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Bill Hader Stars as a Hitman/Actor in HBO's 'Barry'
March 25, 2018  | By David Hinckley

Among many other life lessons, HBO’s new Barry suggests that if you ever hear a young woman loudly cursing on a fire escape, pause and pay attention because it could change your life.

Barry, which premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET, also suggests the life of a hitman isn’t as glamorous or fulfilling as it might seem.

Barry Berkman, the title character created and played by Bill Hader (top), discovers early in this eight-episode first season that he’d rather pursue the life of an actor.

Even though the pay is much lower and the work much less steady. Go figure.

Barry was a combat Marine who returned from the war feeling depressed and lost. His buddy Fuches (Stephen Root, left) jumped in to help, suggesting Barry would feel better if he had a job. You know, a purpose.

Fuches himself is a kind of middleman between people who kill and people who want people killed. Since Barry already had the skill set of shooting people, and he is too depressed to care much about the people he shot, who were bad guys anyway, it’s a win-win.

Just one problem. Barry may not have to worry about the rent, and he may be able to afford a video game set that he plays by himself, but he senses that maybe there could be more to life.

Then Fuches sends him out to L.A. to do a quickie hit for the Chechen mob, and the intended victim turns out to be a guy who wants to be an actor. Barry trails him to an acting class studio, which is where he hears the girl loudly cursing on the fire escape.

That, we come to find out, is Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), just in from the Midwest with dreams of becoming a star.

She and the intended victim are taking a class from Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, right). Barry wanders into the room, accidentally plays a fringe role in an audition scene and gets adopted by Sally and the other plucky kids who all have that acting dream. One of those kids, by the way, is D’Arcy Carden, also known as Janet on The Good Place.

And speaking of places, suddenly Barry has found one where he can feel alive again. It’s as if he were meeting the cast of Glee after it had 70% of its neuroses surgically removed.

This does, however, create another problem. He still owes that hit to the Chechen mob, and now the victim is one of his new friends. It’s like the reason you should never name a cow you’re raising for hamburgers.

Conflict naturally ensues and it also naturally involves Fuches, since he brokered the deal.

And that’s before the police come along because, after all, killing people remains illegal and even a comedy show that takes some liberties with storyline plausibility can’t keep everything Barry has done outside the binoculars of the law.

Hader plays Barry by underplaying him, at least in the early stages, and that works nicely. The comedy here is dark, with just enough of an absurdist undertone that it doesn’t start feeling forced.

We want things to work out for him, gosh darn it, and how often do we say that about hired hitmen?

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