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Andy Richter Controls the Universe aired from March 2002 until January 2003 on Fox.
Andy ( Andy Richter) was an aspiring short-story writer with a vivid imagination who was reduced to writing technical manuals for Chicago-based Pickering Industries , the " fifth largest company in America," in this surrealistic comedy. As he narrated what was going on in his life Andy fantasized about the way things might have been-but weren't. Most of the action took place at work, where the much put-upon Andy did his best to cope with various indignities. Coworkers included Jessica ( Paget Brewster), the insensitive supervisor he had known for years; Byron ( Jonathan Slavin), the creepy neaurotic illustrator with whom Andy was forced to share a tiny office; Keith ( James Patrick Stuart), the good-looking ladies man who never seemed to have any problems ; and Wendy ( Irene Molloy), the pretty young receptionist. Andy was infatuated with her but unfortunately for him, she was dating Keith. One of Andy's fantasy people , who gave him constant grief, was nasty old Mr. Pickering ( John Bliss), the long-dead founder of the company.
A Review from Variety
March 15, 2002 5:59PM PT
Andy Richter Controls the Universe
By Phil Gallo
“Andy Richter Controls the Universe” has the potential to be the most talked about comedy of the 2001-02 season, a true water-cooler conversation generator that will have viewers in stitches on Wednesday mornings as they recount Andy’s antics from the night before. Richter is a bumbler driven by an overwhelming concern to do more good than bad, constantly looking for ways to compensate for his occasionally devious ways. The writing toys with the absurd — especially when it concerns the libido — keeping the bizarre stuff on a short leash. Chalk up another programming victory for Fox.
The writing, the ensemble and the use of music from the 1960s and ’70s combine to make for an uproarious debut — each of the first three episodes improves on its predecessor, taking material that could offend in less talented hands and letting the wit explode onscreen. Andy’s inner-thoughts play a key role in the comedy, a conceit that has grown tired elsewhere, yet he employs the trick to maximum effect. Richter spent seven years as Conan O’Brien’s sidekick and despite a growing list of bigscreen credits, he appears perfectly suited for this sort of “everyman” comedy.
Andy, the primary character in the no-last-name comedy, writes operating manuals for a major Chicago company. He thinks about sex. He is smitten with the receptionist ,Wendy (Irene Molloy), and often has trouble expressing his true feelings. She’s new in town and, without thinking, has begun sleeping with the handsome guy, Keith (James Patrick Stuart), one of Andy’s friends. Their boss is Jessica (Paget Brewster); Byron (Jonathan Slavin) is the creepy new hire forced to share an office with Andy.
“Universe” opens with a few of Andy’s hallucinations — Wendy crawling into bed with him, his company’s founder chiding his lack of accomplishment — before putting him in the good guy/bad guy dilemma. In episode one it concerns sabotaging Byron’s art work; in the second one, he gets his chance with Wendy; in the third, he has to come to terms with sleeping with a beautiful anti-Semite. There’s a playful tone to the series that makes its occasional juvenile lapses easy to digest. It’s “Seinfeld” with a moral compass.
Brewster, playing a firm boss, is a comic ace who truly gets to let loose in the third episode when she’s sleep-deprived from too much clubbing. As Wendy, Molloy’s reactions are subtle yet articulate — as the object of Andy’s desires her fetching looks are amped up, yet the writers prop up her character on levels beyond attractiveness. The opposite is true of Keith, a personality-free pretty boy, whose purpose is little more than suffering the slings of Andy’s imagination. And Slavin, as the sheepish Byron, doesn’t quite give his mates the willies, but boy is he close.
Show’s executive producers Victor Fresco and Andy Ackerman hail from the infinitely less funny skeins “The Trouble With Normal” and “Becker.” With so few names in the producing and writing ranks, “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” has the feel of a singular vision — there isn’t a single line in any of the three episodes that felt like it was written by a committee.
Levie Isaacks’s photography puts this show on the top shelf of sitcoms alongside “Malcolm in the Middle.” Casting by Julie Mossberg and Jill Anthony, including the hiring of Rick Hoffman (“Philly”) to play a smug higher-up, is superlative.
Andy Richter Controls the Universe
Fox, Tue. March 19, 8:30 p.m.
Production: Taped in Los Angeles by Garfield Grove and 20th Century Fox in association with Paramount. Executive producer, Victor Fresco; co-executive producer, Andy Ackerman; producer, Andy Richter, Marc Solakian; director, Ackerman; writer, Fresco
Crew: Director of photography, Levie Isaacks; production designer, Wendell Johnson; editor, Skip Collector; music, Brian Kirk, Jeff Burns, Greg Burns; casting, Julie Mossberg, Jill Anthony. 30 MIN.
Cast: Andy - Andy Richter Jessica - Paget Brewster Wendy - Irene Molloy Byron - Jonathan Slavin Keith - James Patrick StuartWith: Rick Hoffman, John Bliss, Jonathan Tipton Meyers, Jordan Anita Moseley.
An Interview with Andy Richter from Entertainment Weekly
The Andy Man
Andy Richter explains his new TV series. Conan's ex-sidekick tells EW.com why he hates sitcoms, but decided to star in one anyway
By Brian Hiatt
Each time Andy Richter sat down with network execs to try to create a new comedy show, Conan O'Brien's former sidekick had to answer two questions. ''The first thing out of their mouths was, 'So what kind of dad do you want to play?''' Richter says. ''And when they found out I didn't want to be a dad, then it was, 'Okay, what kind of office do you want to work in?'''
The answer to the second question can be seen in ''Andy Richter Controls the Universe,'' which premieres March 19 on Fox (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.). Richter stars as Andy (''they definitely wanted me to be called Andy -- I didn't realize I was a brand,'' he notes), a technical writer and aspiring author who toils away at a huge, faceless corporation that resembles General Electric, parent company of Richter's former employers NBC.
Yes, Andy Richter, a driving force of the Dadaistic comedy of ''Late Show with Conan O'Brien,'' is starring in TV's umpteenth office sitcom -- something he once said he'd never do. ''There's this pose of great thirst out there for something new,'' says Richter, ''but only as long as it's a lot like what's happened before.''
Still, as its title suggests, ''Andy Richter Controls the Universe'' is meant to be more than another ''Just Shoot Me'' clone. Richter says he wanted to do the show because of its central conceit: His character unreliably narrates the story, which means that we see Andy's fantasies about dying or showing up at work in a suit made of puppies (yeah, it's a little bit like ''Scrubs''). ''If it were just an office comedy, I wouldn't want to do it,'' he says. ''But it has all these other aspects and chances to just do jokes, to just do pure 'funny.'''
On traditional sitcoms, says ''Universe'' creator and executive producer Victor Fresco, writers come up with multiple ideas for any given scene, but have to settle on one -- which often means the funniest jokes are sacrificed on the altars of story and character. ''I thought it'd be fun to have a show where you could actually have all of that stuff in there,'' Fresco says. ''So we'll show where the story could have gone, and then how it really did go.''
A Review From Entertainment Weekly
Andy Richter Controls the Universe (2002)
By Ken Tucker
The first thing that watching new episodes of Fox's finally returning Andy Richter Controls the Universe does is confirm how utterly lame 98 percent of all other network sitcoms are. The next thing watching them does is make you laugh really hard. Or maybe it's the other way around. In either case, in its sophomore season, ''Andy Richter'' has become its own perfectly realized comic universe. During its debut run, ''Richter'' was funny but hit-or-miss, trying out different tones. Now, this absurdist office comedy has wisely decided to laser- focus on its core cast. There's Andy, of course, a hapless drone prone to daydreams a Dadaist would be proud of (in the second episode, for example, we're shown Andy's mental list of career goals, which includes becoming a spy, Val Kilmer, and ''King of the Penguins''). Richter is a roly-poly anarchist who no longer needs to be ID'd as Conan O'Brien's former sidekick. Working with show creator Victor Fresco, he has made his character unique: both wily and idiotic -- try pulling off that combo, Mr. Kilmer! (Oh, wait; I forgot you were Jim Morrison in ''The Doors''... er, try that, Mr. King of the Penguins!)
In the new ''Universe,'' plots are delightfully flimsy excuses for clever sight gags and wordplay. The premiere parodied political correctness in office hirings and scored a few points about race relations (Andy offends a new black employee not because of a racist gaffe, but because he ridicules Riverdance and shamrocks without realizing the African American is also an Irish American). But its best humor came from sillier ideas, such as having receptionist Wendy (Irene Molloy) take a newly marketed antihistamine for a sinus condition, which lowers her voice to a register resembling that of a scarily intimidating man -- or, as Wendy says, Demi Moore.
In episode two, Andy gets queasy while taking care of his office pal Byron (Jonathan Slavin), who has a nasty burn on his back; our hero also sets up his unlucky-in-love boss, Jessica (Paget Brewster), with a handsome guy who turns out to have an identical twin -- they ''trade off'' on dating her. (''They'' are played by Dan Cortese, whom the writers use well for his robotic studliness.) Andy soon begs off on dressing Byron's burn, and Byron gets a prostitute to tend to the sore because she's cheaper than a private nurse. This leads to the following exchange between Wendy and her coworker boyfriend, Keith (James Patrick Stuart):
Wendy: ''Byron hired a prostitute to clean his wound.''
Keith: ''That is the worst euphemism for sex I've ever heard.''
The cast is fully up to such curt byplay. On another show, Molloy and Stuart might have been deployed as mere vacuous Good Lookers, and ridiculed as such. Instead, Fresco and Richter invite them to be as deadpan foolish as the rest of the players. Similarly, Slavin's Byron has evolved into a morose limp noodle whose whining voice is not grating, but rather an instrument of eloquent timing.
A separate paragraph must be reserved for Paget Brewster, who possesses a rare gift: She's an impeccable, generous straight woman, setting up others' punchlines. But she's also able to transform herself into an outrageous mirth generator. I'm thinking particularly of the moment when, in a startling Andy fantasy sequence in the premiere, Jessica, bitter at having to attend a sensitivity-training session with her coworker, throws a cup of hot coffee in his face. As Andy screams in agony, she snaps, ''Look who's sensitive all of a sudden.'' All this, plus Brewster, in the midst of a crazy show, manages to be one of TV's more believable bosses, with her no-nonsense manner, her prim suits, and her lacquered hair, which is frequently upswept into a vertiginous cone that must be tricky to wear without either cracking up or tipping over.
As Andy says of her, ''You're not like the other girls.'' Granted, it is just after Jessica has admitted that she likes dating the twins, because one is fascinatingly articulate while the other is exhaustingly good in bed, and thus she refers to them as ''Talky'' and ''Humpy.'' But Andy's comment is also an accurate assessment of Brewster herself. Long may she, Richter, and the rest of the gang rule their ''Universe.''
To watch some clips from this show go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=andy+richter+controls+the+universe&aq=0
For a Webpage dedicated to Andy Richter Controls the Universe go to http://web.archive.org/web/20051125004452/home.earthlink.net/~lstation/index.htm
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406165503/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/andyrichter.html
To read an article about Andy Richter Controls the Universe go to http://www.vulture.com/2016/01/looking-back-at-when-andy-richter-controlled-the-universe.html
For some Andy Richter Controls the Universe-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/andy-richter-controls-universe
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxe51-56yVU
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