TITLE: ANDY BARKER, P.I. - THE COMPLETE SERIES
Release Date: November 17, 2009 (Shout! Factory)
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 6
Running Time: 132 minutes
Running Time of Special Features: 194 minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 5.1
Subtitles: Closed Captioned
* Going Where the Numbers Take You
* Writers 101
* Cast and Crew Commentaries
* Gag Reel
I’ll never understand why it is that the genius of Andy Richter is only ever allowed to express itself when paired on-air with Conan O’Brien. He’s a hilarious guy, even when left alone to his own devices. Presented here is Richter’s final attempt at a solo vehicle from 2007, prior to his 2009 on-air return to Conan’s show.
And what you’ll see is one of the funniest, shortest comedies of the decade. Andy portrays Andy Barker, a CPA turned private detective due to mistaken identity. Surrounding Andy are some absolutely crazy secondary characters at the strip mall where his office is located, and the show delivers a great amount of laughs.
The main cast:
Andy Richter as Andy Barker
Clea Lewis as Jenny Barker
Tony Hale as Simon
Marshall Manesh as Wally
Harve Presnell as Lew Staziak
Only the top name is likely to set off any bells in the head of the main audience -- which really is probably for the best. Avoids typecasting.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
With only six episodes there’s not a lot to choose from for memorable episodes, and I won’t be providing you with an episode guide here, so instead I’d like to point out the scene from the series that most sticks in my head: The opening to episode #2 “Fairway, My Lovely” with Andy’s client dropping dead during a golf game.
There’s one real guest star, in the final episode of the series. Ed Asner appears in the sixth-and-final episode “The Lady Varnishes.”
The packaging is very simple. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about this packaging type as it’s not been one of my favorites. But for better and worse, it’s become the near-standard for TV DVD sets at this point. What we have here is a thick clear plastic case. Each disc has three episodes. The artwork and visual style for the DVD presentation is interesting, with a fusion of the typical “private eye” look and the image you would associate with an accountant. It’s a nice extension of the oddity of the series. Disc one’s art features Andy in private-eye mode, while on disc two? Lovable accountant.
Menu Design and Navigation:
If there’s one thing you can count from this DVD publisher, its quality in the menus. In this set, you get a file folder on top of a wooden desk. The menu navigation is styled as a sheet of paper from a legal pad, with video clips playing as Polaroids on the left side. Main theme plays in the background. Each episode has commentary -- a treat to hear. In order to select it, go to “Episodes” from the main menu, and select the episode you want to watch. The episode title is the commentary off selection, while selecting the “Commentary By” writing below it turns on the commentary track for the episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
It’s a modern show. Do you really expect me to have anything to complain about? Video quality is as nice as you’re going to see without a Blu-Ray release. Audio quality is the same. There are no real defects on either front. Chapter stops are placed into the episode, at the end of each act. If there’s a commercial break, you can bet there’s a chapter stop.
Fairway, My Lovely: 21:15
Three Days of the Chicken: 21:20
Dial M for Laptop: 19:50*
The Big No Sleep: 21:16
The Lady Varnishes: 21:16
* While I’m not sure what the particular issue is with this episode, the runtime IS the same as the version available for free streaming on Hulu.com -- so this isn’t strictly a DVD issue.
Pilot: Commentary by Jason Ensler, Jonathan Groff, Max Richter, and Conan O’Brien. I’d just like to say right off the bat that having Conan doing commentary is seven kinds of awesome. It’s a nice mix of hysterical and informative, and is the perfect type of commentary to someone like me..
Fairway, My Lovely: Jonathan Groff, Tony Hale, and Nicole Randall Johnson. Not as interesting as the first episode’s track, but still quite a good listen.
Three Days of the Chicken: Jason Ensler, Gail Lerner, Clea Lewis, and Andy Richter. More of the same. Funnier with the return of Andy.
Dial M for Laptop: Jonathan Groff, Tony Hale, Clea Lewis, Marshall Manesh.
The Big No Sleep: Jonathan Groff, Tony Hale, Clea Lewis, Andy Richter:
The Lady Varnishes: Jason Ensler, Clea Lewis, Marshall Manesh, Andy Richter.
Writers 101 (30:18): A look at what it takes to write a series like Andy Barker PI. Features interview footage with the creative staff of the show.
Going Where the Numbers Take You (32:45): Features interviews with just about anyone involved with the show, including quite a few interview bits with Conan.
Gag Reel (4:11): It’s a Rag Geel...er....Gag Reel. Yup, your usual bloopers.
Total runtime of special features: 194 minutes.
I wanted to be able to give you this nice, dazzling review of a great show. But this set has a fundamental flaw at the moment. As of this writing, you can view the overwhelming majority of this set’s content for free on Hulu.com -- fully endorsed by the copyright holders. And I’m sorry, but to me it’s insane to pay $25 for something you can get for free. Doubly-insane is a $25 SRP for a SIX EPISODE TV series. Usually sets with this few episodes wind up being sold at $10 or lower. $25 is insane. It’s the single biggest problem with Shout Factory sets -- they’re overpriced. They’re extremely, extremely well done -- but because they appeal to smaller viewer bases and have lower sales projections, the cost gets driven way up beyond reasonability. If you pay MSPR for this set, you’re paying approximately $4.16 per episode.
When you do the simple mathematics of this set, it fails horribly. This show was terrific, and it should have had a longer run. Of course, had I had my way it would never have existed as Andy Richter Controls the Universe would have had a much longer run. The show’s good, it’s just overpriced. And in a bum economy, I’d either have to be mad or a CNBC host to tell you to pay $4.16 per episode for something you can get for free, quite legally, right this very minute. Long term, though, the show probably will disappear from Hulu, meaning collectors owning this set will be the ones able to watch it, say, 5 years from now. If you’re that desperate for it, fine, but I can’t in good conscience recommend this set at its MSRP. If you can get it at steep discount, fine, but it’s absurd to price this DVD at $25.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Final Score: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 11/09/09
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