Andy Barker, P.I.: The Complete Series Comedy

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The unfortunately short-lived Andy Barker, P.I. had Conan O'Brien as one of its creators, writers, and executive producers, and it showcases many of the comedian's most likable assets. Foremost among them is Andy Richter, O'Brien's talk show sidekick, in the title role. CPA Andy Barker has barely set up shop in his new office in a strip mall when a beautiful, mysterious widow in a tight dress (shades of Faye Dunaway in Chinatown, one of the show's numerous show biz references) barges in, drops a few grand in his lap, and demands that he find her husband, who may not be dead after all. Why Andy? Seems his office used to be occupied by a now-retired private investigator named Lew Staziak (amusingly played by Harve Presnell), and since Andy's regular business is slow, off he goes, embarking on a dual career as an accountant/P.I. It's an absurd notion, of course. But thanks to some snappy dialogue ("You look lower than the nipples on a wet nurse at the orphanage," says Lew to Andy), some clever setups (like a "murderous chicken cartel" trying to monopolize the fast food business, or a morbidly obese client who croaks… or was he murdered?… on the golf course), a silly-but-not-stupid tone, and Barker's guileless, no-nonsense approach (he usually solves crimes by doing what he does best: crunching numbers), it all works. Given O'Brien's occasional proclivity for smugness, that might not have been the case. But Andy Barker, P.I. favors charm over smarm, and with Richter's appealing performance bolstered by regulars Tony Hale, Clea Lewis, and Marshall Manesh, one can only wonder where the show might have gone had NBC given it more than six episodes (only four of which actually aired) as a replacement for 30 Rock. Bonus features include cast and crew audio commentaries and a couple of featurettes.

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