Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Barry ★★★★☆

After they brought us the long-awaited new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2017, HBO had to work pretty hard to follow it this year. But they succeeded admirably with Barry, a hilarious and dark new series from Bill Hader and Seinfeld alumnus Alec Berg. Over 8 episodes, the show establishes itself as one of the best new programmes on TV - and after winning two Emmys and securing a second season, this is the best time to catch up on the series.

The show follows the eponymous Barry (Bill Hader), a low-rent hitman in the Midwest. Lonely and totally dissatisfied with his life and career, he accepts a job to travel to LA to kill someone in the theatre scene. But one thing leads to another and he finds himself in a loving and accepting community of acting hopefuls and begins to realise that maybe he’d make a better actor than hitman – but he’s made a lot of enemies in his life. Will this new world be a safe haven, or are his problems just beginning? Darkly hilarious and surprisingly poignant, the story is full of twists and turns and makes for surprisingly engrossing and addictive viewing. Comedy, drama and action are all flawlessly handled in this thoroughly entertaining romp.

This is thanks in part to the phenomenal performances across the board. Hader and supporting star Henry Winkler both walked away with Emmys for their performances in Barry and that does not come as a surprise. While Hader is, unsurprisingly, excellent as the complex and layered main character, the show utterly belongs to Winkler. Not since Arrested Development’s Barry Zuckerkorn has Winkler had so much fun with a role – he’s absolutely on fire here. Special mention should also go to the always-brilliant Stephen Root, who delivers a scene-stealing performance as Monroe.

As with almost all HBO shows, Barry isn’t for everyone. Profanity and sometimes extreme violence do crop up throughout – this is not a family sitcom by any stretch. On top of that, the show is often surprisingly dark and deals with very complex themes, including PTSD, depression, sexual harassment and organised crime – but don’t get me wrong, it pulls all this off with some bloody good laughs along the way.

Watching the first season of Barry just feels like witnessing one of the next big things starting to find its feet. You know how sometimes you start a show and you just know it’s going nowhere, and sometimes you start a show like Game of Thrones and see a long future for it? I feel somewhere in the middle for Barry. It’s not going to hit the enormous heights of Thrones, of course – but don’t write this one off. This little show has got a hell of a lot going for it, and if the multiple Emmy wins and confirmed the second season are anything to go by, it’s already off to a killer start. If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly recommend you get in now before it does become a big thing. Then, you can let your inner hipster soar: “I liked Barry before it was cool”. Barry is a surprisingly excellent little show that could grow into one of the best shows of the decade. 

Sam Love

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