Review: Andy Barker, PI 1×01

Andy Barker, PI

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, NBC. All episodes available online at NBC Rewind

In the UK: No one yet.

Conan O’Brien is a funny guy. You may not know this, but most of his formative comedy career was as a script-writer for The Simpsons, back when it was still good.

He’s now returned to his roots, creating and co-writing Andy Barker, PI, a supposed comedy about an accountant who accidentally becomes a private investigator, for his old pal Andy Richter.

With all this looking for times past, has Conan got his groove back?

Plot (calculated in exact detail on the NBC web site)

Andy Richter (“Late Night with Conan O’Brien”) re-teams with Conan O’Brien (series co-creator and executive producer) in this comedy as he portrays Andy Barker, an earnest, hard-working CPA who has succeeded at everything — until his new accounting business fails to take off. But when he’s mistaken for Lew Staziak (Harve Presnell, “Fargo”), the retired private detective who used to occupy his storefront office, Andy embraces the twist of fate and dives into his double life.

Andy’s relentlessly supportive wife Jen (Clea Lewis, “Ellen”) isn’t sold on this risky new venture, that is, until she notices a sudden boost in Andy’s self-confidence. Andy’s fellow strip mall neighbors — Simon (Tony Hale, “Arrested Development”) and Wally (Marshall Manesh, “Will & Grace”) join him in the dicey investigations.

This comedy series was created by O’Brien and former “Late Night” head writer Jonathan Groff (“Ed”), who executive-produce the series with Jeff Ross and David Kissinger. “Andy Barker, P.I.” is from NBC Universal Television Studio and Conaco. The pilot was directed by Jason Ensler (“The West Wing”).

Is it any good?

It’s so-so. Imagine you were writing a show about an accountant who decides to investigates mysteries. What you do? What sort of dialogue and situations would you devise?

Take the first six ideas you come up with and you’ll have Andy Barker, PI. It really is obvious comedy. That’s not to say it isn’t funny. I’m going to say that now – it isn’t funny.

When it raises a wry smile, which it does occasionally, it’s mostly through the ensemble of supporting characters: his wife, who’s even more vanilla and good of heart than Andy; the retired PI he’s mistaken for who thinks everything is a commie plot; and the video store clerk who helps Barker out by referring to movies with similar plots to his dilemmas, none of which Barker has ever seen.

Unfortunately, though, the central character of the show is a lemon. If some kind of magic could be used to downplay the eponymous hero in favour of his retinue, the show might stand a chance. As it stands, jokes about tax returns and accountancy being boring look set to dominate.

But I’m going to bear with it. Fatefully for The Carusometer, the show’s supposed to get better by the third episode. Yet with all its episodes online, including one NBC won’t even transmit, its fortunes look bleak. Anyone want to calculate its odds?


Andy Richter (Andy Barker)

Clea Lewis (Jenny Barker)

Marshall Manesh (Wally)

Harve Presnell (Lew Staziak)

Tony Hale (Simon)