Five reasons why ‘Barry’ is the best show on TV right now

Any sympathy you may have felt for Barry (Bill Hader) is slowly siphoned away in the first two seasons. And Season 3 promises to fully flesh out Barry as a very bad person.

It’s been almost three years since HBO’s “Barry” released new episodes — the COVID-19 pandemic halted production just before work began on its third season. But fans who fell in love with its first two seasons knew it would be well worth the wait.

In only 16 episodes over two years, “Barry” showrunner and star Bill Hader, along with writing/producing partner Alec Berg, crafted a compelling, unpredictable story that grew more thrilling with every twist and turn. Because of that, it is no exaggeration to say that “Barry” — whose new season premieres April 24 on Crave — is the best show on TV right now.

Why does “Barry” deserve that accolade? Five reasons:

1. Sure, it’s an anti-hero story, but you won’t be rooting for Barry. Hader gives viewers great insight into his character through seasons 1 and 2, but the series’ main plot line doesn’t endear him to the audience thus far. Indeed, as a hit man for hire with a violent temper, Barry has done terrible things to wonderful people. He rationalizes every awful decision but, in the grand scheme of things, he’s a murderer who can’t stop murdering. Any sympathy you may have felt for him is slowly siphoned away in the first two seasons. And Season 3 promises to fully flesh out Barry as a very bad person. This isn’t your typical character arc.

2. Impeccable cast. “Barry” has been cast so perfectly, you can’t imagine any other actor in any of its roles. Besides Hader as Barry, cast members Henry Winkler (as flakey Hollywood acting coach Gene Cousineau), Vancouver’s Sarah Goldberg (as aspiring actor and Barry’s love interest Sally Reed), Anthony Carrigan (as Chechen mafia boss NoHo Hank) and character actor supreme Stephen Root (as Barry’s partner-in-crime/devil-on-his-shoulder Monroe Fuches) all enjoy juicy, unforgettable moments in the spotlight. In delightfully depraved NoHo Hank, Carrigan in particular has created one of TV’s all-time most memorable characters. And Winkler has shown he’ll be remembered for more than “The Fonz” on “Happy Days.” Any cast member’s performance in “Barry” will be prominent on their resumés forever.

3. Hader is as superb a storyteller/showrunner as he is an actor. “Barry” has been a labour of love for Hader since HBO green-lit the first season in 2016. Hader is meticulous in overseeing production and it shows. There are no wasted scenes, no ego strokes, no bloated monologues, no throwaway components a viewer would fast-forward through. All of “Barry’s” plot developments are organic and crucial to the big picture. Nothing feels forced or fake, and that’s a huge credit to Hader. “Barry” gives him comedic moments for people accustomed to seeing him as a hilarious star of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” as well as dramatic stretches that underscore his impressive range. But it’s in overseeing the project where Hader really shines. He’s a bona fide auteur, able to skilfully shift from cast member to producer/director with ease.

4. “Barry” is a multi-layered, multi-genre production and there’s nothing else quite like it. You’d be right to call “Barry” a drama. You’d also be right to call it a black comedy. It’s an action production, as well as an evolving tragedy. In total, it is far more than any one genre and much more than the sum of its parts. Hader has inserted elements from across the dramatic spectrum, creating a rich experience that keeps the viewer guessing where the next scene and episode are headed. At some points, you’ll be laughing. At others, you’ll be crying. It’s an amazingly original roller-coaster ride you won’t want to quit.

5. There’s so much more to come after this season. The eight-episode run of Season 3 will last through June 12, but there are reports Hader and Berg have already written a fourth season. HBO has yet to officially renew “Barry” for that fourth year, but it’s difficult to see them cancelling the series — with its 30 Primetime Emmy nominations, two Emmys for Hader as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and an Emmy for Winkler as Outstanding Supporting Actor. That means Season 3 is going to continue to lead viewers down a road that isn’t quite complete. And that’s terrific, as it means another year or so to speculate on “Barry’s” ultimate ending, and lots of time to revel in its first 24 episodes.

Adam Proteau is a Guelph-based freelancer who writes about entertainment and sports.


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