March 26, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Barry”


BARRY:  Sunday 10:30PM on HBO – Potential DVR Alert

The buzz is that HBO’s BARRY is a series that changes quite a bit from its pilot, so we’ll keep this short and return to the series later in its 8-episode run.  Co-created by star Bill Hader (who also directed the opening three episodes) and showrunner Alec Berg (who directed the last two), Barry in its early going combines two hallowed indie movie tropes.

There’s the off-beat violent crime black comedy:  Barry Berkman (Hader) is a Cleveland-based hitman who stumbled into the profession after his return from Afghanistan, and who’s now questioning whether this is what he really wants to do with his life, as he’s sent on assignments in the least glamorous way imaginable by a manager (the invaluable Stephen Root) who may be taking advantage of him.  Then there’s the one about the protagonist who finds his or her true self through exposure to a low-level outpost of the arts.  In this case, Barry is tailing his latest target in LA when he wanders into the acting class the guy is taking.  Between the gruff inspiration of teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) and the appeal of friendly fellow student Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg, late of the too-soon-canceled VH1 series Hindsight), Barry is hooked.  But he’ll have to dodge those Chechen gangsters who think he double-crossed them…

Barry hinges on Hader’s performance, and he does a great job of showing the glints of enthusiasm and hope that are trying to dig past Barry’s depressive blankness.  (His fellow acting student/target suggests “Block” as Barry’s stage name, and not as a joke.)  The vicious yet funny Chechens are a hoot, but it remains to be seen whether the show will resist easy shots at cluelessly narcissistic aspiring actors, as in a line where one of them equates Meryl Streep and Kaley Cuoco as being at the top of their profession.  It helps that Winkler brings warmth to the teacher:  Gene may be a blowhard, but he’s not a charlatan.

Will Barry‘s mix of bloody black comedy and enlightenment through art be the equivalent of a tasty peanut butter cup?  Too soon to tell, but its strong point of view and performances make it worth finding out.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."