Andy Barker, P.I.: The Complete Series


Andy Richter may be the king of canceled-too-soon comedies. First, there was "Andy Richter Controls the Universe." More recently, it was "Andy Barker, P.I." The former lasted two semi-seasons on Fox, but the latter squeaked out a mere six episodes on NBC before getting axed. It's not the work of brilliance that "Universe" was, but it's solid and charming.

Created in part by Conan O'Brien, the half-hour series again casts Richter as a lovable loser type, and we wouldn't want to have him any other way. As Barker, he's such a dedicated family man that he won 't even utter profanity. Located in a strip mall, his new CPA practice isn't going well "? at all "? when his bacon is saved as he lucks into a lucrative side gig.  Just like the title says, he becomes a private investigator, purely by accident.

See, his office used to house a P.I., so when a woman walks in with a missing-husband case to be solved, a cash-strapped Andy goes along with the ruse. Despite the clear and present danger and his own ineptness, he gets the job done, with the help of a video store manager (Tony Hale of "Arrested Development") and the crusty old man (the late Harvey Presnell) who was that prior for-hire dick.

In each episode, another case comes through his door "? Murder! Fraud! Blackmail! "?  which is admittedly unrealistic, but clears the way for the gang to parody the mystery genre.  It's all done out of love, rather than snark. Laughs have an edge, but they are affectionate instead of abrasive.

I'm of the opinion that, had it made it to a sophomore season, "Barker" would've only gotten better. It was just getting comfortable in its own skin before the network reaper came a-knocking. The final episode may be its best, with a savagely funny supporting turn from the great Amy Sedaris.

Shout! Factory gives the series a double-disc release a few special features, including an okay look at the show's genesis and development, but really, having "Barker" at all is special enough.

"?Rod Lott