Andy Barker, P.I. – Accountant/Detective Is The Hyphenate In Town!

Andy Barker, P.I.NBC's new comedy/noir series, Andy Barker, P.I. [Thursdays, 9:30/8:30C] is Andy Richter's third lick at the TV series cat – and this odd, but refreshingly original combination of sitcom and noir tropes might just work out for him…

Andy Barker [Richter] has set up his new office on his first day and absolutely nothing has happened – except for meeting Simon [Arrested Development's Tony Hale] the guy who runs the Video Riot video store downstairs, and Wally [Marshall Manesh], owner and operator of a Afghani fast food joint, who overcompensated after 9/11 [his restaurant is so gung ho American that it's almost pathetic!].

Just as Barker is about to close up for the first time, a smoldering blonde named Nadia walks into his office. It would not be incorrect to say that she had legs that began at her throat – she is, without doubt, the quintessential damsel in distress. She informs Barker that her husband went missing a year ago, and is presumed dead. She doesn't buy and drops an envelope full of cash on the desk as she begs him to find the guy.

Barker somehow manages to fail to tell her he's really an accountant and is stuck with trying to find the missing husband. As he relates his story to Simon and Wally, they immediately figure out that she's setting him up – just like in Chinatown. He's never seen the flick, and so has no clue.

Andy Barker, P.I.

Andy Barker, P.I. somehow manages to combine comedic zingers, Dutch angles and Venetian blinds in a manner that feels fresh and new. Richter's Barker is a kind of detecting savant – who just needs a bit of help to keep from getting himself killed! He has a loving, supportive wife, Jenny [Clea Duvall]; his friends from the mall where he has his office, and Lew Staziak [Harve Presnell], the hard-bitten P.I. who used to rent his office.

Whether he's trying to find allegedly dead husbands, foil an infernal nationwide chicken cartel [hey! Everyone eats chicken!], or figure out who murdered his "heart attack waiting to happen" client on the golf course, Barker seems to be able to find and interpret clues as well as any classic hard-boiled dick. The comedy springs from his being a very soft-boiled C.P.A. – and the show manages to balance both the sitcom elements and the noir tropes deftly.

If there's any justice, Andy Barker, P.I. will be the series that gives Richter a steady gig for the first time since his years with Conan O'Brien. He's got this reviewer's attention, for certain!

Grade: B+

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