Saturday, March 17, 2007

Andy Barker, P.I.
This past Thursday, desperate for some Thursday night comedy in a time where both 30 Rock and The Office are on hiatus, and my PVR has decided it doesn't like My Name Is Earl and has just stopped recording it altogether, I decided to check out Andy Barker, P.I., the new Andy Richter vehicle. I wasn't disappointed. First of all, you have to be a fan of the antics of Richter and Conan O'Brien -- if you thought they were funny together, you'll like this show. Conan is not only the producer, but he co-wrote this pilot episode.

The show is about Andy Barker, a non-descript schlub who has just rented a space for his new chartered accountant agency (of which he is the only employee). He and his wife actually TiVO Judging Amy and are on pins and needles each week waiting to see the new episode (that particular gag made me laugh out loud). Days go by where he sits and stares at the clock, and the only person he talks to is Simon, the guy who owns the video store downstairs, played by Tony Hale (a.k.a. the inimitable Buster from Arrested Development). Simon is standing outside his door (similarly getting no business) playing with his Sandra Bullock doll, which he's programmed to say lines from Miss Congeniality. Andy comments that he didn't think they could top Miss Congeniality, but when he saw Miss Congeniality 2, he thought it was even better. There's a beat where Simon just stares at him before explaining the doll is ironic. It was hilarious (and the doll comes into play later in the episode).

What Andy doesn't realize is that he's now occupying the space formerly rented by Lew Staziuk, Private Investigator. When a Russian woman comes in offering him $4000 in cash, saying she believes her dead husband is not, in fact, dead, asking Andy to find him, Andy is torn between taking the cash and turning it down. But she doesn't leave him much of a choice. Simon insists it's all a ruse and the woman just stole the line from Chinatown, but he comes along for the ride anyway, soon realizing this is very, very real.

Andy doesn't know how to do the usual P.I. digging -- all he knows is his way around IRS forms, so he does the only thing he knows how: He goes down to the tax office, where he's met by Nicole, the monotone brick wall who stands between him and the file he'd like to see. Nicole is HILARIOUS, just staring at him saying, "I get four... maybe five phone calls a day. I can't keep track of them all" and then going back to playing her Gameboy. Andy figures out a way to steal the file (the filed tax returns of the "dead" husband) and sees that he's given $7200 to a local church, but didn't count it as a charitable contribution. He goes to the church, and discovers the guy there, renting out a place where he's been hiding out. A van pulls up, two thugs jump out, knock out Andy, kidnap the guy, and suddenly Andy realizes he's been tricked, and the woman wasn't actually his wife. "This is... Chinatown," he mutters before he passes out.

Somehow he and Simon break into the warehouse, kidnap the guy back, get the police on the tail of the Russian mobsters, and in the midst of this giant car chase Andy goes to see a client (he had a meeting schedule, and he'll be damned before he'll leave a client in the lurch), client jumps in the car, and while Andy's steering the car through dangerous back alleys and squealing around corners he's giving this guy advice on how to split his bonds into two different holdings. It's the funniest scene in the episode.

This is a great show. The pilot was good (not Office or 30 Rock good, but then again, their pilots weren't brilliant, either), and I'll definitely be tuning in to see more. Thankfully, unlike Andy's last show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe (which I loved), this show is on NBC, which this season has just knocked its programming out of the park. They know how to nurture shows and give them a chance, unlike FOX, which cancels them after about three hours. Here's hoping this mid-season replacement has a chance to prove itself and come back in the fall. Watch for an upcoming episode to be written by the brilliant Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica).

In other news: The Family Guy is being sued by Carol Burnett. Apparently they did a spoof on her charwoman character, and used part of the "Carol's Theme" song, after she had expressly DENIED them the right to use that music. What I find so fascinating about this story is that this same show has put the brakes on a guy who does a stand-up show spoofing the Family Guy. Yet not only do THEY spoof shows week after week, they're now ignoring the basic tenets of copyright: you get permission, you can use copyrighted material. You don't get permission, you can't use it. Parody falls under the umbrella of fair use, but using a copyrighted song does not. I hope the media follows this story.


Jeremy Barker said...

I can't believe I missed it! I've also been waiting for a new show from Andy ever since Andy Richter Controls the Universe - Quintuplets doesn't count. Hopefully they rerun it.

Political Realm said...

Yeah, Quintuplets was clearly just a way for him to make a easy buck for a while.

I thought it definitely had its moments. Hopefully NBC gives it a real chance to develop a following. Definitely reminded me of the old days with Conana.

Corey Redekop said...

If I could play devil's advocate, wasn't Carol Burnett's entire career devoted to making spoofing other movies, shows, music? Seems like a doublt-standard to me.

Nikki Stafford said...

Corey: Good point, Burnett did spoof shows (my fave was "Went With the Wind). But my point is, you can spoof and parody shows -- Family Guy wouldn't exist without it, and it was the backbone of the Burnett Show. You canNOT use copyrighted material without permission. So while Burnett and Co. would have spoofed Gone With the Wind, if they couldn't get the permission to use the song from the movie they'd have to use a different one, and they understood that. Yet while stopping another guy from doing the very thing they're doing on Family Guy, Fox used copyrighted material in their show, which is illegal. Burnett isn't suing them because they parodied her charwoman character, but because they used her song without permission.