“Barry” is a lofty concept: a hitman decides he wants to be an actor. In another world, this could easily be the premise for a sitcom or “Saturday Night Live” skit (where series star and co-creator Bill Hader made a name for himself). All you would have to do is focus on the fish out of water story: Barry was a US Marine turned hitman, which are lifestyles where you can’t stand out or express yourself. Now, he wants a career where he has to do exactly that. From there, minimize the violence and bring out the well-meaning side of Barry. Even if you don’t put him on the path to redemption, you can still make Barry endearing and make the crime side of the story quirkier and easier to digest.
In Seasons 1 and 2, Barry is surrounded by quirky classmates, led by the likeable curmudgeon teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). Even the characters in the crime plot, like the flamboyant Chechen gangster NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), fit the comedy. “Barry” has the supporting cast that a comedy writer would dream of having.
Then there’s the title: “Barry.” That’s not a scary name. The character’s alliterative last name (Barry Berkman/stage name Barry Block) doubles the charm. The name as a title even evokes comedies like “Seinfeld,” “Will & Grace,” “Maude” and more. But that’s not the show that Bill Hader and co-creator Alec Berg were interested in making.