Andy Richter's new show, Andy Barker, P.I., viewable Thursday nights on NBC or online here, is a delightful show. The premise--a mild mannered accountant finds himself solving crimes as a detective--is goofy and ridiculous, but the pilot hints at the fun you'd find in lighthearted mystery shows of yesteryear, before solving crimes was necessarily moody and dead-serious all the time.
The pilot is also consumed with a lot of set-up and a lot of plot. ABC's Knights of Prosperity (also viewable in its entirety online, at abc.com--or at least, it was) was a similarly crime-themed sitcom this season, and it suffered for its plottiness. In the case of Knights, the complicated heist left little room for jokes, but the jokey approach to the heist only undercut the storytelling. So you have mediocre comedy and a mediocre heist.
Andy Barker risks suffering from the same issues, but the pilot mystery, simple as it is, manages to feel less forced than the heist stuff on Knights. Plus, the natural likability of the cast takes the characters beyond the stereotypes they are. Arrested Development's Tony "Buster" Hale is a welcome sight, and brings just enough of what made his Buster performance great while still playing a distinctly different character.
I kind of wish Andy Barker was an hourlong show, actually. Now that the pilot is done and the set-up is out of the way, there should be more room for jokes, but the easygoing tone is so pleasant, it would be nice to see them take the time to do real mysteries, and not rushed twenty-minute versions. Unfortunately, there's no place for a show like that right now, besides maybe USA. But who knows? Maybe it would lend it an air of credibility--a comedy with a bit of distance from the currently cursed sitcom genre, like Ugly Betty or Desperate Housewives. Not that those shows have the same audience at all. But hey, given the numbers most sitcoms get these days, it couldn't hurt.
Anyway, check out Andy Barker. It's pretty good. Also, when 30 Rock gets its slot back, check it out if you haven't lately (or watch it on iTunes or NBC.com). It's gotten to be quite wonderful. Joke for joke, it's maybe the funniest show on right now. Even comedy writers like it.