Barbenheimer for the TV GIRLIES
This year, there was a show that ended a beautiful era of HBO television. It had a cast of wacky characters that you were never really sure if you were supposed to love or absolutely hate, lots of laughs, some crazy season finales that came out of nowhere, lots of white people, and Stephen Root being super not cool. Yeah, I’m talking about Barry. Wait, you didn’t watch Barry?
. Ok, then I’m talking about Succession. But why the hell didn’t you watch Barry!?
That’s right, they both ended their respective runs on television this spring in a crazy double feature for television that we haven’t seen since the days when people actually watched cable television. Gross, just mentioning that makes my streaming budget sick to its stomach. From the months of April to May, we got the pleasure of tuning in every Sunday night for Succession at 9 P.M to see what the Roy siblings would eternally screw up this time, then stay for Barry at 10 P.M to see just how dark the night could really get. I know, May was a long time ago, and a lot has happened since then, so let’s do a recap for you lazy couch potatoes (guys I’m kidding, come on, potatoes are cool).
Succession was a portrait of the wealthy, the rich and powerful of America who are spoiled beyond belief. But this show puts a spin on that idea, focusing on one dysfunctional family in particular, the Roy family. Logan Roy is the father of the family and is one of the most powerful people in America, running an entertainment media conglomerate that is arguably the biggest in the country. However, when his health starts to deteriorate and his decision making is put in question, his four children, Kendall, Shiobban, Roman, and Connor, all eye seats at the table for power. Yet the reality is that Logan Roy is terrible in so many ways, it rubs off on his kids in all kinds of ways. It’s a destructive dynasty. Well, if the dynasty was full of very unserious people.
This HBO show that premiered back in 2018 was always about the drama. Since the Roy family was so dysfunctional, family members would always pit themselves against one another for power (which ironically they already had from the beginning). The specialty of the show was that the tables were always being turned, by characters, by events, by big deaths that would get spoiled by the LA Times the next day. Even though you should be disgusted by how these people live, it becomes so interesting and investing because of the complexity of their humanity, like a Gen Z soap opera.
Now, in its fourth and final season, Succession really plays out the whole punchline of the show: who is going to be the one to take over the company by the end? And every single episode packed a punch that was unreal and added so much more to the legacy of the show. It goes to show how far TV has come in the past few years where filler plotlines are increasingly becoming a remnant of the past for episodic television. And the performances by the likes of Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong, Kiernan Culkin, and even Matthew Macfayden elevate this season to the max. The season’s main storyline thread was based around the dependent Roy family when their father’s oh-so-present shadow isn’t lingering behind their every move anymore. It was really about the word “Succession”. The scenario that was always peeking behind the shoulder of the earlier seasons finally comes to fruition, as the Roys crumble in the most pathetic ways. The finale was so heartbreaking too, and it leaves you with a bad taste in your stomach even if you loved who won it all in the end. There will definitely be some Emmys coming in this show’s direction in January. Yet if there’s any takeaway from this season, it’s that you don’t mess around with the Disgusting Brothers (if you know, you know).
And then there was Barry. This show should really be in the same conversation as the greats of HBO, like The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, or even Breaking Ba– oh wait, I forgot that HBO didn’t pick that one up. Though, Barry is what I like to call the antithesis to Breaking Bad. It’s about a very talented hitman named Barry (played by Bill Hader) who has a job to kill an aspiring actor, but instead finds himself in an acting class held by Gene Cousineau (played by Henry Winkler). This is where serial killer hitman Barry falls in love with the world of acting. Barry gets caught up between a life of killing, and a life of acting, as his life starts to unravel for the worse (but what the hell is worse than being a hitman). That’s the simple logline, and it’s as hilarious as it sounds.
There are characters such as Barry’s mentor Fuches (played by Stephen Root), Barry’s on-and -off girlfriend Sally (played by Sarah Goldberg), and rising crime boss NoHo Hank (played by Anthony Carrigan). They all deserve Emmys in this show. It is a powerhouse of performance. But I know what you’re thinking now, it sounds like a cute sitcom back in the 80s that we’ve already written off because How I Met Your Father is just that good. But actually, even with some absolutely hilarious moments, the beauty of this show is how it evolves from genre to genre without forgetting its integral story. The action set pieces are better than what I’ve seen in film today, the drama of the story can be so heartbreaking, and the horror of moments from the final season are so well done. It’s a show that I like to compare to a great album with two very different sides. Side A is the first two hilarious seasons with the comedic genius of Bill Hader and co. Then there’s side B, the serious grounded last two seasons that mend together almost like one long film, and there’s a big question that comes from the development of this show. Why haven’t we seen more of this from Bill Hader?
Barry started its run on HBO in 2018, with co-creators Alec Berg and Bill Hader. Hader would then go on to act, write, produce, and direct in the show during its run, even sitting in the director’s chair for the whole last season. This final season of Barry seemed to be the most controversial. Barry is now in jail as all of the people in his life have either turned on him, or have run very far away from him. The season goes in very unexpected directions, and that’s what makes it such a thrilling piece of television. Bill Hader knew there would be a tonal shift when he directed every episode, he even acknowledged this by the season halfway point where he would understand if the audience turned it off. Yet to me, Barry finally hammers home the true cynical angel of the show. It was always a realistic take on the cliche Hollywood story, the underdog story, the bad person you want to turn good. Because in reality, even though terrible people can feel bad about their terrible actions, it does not justify that they are still morally right. The finale episode of the season really played with that idea, and audiences were stunned.
It was May 28th, the day where two of these incredible shows ended in an intertwining legacy as that Sunday night double feature was a moment of television I’ll never forget. Twitter was going insane, people were texting me with their emotional updates, my Dad was even tuning in (and all he watches is the news). It was beautiful, in a world of streaming where every release of content becomes diluted by the dump truck of even more content, it was absolutely beautiful. Many may look at Barbenheimer and the amazing moment in theatrical history that it was. But in a world dominated by digital screens at home, it’s nice to have a special double feature on the small screen too. Barrycession, you’re the double feature that won me over this year, actually, you’re the only one that ever made actual sense to me. Ok fine, it would have made more sense to call it Succarry since Succession always aired first, but that sounds demonic and I don’t want my dorm to be haunted (again). I’ll miss these shows and their stamp on pop culture dearly, until next time.
Noah Darling is a Sophomore Cinema Photo major who refuses to share how many times he’s seen Barrycession, although the number is more than once. He can be reached at [email protected]