During these dog days of summer, there’s nothing quite like sequestering yourself in the darkened confines of your air-conditioned retreat for some binge-worthy TV. If you haven’t discovered these two bad boys of cable, switch off your phone and get ready to hit that “next button” at the end of every episode. Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete” and HBO’s sleeper hit “Barry” will give you literally hours of viewing pleasure.
Although these two shows have much in common, the trajectory of their main characters and their circumstances are vastly different, enough so that you won’t risk mixing anything up. With sensational teams of writers, the shows follow the “bad boy” formula. All your sympathies will lie with these unscrupulous men whose sensibilities and moral stance lie firmly on the wrong side of the law.
To accomplish this shift, the plots and character development have twists that will make you disregard victims and focus firmly on all the qualities that make Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) and Barry (Bill Hadar) so loveable. Cunning to a fault, smart, and handsome, both bad boys have a view of the world that gives them a lifestyle free of conventional rules. Laws are made to be broken, and only the strong survive.
Pete’s claim to fame as a con artist explains the name of the show “Sneaky Pete.” Although a life time of deceit and graft have sharpened his skills, a recent stint in prison opened a whole new world that proves promising beyond his wildest dreams. Pete’s cell mate, named Pete Murphy (Ethan Embry), is a talker, and he shares every detail of his family and his past way of life. At first Pete found Murphy’s incessant chatter alarmingly annoying. Then he formed a plan.
Pete would be released before Murphy, and since it had been years and years since Murphy’s family had laid eyes on him, Pete figures he can dupe them into believing he’s the long lost black sheep. Murphy’s grandparents Audrey (Margo Martindale) and Otto (Peter Gerety) own a bail bond company, so they’re no strangers to the dark side. Suspense builds rapidly from the first episodes as Pete weasels his way into the hearts of Murphy’s family, and his con perfected gives him access to a lot more than Audrey’s good cooking.
Barry, too, takes on another identity, but in a much more subtle manner. With a well-developed career as a hitman, he spends his days in Los Angeles weaving intricate plots to track down his victims. As a paid assassin, he never knows them personally, and he’s a master marksman, so he never misses. But the excitement’s worn off, and after a chance encounter with acting coach Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), Barry decides to join an acting class.
Mobster and handler Monroe Ruches (Stephen Root) can’t understand Barry’s newfound interest in acting, so the jobs keep coming, in spite of Barry’s desire to hang up his gun. It’s an unlikely mix of gangsters, drug lords, and want-to-be actors who populate the show with Barry at the center of it all.
Sometimes it’s good to be bad.
Both shows rated for mature audiences.
Marilyn Robitaille writes film (and television) reviews for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter.