Sometimes a show will come from nowhere and instantly make an impression on me. It happened recently with HBO’s new comedy Barry. I’ve told everyone willing to listen that Barry is a show they need to look out for and now that Sky Atlantic have confirmed its start date (10.45pm on Thursday) I can finally wax lyrical here about why you should be watching.
The dark comedy created by Alec Berg (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Silicon Valley) and Bill Hader starts so confidently you can just sit back and enjoy the world the accomplished pair have created. Hader plays Barry Berkman, a skilled assassin somewhat disconnected from the world. He realises his job is brutal but he’s able to mentally switch off from the horrors of it by treating it as a mundane task. When his friend/boss/handler Fuches sends him to Los Angeles to take out a man who has double-crossed some Chechnyan gangsters, Barry stumbles across a world he is immediately drawn into. It transpires that the man he’s there to kill is an acting student under the tutelage of acting teacher/guru Gene Cousineau (the superb Henry Winkler).
When Barry unwitting ends up in Gene’s class he finds himself engaged and interested in something for the first time in his life. This is helped by the class including the ambitious Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg) taking Barry under their wing. They’re a group of dreamers who hang off of Gene’s every word. They’ve all come to LA with the idea of making it big and although they are sometimes competing in auditions, they’re a supportive and accepting group. The kind of people Barry has never come across before. For reasons, he’s not sure of he’s desperate to win Gene’s approval and gain proper entry to this class as an acting student. This leads to a comical scene where Barry opens his heart to an impressed Gene who assumes Barry has improvised a scene for him.
As Barry ingratiates himself more and more into the group he finds himself more at ease. The only unfortunate thing is, he’s there to kill a well-liked member of the class Ryan Madison. With this day job never far from his mind Barry at first tries to ignore his task and asks the Chechnyan brothers who ordered the hit to reconsider but when things to array Barry is forced to carry out the hit and try and conceal his guilt when the rest of his class learn of Ryan’s sudden death.
Berg and Hader pack a lot into their first half hour but it never feels rushed. The premise might sound silly, but you can chalk that up to my description because this is easily one of the funniest and most original comedies I’ve seen in a long time. You feel an instant connection to Barry and those around him and although the subject matter at the heart of the show is incredibly dark it never feels daft or too dark. The balance is tone is near perfection and it’s clear from the off that Hader and Berg know exactly what they’re doing. The whole thing exudes a confidence that first episodes rarely possess.
Having continued to watch at US pace (episode 5 being the most recent to air) I’m happy to report that the series goes from strength to strength with a plot that becomes more and more engrossing as Barry juggles his two new lives.
Barry Starts on Thursday 26th April on Sky Atlantic at 10.45pm