Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Andy Barker, P.I.

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.

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5 comments:

Simon said...

You know, I've fallen heads over heels for 30 Rock, but I just can't quite understand all the glowing reviews for Andy Barker.

I watched four episodes online on NBC.com and to mean it was just like luke warm water. There wasn't anything bad about it but I only had one or two laughs and more than anything it just felt like an innocuous way to pass time rather than something I really wanted to keep watching.

Anyway, not saying I think it's bad, just that I really wanted to like it and I basically found myself barely interested. I guess that's the risk you take with making such a low-key, understated show.

Kenny said...

That was how I felt about Knights of Prosperity. I didn't understand all those positive critical reviews at all. I think it just comes down to me preferring the people in ABPI, and my affection for detective stories.

But yeah, the show so far is not exactly laugh-heavy.

crystal! said...

a late night friend told us a few weeks ago that andy barker is fighting for the slot against 30 rock and that only one is intended to continue. i want both!

Kenny said...

That's terrible!

At this point I've seen the cold open of "Fairway, My Lovely," which aired tonight and was really good, and two-thirds of "Dial M for Laptop" on the NBC site, which frankly was just okay. If I had to choose, it's easily 30 Rock. That show has taken off creatively in such a big way. But I would really like to see how Andy Barker develops if it's given the same room to grow.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

This could be because I'm getting old (my favorite show on television is "Jeopardy!"), but one of the most appealing aspects of AB:PI is precisely that it's inocuously pleasant. You don't HAVE to laugh the whole time to enjoy yourself. AB:PI's Thursday neighbor "The Office," which has become a cartoonish character-driven one-liner, is only enjoyable when you're actively laughing at a joke; the rest is awkard, semi-predictable, cringe-inducing set-up.

30 Rock is both funny AND pleasant. It suffers not from lack of plot, brilliant characters, or laugh-out-loud punchlines. And Tiny Fey is so hot.