Barry: Season 1 created by Alec Berg and Bill Hader (HBO)
Starring Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fleshler, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler, and Paula Newsome.
Hi-Ho It’s Off to Work We Go
Hollywood’s depiction of work always seems off. People lounge around for breakfast, and then work all day. And they seem to like it. Newsflash: most people are not happy with their work and want some sort of outlet to channel frustrations and passions.
Now, some people truly love what they do. And when that happens, they still must account for the stress of a competitive marketplace. Most people don’t relax on their weekdays. Somebody out there is working hard to steal that job, that client, that contract.
And the people who don’t like their work? They competently move day to day, accomplishing the tasks at hand. Some people might be really good at what they do and hate every minute of it.
This concept, where talent and passion seem to operate at odds with each other, fuels the engine of HBO’s latest comedy installment, Barry.
Finding Meaning in Los Angeles
The titular character, Barry (Bill Hader), moves to Los Angeles for a job. He makes good money in his role, but his life feels pointless. Only when he gets roped in to an acting class, does Barry see something that might connect with deeper purposes and passions. His life might now have meaning, even though he’s a worthless actor.
Problematically, and also quite humorously, the job from which Barry desires escape is that of a hit man.
Facing the Los Angeles Underworld
Partnered with long-time mentor, Fuchs (Stephen Root), Barry roams Los Angeles working with the Chechens. When a specific hit takes a turn for the worse, Barry must face the heat from rival gangs, while also doing whatever he can do remove himself from this lifestyle and go all in with acting, especially given the encouragement of Sally (Sarah Goldberg), to whom he has become quite smitten.
Creators, Alec Berg and Bill Hader, expertly play with difficult questions around Barry’s history. A vet from Afghanistan, Barry has been trained to kill ruthlessly and efficiently. As such, his talents don’t translate well to life on the home front. Even though Barry hates this world, his skill makes him quite valuable and he can’t avoid these confrontations.
So, Barry must live in this suspension between the talent for a job he hates and the passion for the job he wants to pursue, no matter the long odds.
Subverting the Assumptions of Work
In a quiet but subversive way, Barry critiques the assumptions of work. For most of us, we tend to assume that our skill must equate to passion, even when we return home exhausted and stressed from another long day at work.
Life is more than an acknowledgment of skill. And maybe it’s ok to do something you love, adequately to poorly, if it means a higher quality of life.
Barry is dark, dramatic, and deeply funny. It unravels elements of society we don’t often consider and it’s entertaining to boot. Check it out.
Verdict: 4 out of 5