Why you should be watching HBO’s Barry
Chris Bryant | On 16, Jun 2019
Season 4 premieres on Sky Comedy on 17th April 2023, with episodes arriving weekly. This review is based on Season 1
Barry Berkman has decided to try his hand at acting, joining a local acting class and finding inspiration and recognition that distracts him from the monotony of his everyday life. The catch is that Barry’s everyday life mostly involves being an assassin for hire – targeting everyone from cheating husbands to top-level Chechen drug lords.
Rumour has it that after coming up with the idea for Barry, Alec Berg (Silicon Valley) mused that Barry’s barbaric day job might hinder the comic effect of the dark HBO comedy, until he realised that co-creator Bill Hader would fit perfectly into that role. Ever deadpan, crushingly awkward, and a master of inelegant facial expression, Hader’s history of uneasy laughs make him the ideal candidate to portray the lethal ex-Marine.
Barry is undoubtedly Bill Hader’s finest work. His talent is tested under the microscope, the series throwing one nightmarish, haphazard situation after another at the semi-retired assassin, while surrounding him with passion, danger, and undeniable charm.
Backed up by a cast of recognisable up-and-comers (including The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden), he’s flanked by the legendary Henry Winkler as Berkman’s acting coach/father figure, Dodgeball’s Stephen Root as the greedy middle-man for Barry’s day job, and Sarah Goldberg as his stunningly three-dimensional acting partner. The show is nearly stolen, however, by Anthony Carrigan posing as Noho Hank, a drug-dealer whose asexual, uber-friendly charisma makes him the centre of the show’s most warming moments.
The odd comedy’s greatest strength is that at a moment’s notice, it will drop the larger-than-life characters and cleverly written double-identity routine for genuine sadness, violence, and charm. While hitman comedies are common, none manage such a black sense of humour and place it directly in the path of gut-wrenching dramatic scenes. Barry himself is the biggest conundrum of all. A fundamentally bad guy, it’s difficult not to empathise with his journey of self-discovery as he tries to cast aside his gun and step into the spotlight – while attracting the wrath of police, his friends and foes alike.
Bursting with buoyant allure, this comic hit is a stellar showcase for Hader’s mastery of all kinds of comedy. The SNL vet also steps behind the camera and the writing desk for one of the most bizarre ideas to hit the small screen. Hader has managed to find a signature role in the strangest of places.