his “girl,” she freaks out and shuts him down.

In the last episode, Gene berates Barry’s acting, calling him a “human doormat” and urging him to ask for what he needs. Barry takes the criticism to heart, and is inspired to tell Fuches he wants out of the business. But this doesn’t sit well with Fuches, who just got out of the Chechan’s garage with a bike lock around his neck.

We’re now halfway though the season, and Barry is still trying to get out of the hitman business and pursue a future with Sally. But his new friend Taylor (Dale Pavinksi) is pulling him back into the game.

I’m looking forward to what the rest of the season has to offer. What’s your favorite episode so far?

Grade: B

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