SILICON VALLEY Season 5
The latest season of Silicon Valley was fun, frothy, and particularly smooth considering it was the first without TJ Miller’s Erlich, who was abandoned in a drug den in China last year. There’s a subplot about Jin Yang trying to declare him dead to take over his share of the company and the house in the first few episodes, but since Erlich’s plots were often disconnected from the rest of the guys anyway, we don’t really miss him much at all. The rest of the gang is in top form, especially Zach Woods as Jared, who probably has a bit more screentime this season (never a bad thing), and Thomas Middleditch continues to evolve Richard into more of a douche as he tries to expand Pied Piper’s payroll. Basically, the show doesn’t miss a beat, is as funny as ever and the best part about this season is no more constant failure! Yep, as the season ties itself up, the Pied Piper crew (including Monica, who finally ditches robotic Laurie to join the guys officially) gets a handle on their new cryptocurrency plan, the company is officially launched, and would you believe it, finally, finally looks to be headed in a successful direction, as Richard outsmarts Gavin Belson for once. Richard’s dream of a new, decentralized internet is on track to actually take off in the finale, which he promptly responds to in nauseous disbelief after all these years. The happy ending leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, and also the idea that the series may be winding down soon, since I’m not sure how much longer it can run if the aim is for the guys to actually make it in the valley. But that could be a good thing as well, since everything must end some time, and I know that creators Mike Judge and Alec Berg think it’s funnier for the guys to struggle rather than succeed. So Season 6 may be the last, but it could also be a natural, logical time for the story to come to an end, and I wouldn’t be mad about it all. If so, this show might manage to become one of the few comedies never to have a down season.
BARRY Season 1
SNL’s Bill Hader comes to HBO with a radical new show that had a pretty flawless first eight episodes, sort of a successor to Breaking Bad as a dark comedy with spurts of violent bloodshed. Barry is a professional hitman who inadvertently stumbles into an acting class in Los Angeles (led by the hilarious Henry Winkler) and spontaneously decides, hey, I think I want to be an actor! The problem is leaving his deadly day job behind, which he realizes is a lot harder to do than he expected. The tonal shifts on this show are pretty wild, veering from the soft comedy of Barry’s terrible improv classmates to his surreal daydreams about sunny domesticated life to the bloody gang warfare of his tangles with Russian and Bolivian mobsters. But with a supremely talented cast, jokes that work and suspenseful, genuinely dark plot twists that challenge the audience over its acceptance of the unquestionably murderous main character, I would say this is one of the best new shows of the year and I can’t wait to see where it goes in a second season. The episodes are just a half hour in length, which adds to the season flying by in a breeze, and once again leaves some viewers questioning whether it’s a comedy or a drama, but as I always say to people who are confused about this- WHY can’t it be both? Rules are meant to be broken, people, and this show does that beautifully.