Friday, March 09, 2007

Things to Sit on your Ass and Watch

Well, back in the realm of shallow, non-self-congratulatory readings of pop culture products, I'll note that NBC is introducing a show called Andy Barker P.I. into its once-again respectable Thursday night lineup. It was co-created by Conan O'Brien and stars his onetime Late Night sidekick Andy Richter as an accountant who semi-accidentally starts working as a detective on the side. (The show also gives a big supporting part to Tony Hale, which I see as a very good thing because -- as Slate's movie critic Dana Stevens comprehensively put it when noting one of Hale's bit parts in a recent movie -- "to those of us still in mourning for Arrested Development, that would be Buster Bluth without the hook-hand".)

If this sounds almost exactly like the premise of an earlier Conan O'Brien co-creation, that's because it's almost exactly the premise of an earlier Conan O'Brien co-creation. NBC has the first order of episodes on their website in their entirety (apparently promotional S.O.P. now for their less popular wares), so you can see how similar Andy Barker is to Lookwell in tone as well as concept, down to the vintage cop show-style music running behind the parody chase scenes at the end of both pilots.

Andy Barker's failings are much the same as the earlier show's too, and easier to see across multiple episodes: The show is almost all premise, and after the writers have had Andy self-consciously open a line of questioning with "I'm an accountant/ detective combination" there's not much they're able to do with it, which means the show starts to go slack every time it has to advance the plot. Still, there are plenty of joys in watching Richter and Hale play to type within the same frame, and the show's gags, though hit-or-miss and not very dense by today's ├╝ber-quirky comedy standards, are cartoonish and likeable and funny enough of the time. I also like the fake, un-followed-up cliffhangers that archly punctuate a couple of the episodes, particularly a broad gag at the expense of a well-meaning accounting client named Jim "Don't call me James" Bixler. Hopefully the show will last long enough for the writers to figure out what works (crazy old people, Andy getting punched in the stomach), quietly write out the elements that don't (Andy and his wife have kids?), and let the central characters gel enough to start getting some real mileage out of them.

Anyway, if you don't mind watching the same TurboTax commercial before each segment I'd check out either the pilot, which gets about as much use out of the accountant/ detective concept as the series is ever likely to manage, or The Lady Varnishes, which features Amy Sedaris in a funny part as an elderly ex-starlet. Whatever its long-term prospects it's worth a look.


Blogger Jack said...

Hmm. I watched the one with Amy Sedaris in it, and I wasn't really too impressed. A lot of the jokes in the dialogue sounded forced. Maybe I'll try another one.

3/10/2007 8:36 AM  

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