In the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, the Boy and I made remarkable progress in our TV-show-watching. It definitely helps that we don’t have much of a life in the evenings after Baby B goes to bed, and apart from playing video games or reading, we don’t do a whole lot else, other than watch TV. The other factor that has made finishing series something we’ve done with remarkable speed lately is that we’ve chosen shows that have only been in their first season, and most of which don’t have that many episodes to watch – 10 at the most, often fewer. Additionally, if you are watching a comedy, 30 minute episodes have a tendency to fly by, and let you watch a couple at a time, meaning a 10 episode season could be finished in 5 days, and that’s only watching 2 episodes per night – the same amount of time you might be devoting to one episode of an hour-long drama!
Anyways – Barry. I’d heard about it because it was on around the same time as Silicon Valley’s new season last year, and we watch Silicon Valley. I think I was seeing ads for “on the next episode” and not having any context. But it popped back into my head this fall when it was nominated for a few Emmys, and then won for Bill Hader and Henry Winkler. I used to be the kind of person who paid a lot of attention to awards season, and would watch the broadcasts of the ceremonies, and so with this part of me that was sort-of an awards junkie, I added it to our “to-watch” list. And when we finished up the totally dramatic and intense Bodyguard (which, btw won a a Golden Globe for Richard Madden), I figured we needed something a little funnier and more upbeat, and so I suggested this comedy Barry which had gotten rave reviews.
Now, those of you who have actually seen any episodes of Barry already are probably laughing at that description in the last paragraph. It just goes to show how blind we went into this show. I think I had known the vaguest premise – Bill Hader is a hitman, but somehow it’s funny? – and that was it. Going in with no real knowledge of the show was completely refreshing. So in order to preserve that potential joy for others who might read this, I’ll only talk about it in terms of things you would learn in the first half of the first episode.
The plot revolves around our start – Barry (Bill Hader) a hitman who is very good at his job, but is doing these soul-sucking hits out in boring cities. His life is his work, and as much as he might want out, there’s really nothing better he can do with himself. Through a job that takes him out to Los Angeles, he ends up in an acting class, and despite not having a lot of talent, he is encouraged, and likes the people he meets in that class, and decides that he wants to stay in LA and pursue this acting thing.
Yes – it’s that weird of a setup. Henry Winkler (the Fonz!) plays his acting teacher, who is the most ridiculous and over-the-top who made made us laugh nearly every time he said something on screen. Perfectly cast, perfectly acted. Stephen Root (who you’d remember from Office Space, among other things), plays Barry’s boss. Barry’s love interest from acting class is played by Sarah Goldberg, who I had never seen before.
And I’m going to take a second to talk about two ensemble cast members who stood out to me mostly because I’ve seen them in a lot of things recently. They are D’Arcy Carden and Kirby Howell-Baptiste. D’Arcy is one of the stars of “The Good Place” (she’s Janet!), and Kirby appeared in the first half of the third season as a professor in Australia. I also saw D’Arcy in “An Emmy for Megan“, and Kirby has had a banner year as a supporting actor, also appearing in Killing Eve, which I’m going to write about in a few weeks. It’s fun to see these supporting actors and know them, and feel connected to a cast.
This show is terrific. Every time you think you know what’s going to happen, it changes. You will laugh out loud. You will cringe. You will have to pick your jaw up off the floor because of how shocking things are which just occurred on screen. And most of all – despite being a comedy – this show is super-duper dark. It is unapologetically violent. Characters are dispatched with little to no emotion, and it happens fast. The number of deaths – and gory, gruesome ones – is surprisingly high for a show that’s a comedy. So if you’re not into violence, maybe keep that in mind. Otherwise, if you’re into shows that make you wonder what will happen next, how characters can possible get out of scrapes, that will make you laugh at the same time as you gasp from shock – this is a show for you.
And at 10 episodes…it’s a short one that you can’t complain about for length.
Details: Barry, on HBO. Season 2 coming in 2019.