Barry premieres March 25th on HBO.
By Matthew Stanford
Post SNL careers are a smooth transition for some and very difficult for others. Given Hader’s gift for voices and impressions, I knew he would always have work in animated films. Once Trainwreck was released I thought it would catapult Bill Hader to the mainstream. In that film Hader played a layered realistic character that elevated the material. Surprisingly Hader’s film career didn’t take off after that. He has continued to work in television, namely in the underappreciated Documentary Now on IFC.
Per Hader in multiple interviews, he came up with the concept of Barry based on the anxiety and stress he occasionally felt as he performed on SNL. In the show he plays a depressed Hitman that gets sucked into the world of acting. If you think this sounds sort of like the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or the movie/TV Show Get Shorty, you are correct. If you are expecting goofy, wacky Bill Hader here, you are going to be disappointed. Barry is a moody comedy, it is situationally funny and is rarely silly. Hader is fantastic in the show though and you can tell he was involved in all aspects of it (he wrote, stars and directs half of the episodes).
Henry Winkler plays a possible jerk/possible genius acting teacher. If you have seen him on Arrested Development you can know what to expect here. Stephen Root is Hader’s handler and as a huge fan of his I can say that pretty much anyone could have played his role. Beyond Hader the breakout performance is by Sarah Goldberg, who plays Hader’s acting partner Sally Reed. Her character reminds me of many characters on GLOW. She starts as kind of annoying and then just becomes so darn likable that you root for her at all times.
Is this show good? YES. It is very good. It reminds me of the HBO comedy Bored to Death. While that show was never a critical hit, it did last three seasons. The humor is typically derived from the situations rather than via the dialogue. Barry is a show that I think people will like, but have a hard time explaining to others why they like it. I fear it will get lost in the shuffle as it isn’t as flashy as other HBO shows and doesn’t have the HBO feel to it. In other words, with a few changes it could have been on FX with their lineup of offbeat comedies. Bottom line: you should watch it and hopefully HBO gives it time to find its audience.
I give Barry a B.