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Andy Barker, P.I. aired from March until April 2007 on NBC.
Andy Barker ( Andy Richter) was a pudgy, easygoing accountant in suburban Fair Oakes, California, in this Walter Mitty-esque fantasy. Deciding to strike out on his own he opened an office in the Fair Oakes Mall, but the business that came through the door had more to do with spies and murder than accounting. It seems the office's previous occupent was now-retired private eye Lew Staziak ( Harve Presnell) and Andy had inherited both his cases and his exciting life of danger. Andy's squeaky-voiced wife Jen ( Clea Lewis), was skeptical at first but became supportive as she saw how much Andy enjoyed his new life. Eager to help were Simon ( Tony Hale), who ran the Video Riot video store downstairs and who quoted scenes from crime movies, and Wally ( Marshall Manesh), the superpatriotic proprietor of an Afghan Khabob restaurant in the mall, an expert in surveillance. Gruff old Staziak himself, now in a rest home, offered tough-talking advice.
There were wild car chases and shootouts, during which Andy nonchalantly dispensed tax advice, overblown film noir-style narration and music and references to film classics like Chinatown. Unfortunately it was all a little precious for the mass TV audience and was canceled after a few episodes. Produced by Andy Richter's former talk-show cohort , Conan O'Brien.
An Interview with Andy Richter and Jonathan Groff
INTERVIEW: Andy Richter and Jonathan Groff Snoop Around with Andy Barker P.I.
Evan Jacobs— February 27th, 2007in Interviews
When he left Late Night with Conan O'Brien, many wondered where Conan's sidekick would end up. Well, after doing a slew of TV shows and movies it appears that Andy Richter has done quite well for himself. We recently got a chance to catch up with him via a conference call for his new TV show Andy Barker P.I.. On the call with him was the show's executive producer/co-creator Jonathan Groff.
On Andy Barker P.I., Richter plays the title role of an accountant who moves into a new office formerly rented by a Private Investigator. As clients begin to show up wondering where the old P.I. is, Andy Barker decides to make some extra money by taking on their cases.
If a client came into Andy Barker's office and wanted to tail a tax cheat would that be a conflict of interest?
Andy Richter: Tailing a tax cheat? No, I think it would be very much in his interest. You could kill two birds with one stone. You could bill him twice.
How do you think your CPA will look at this show? Did you watch him for research?
Andy Richter: They haven't really said much about it. I haven't really talked about it because I don't want to get them riled up. I don't want them to expect to see a whole orgy of CPA activity. The show's more about an excuse to hang jokes on something.
Andy there's a long history of comedians playing characters on tv with the same first name but a different last name. Can you talk about that and how you came up with the name Barker?
Andy Richter: I'm gonna have to pass that over to Jonathan because I didn't have anything to do with it.
Jonathan Groff: I came up with the name Barker just because I wanted one of those regular names. Kind of plain sounding but also one with a little bit of action to it. Also, the Blue Archer, the P.I., was in my mind or Mike Hammer. This has been used and that would have been bad... they also felt a little too strong. This one just felt regular. Kind of bland almost. That was a discussion between Conan and me. About five minutes into talking about this idea we said, "You know who would be perfect to play this character?" We said Leonardo DiCaprio... then we said, "Andy Richter would be so great." And Conan said we should call the guy Andy, partly because... it's just a great kind of name that goes with it. It just seems like a regular guy kind of name.
Where do you see Andy Barker going as a character?
Jonathan Groff: We don't really write towards that. We don't say "That's what this episode is going to be about" or "Lets work toward that." Sometimes we do end up... getting into some conventional-type action sequences, but then having our comedic take on them like a car chase where Andy is giving out accounting advice during the car chase. Or, Andy has a gun drawn on him and tries to bargain his way out of a situation by agreeing to sign a waver of liability or nondisclosure agreement. It's more like little snippets of things. The show is not intended to be a straight ahead spoof or parody. I don't think that that would wear very well.
What are you expectations for the show?
Andy Richter: I don't visualize the future very much. The most I hope... it doesn't need to be the new Heroes or the new sensation or anything. I would like a medium success that chugs along for 4 or 5 years and makes people happy.
Do you prefer to work with the single camera or the multicamera set up on a show?
Andy Richter: I definitely prefer the single camera better. For me it's the simple fact that I enjoy working in front of an audience, but when you're trying to create a suspension of disbelief it's much harder to do in front of audience because they become a partner. Moreso than that, they become in charge of the timing. From the simple, mechanical fact that you have to hold for their laughter. The actual timing of the scene is in the hands of the audience. As a control freak, I don't enjoy that as much as the ability to be able to control it in an edit room.
Can you talk at all about the minimall area where the show is set?
Jonathan Groff: There's an interesting story to that. Where Conan and I originally wrote the very first version of Andy Barker P.I. was set in Connecticut, because Conan and I both knew of this... mall that both of us were thinking of when we started talking about this. It has this New England feel to it. I originally set the show there and Andy's adventures were in Brooklyn and the docks and places like that. You then get into the conversation of, "Are we all going to relocate?" The producibility of it... we decided, Los Angeles feels like just as much of an opportunity certainly in the detective tradition as New York.
For some reason, Conan and I had it in our heads that Andy should be on the second floor. Partly because it didn't feel like he was a complete storefront, there was an element of extra respectability that maybe came from being in the office level of a mini-mall as opposed to these sort of storefront level. That was really hard to find.
What's the challenge of writing for the detective genre and getting everything in in 22 minutes, while still having the comedy?
Jonathan Groff: You do kind of have a good starting place with the conventions of the P.I. genre, there's a shorthand even with the audience, I think, that lets you get into things kind of quickly. Then satisfying the story with enough of a twist so that people aren't too ahead of it. I'm not saying we're telling intricate, genius, David Mamet-like mystery, con game type stories at all. I think we do try and be satisfying and respectful and not make it too outlandishly unbelievable. We love to dovetail a personal story of Andy's... with a mystery that he's trying to solve in that episode.
Andy Barker P.I. premieres on March 15 at 9:30pm E.T. on NBC.
A Review From Variety
Andy Barker, P.I.
(Series -- NBC, Thurs. March 15, 9:30 P.M.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
Filmed in Los Angeles by Red Pulley Prods. and Conaco in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. Executive producers, Conan O'Brien, David Kissinger, Jonathan Groff, Jeff Ross; co-executive producers, Peter Schindler, Chuck Tatham; producer, Andy Richter; director, Jason Ensler; writers, O'Brien, Groff.
Andy Barker - Andy Richter
Jen Barker - Clea Lewis
Simon - Tony Hale
Lew Staziak - Harve Presnell
Wally - Marshall Manesh
Andy Richter does not control the universe, but it would be splendid if he could carve out a half-hour of primetime. After striking out with his underappreciated Fox series, he's back with another clever single-camera comedy that turns him into a latter-day Walter Mitty -- an accountant who occupies a private eye's former office and starts catching cases. Filled with knowing references to movies such as "Chinatown" and a top-notch supporting cast, "Andy Barker, P.I." should earn critical praise, but that won't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world if it can't find an audience.
Created by Richter's former boss Conan O'Brien and Jonathan Groff ("Father of the Pride"), "Andy Barker" might be too hip for the room, beginning with its Quinn Martin-like credit sequence. Number-cruncher Andy leaves chirpy wife Jen (Clea Lewis) as he embarks on a new adventure as a solo accountant, only to have a mysterious woman waltz into his office, hand him cash and ask him to find her missing husband.
Andy is clued in to the history of his new digs by Simon ("Arrested Development's" Tony Hale, again hilarious), a video-store worker who, in a later episode, hits on Andy's African-American assistant by asking if she's ever seen "Jungle Fever." Andy's posse grows to include another local store owner (Marshall Manesh) and the retired detective ("Fargo's" Harve Presnell), whose response to every situation is to slap someone around or kick them in the nuts.
The premiere, perhaps out of necessity, devotes most of its time to establishing the premise, which is fleshed out wonderfully in the second and third installments, with the reluctant Andy thwarting crime bosses, often using his tax-cracking talents to save the day.
Doughy and bland, Richter remains an unlikely TV star, but he's an appealing one, and the yeoman support from Hale, Manesh, Presnell and Lewis clearly lightens the load.
Even so, the show's wry, media-savvy sensibility has historically been a tough sell on a mass scale, more suited to the less-demanding confines of O'Brien's latenight slot or cable than Thursdays on what NBC now less ambitiously calls "Comedy Night Done Right."
In the blessing/curse dept., "30 Rock," which the series spells, has enjoyed critical support but only mediocre ratings, setting the bar relatively low for NBC to give "Andy Barker" the second look that, based strictly on execution, the show clearly deserves.
Ultimately, though, it will all come down to crunching the numbers, where Andy might discover that the Nielsen arbiters are every bit as unyielding as those at the IRS.
A Review From Entertainment Weekly
Andy Barker, P.I. (2007)
By Gillian Flynn
As Andy Barker an accountant-turned-detective Andy Richter fights crime while outfitted in short-sleeve dress shirts, his briefcase full of Dilbert cartoons, his baby-sunshine face set in a determined grin. If that were the only gag, the show would still be fairly funny. (Conan O'Brien's old sidekick won boundless comedic goodwill with Fox's short-lived Andy Richter Controls the Universe enough even to see him through Fox's short-lived Quintuplets.) But the NBC comedy has more to offer than squareguy jokes. Andy Barker, P.I. has the aesthetics of a great old '70s detective show all wood paneling and wakaja-wakaja. And the comedy, co-created by O'Brien, pays tribute to the Zuckers' Police Squad! series: There's a scene in which Andy's face is suddenly engulfed by an attacking chicken you can almost see Leslie Nielsen's sport coat flapping behind the feathers.
This updated detective satire plops Andy's office not on some shady downtown drag, but in a sprawling, sun-scorched California strip mall, where he's quickly befriended by fellow tenant Simon (Arrested Development's Tony Hale, still twitchy as a greedy bunny). Simon manages a video store, which, unfortunately, leads to strings of movie references from Chinatownto The Godfather to Jungle Fever to Miss Congeniality 2. (Overpacked, obscure pop culture riffs are like pirate jokes very mid-aughts and hopefully on the decline.) But Andy Barker quickly eases back from these easy targets and gets wonderfully loose. The show isn't afraid to be quiet, taking its cue from its mild-mannered title character, who utters no oaths stronger than ''Mother Hubbard!'' In one episode, a venal, steamboat-size slob is murdered, and the funniest bits aren't the guy's passionate eating binges (''The man kept a thermos of emergency bisque!'' marvels Andy), but the reaction shots of Andy politely trying to hide his shock at hearing the deceased's many lovers lust over him. ''You thiiiink?'' he squints when the guy's wife suggests he had a mistress. Richter's inherent archness is nicely anchored by septuagenarian Harve Presnell, a character actor best known as William H. Macy's badass father-in-law in Fargo. Presnell plays Andy's equally badass detective mentor, and it's a sign of the show's underdog ethos that the leatherjacketed AARP member is the resident stud here.
Andy Barker isn't as complete a comedy as Andy Richter Controls the Universe the first three episodes feel like a series of very funny bits that have been welded together. But so did 30 Rock when it first started, and that's now the best comedy on TV. Let's hope NBC gives Barker time to find its groove. Although when an entire episode is based around a ''murderous chicken cartel,'' there's not too much room for improvement.
A Review From Thew Los Angeles Times
March 14, 2007 TELEVISION REVIEW
'Andy Barker, P.I.
By Robert Lloyd, Times Staff Writer
Andy Richter is back again, in a quietly delightful new series called "Andy Barker, P.I.," co-created by his old boss (or however you want to relationally describe the person in a talk-show-hosting arrangement who isn't the sidekick), Conan O'Brien. (Jonathan Groff is O'Brien's co-creator.) I have not been the most dedicated tracker of Richter's career, but I have felt a proprietary affection toward him ever since I got a glimpse of him in the hallway outside a friend's apartment in Greenwich Village, and am always glad to see him again.
Richter is amazingly resilient, work-wise, for a man who has yet to really establish himself as one thing or another. He continues to pop up here and there, now and again eponymously in the series "Andy Richter Controls the Universe," recurringly in "The New Adventures of Old Christine," almost anonymously in the movie "Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby" and yet it always feels like something of a surprise. I mean no offense when I say that I think this might be connected in some way with the fact that he is, physically, on the soft side there is something actually indistinct about him.
In any case, that may not be the worst quality in an actor, and he is here once more, this time as an accountant who opens his own office in a space formerly occupied by a private eye, and who in the sort of moment that used to kick-start Hitchcock films is mistaken for the shamus. He is set down in the middle of a mystery and, as is often the case in such stories, finds he has a knack (not indistinct from that qualities that make him a good accountant) for getting to the bottom of things. He also is a demon multi-tasker, picking up a client for a tax meeting in the middle of a car chase.
"Andy Barker, P.I." will not change the face of comedy. Indeed, the face it wears is an old one and somehow one feels grateful for that. The envelope does not always need to be pushed; let it be envelope-sized for change. The series recalled to me "Get Smart," though it is more grounded than that, and other detective and spy spoofs of my youth. It has a kindliness I find appealing: It's funny, but it doesn't go for big laughs so much as a mood of whimsical parody. And as in "Get Smart," or "Monk" for that matter, you're able to invest both in the character and in the mysteries, however silly they are. You want things to go well for Andy both at home and work.
The usual thing would have been to make Barker an unsatisfied dreamer, to whom his detective adventure brings his life the romance it was missing. But he's not unhappy; apart from the fact that his business is slow getting off the mark, there is no hole in his life to fill. He takes to sleuthing because he's the sort of person who can't not finish a job he's started, and because he finds he's good at it. And though it may not have been intended as such, there was something brilliant about making him a CPA a person with confident knowledge about things most of us dimly understand and, in some cases, actively fear: numbers, forms, taxes, money. His day job makes him oddly more romantic than less.
Clea Lewis, who was squeaky Audrey back on "Ellen," plays Andy's wife. Lewis has grown up some well, not "up," but older and is a woman now, no longer a girl. Though she still squeaks a little. Lewis, whose natural state is a kind of comic melodrama, has a wonderful way with pulpy overripe or pulpy dialogue she was made to speak lines that were not made to be spoken, as it were and I would not be surprised to learn that the writers were purposely playing to that strength. Harve Presnell ("Fargo," and a production of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" I saw probably around the same time I was watching "Get Smart") plays the detective whose office Andy inhabits, and who starts hanging around, as do his mall neighbors Tony Hale (washed up whole from the scuttled "Arrested Development"), who runs the video store, and Marshall Manesh, proprietor of a kebab house tricked out in post-9/11 prophylactic Americana. Nicole Randall Johnson plays Andy's minimally motivated, unasked for assistant.
This motley crew is more than a little reminiscent of the one surrounding Donal Logue on "Knights of Prosperity," another essentially sweet, one-camera comedy about a person trying to be his own boss and getting into dangerous scrapes. Like that show, recently excised from the ABC schedule, this one makes no particular claim on reality or just enough to keep it from floating clean away.
To watch clips of Andy Barker, P.I. go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Andy+Barker%2C+P.I.+full+episodes
For a page dedicated to Andy Barker go to http://www.thrillingdetective.com/eyes/andy_barker.html
For an article on Andy Barker P.I. go to https://tv.avclub.com/the-little-seen-andy-barker-p-i-was-the-ideal-andy-ri-1798280196
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXwhe7LGv7o
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Keywords: Andy Barker, P.I. Cast