I was looking forward to the start of the final season of Bill Hader’s “Barry” on HBO, but the first two episodes disappointed me. I think the reason is that the show has always been at its best when the supporting characters interact with the title character. But now that he’s in prison, the only one he appears with is Fuches. That leaves Gene, Sally, and Hank to their own plot lines which, though often about Barry, don’t directly involve him. This is a corner Hader and his team wrote themselves into, and I fear it’s going to take several more episodes for the problem to be solved and have Barry reunited with the others somehow.
I have a similar problem with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” where the supporting players do nothing more than chew the scenery. The actors playing the grandparents — Kevin Pollak, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle, and Caroline Aaron — play everything over the top, as they have since the show began. There isn’t a bit of finesse in their performances, which must be the fault of the showrunners, who give them stories that start out ridiculous and get worse (e.g. Abe’s overreaction to discovering he misspelled Carol Channing’s name in a review). However, I would watch an entire hour of Rachel Brosnahan as Midge Maisel merely talking with Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce. Their scenes together are the best parts of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I hope his departure for the west coast isn’t the last we’ll see of them as a pair. The same goes for Alex Borstein, who continues to do a great job as Suzy, another example of a character best served in small portions for greatest effect. But if we never saw Midge’s ex-husband Joel and his nightclub again, we wouldn’t miss it.
Don’t get me wrong. Although I don’t find myself enjoying them as much as I did a few years ago, I still plan to watch the remainder of those series because I’ve already invested enough time to want to know how they end.
The same is not true of Bob Odenkirk’s new AMC show, “Lucky Hank.” Without going into a lengthy explanation of the plot, I’ll just say the show leaves viewers with no one to root for because — except for Mireille Enos in the thankless role of Hank’s wife — all the characters are unlikable. In Odenkirk’s last series, “Better Call Saul,” we wanted to see the title character succeed despite his sleaziness. Plus, he had the very appealing Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) as his co-conspirator most of the way. “Lucky Hank,” on the other hand, is about a morose man surrounded by whiners and complainers, with no upside to any of them. So, rather than committing to the show for the long run, I went three-and-out, deleting the series from the list of shows I set my DVR to record.
So, what have I liked lately? After giving it up halfway through its first season as the premise wore thin, I find myself enjoying the new run of “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+. Instead of being caught in a land based on the sweet musicals of Rodgers, Hammerstein, Lerner, and Loewe, the lead characters — played perfectly by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key — now find themselves stuck in the darker world of 1970s shows like “Cabaret,” “Hair,” “Chicago,” and “Sweeney Todd.” The creative team obviously loves the era, and it shows. The songs by series co-creator Cinco Paul nicely evoke the spirit and sound of the originals, choreographer Christopher Gattelli recreates the Bob Fosse style superbly, and the production design by Jamie Walker McCall has every nail and façade in place. Having Tituss Burgess as The Narrator (a la “Pippin”) is a nice touch, too.