Saturday, March 10, 2007

Andy Barker, P.I. - March 10, 2007

Premiering Thursday; NBC


Side By Side

Andy Richter hasn't exactly done a lot of memorable stuff on TV lately. At least he still has Conan O'Brien pitching for him.

By Eric Kohanik

I’ve always thought that Andy Richter made a huge mistake when he left Late Night with Conan O’Brien back “in the year 2000.”

As Conan O’Brien’s sidekick, Richter had been a nutty presence on Late Night since 1993. And the pair of them came up with some of the most outlandish – and fun– bits ever seen on latenight talk shows.

But Richter wanted to focus on an acting career instead. The decision resulted in a handful of forgettable movie roles and TV guest stints, not to mention a couple of his own unsuccessful comedy series – a clever effort called Andy Richter Controls the Universe and a stinker called Quintuplets.

The third time might be a charm for Richter, though. He gets another shot at prime time this week via Andy Barker, P.I., a new comedy series that casts Richter in the title role of a struggling accountant who reluctantly ends up as a private investigator after he rents an office that had previously been occupied by a real detective.

It was actually O’Brien who threw a lifeline to his old sidekick with this series. O’Brien and fellow executive producer Jonathan Groff had initially sold NBC on the idea of the show before they thought about getting Richter to star in it.

“Jon Groff and I had been talking about this storyline without Andy in mind,” O’Brien revealed during a press session in Los Angeles. “We were talking for a while about it when we both had the same thought, which is, ‘We’re talking about Andy Richter!’”

Although Richter insists that his two previous series failures haven’t made him gun shy, he does acknowledge some trepidation.

“I do have sort of a survivor’s syndrome,” Richter concedes. “I cannot enjoy or like anything that I’m involved in because [I feel] it will just get murdered. I just finally thought, ‘Well, whatever happens, happens. All we can do is make the show that we’regoing to make.’ And I feel like this is the best primetime work I’ve ever done.”

If Andy Barker, P.I. doesn’t survive, it won’t be for the lack of opportunity, or a decent timeslot. NBC has put the show into its Thursday lineup, nestled between Scrubs and ER in the berth formerly occupied by Tina Fey’s comedy, 30 Rock (which is taking a break).

As for whether Richter finally has what i ttakes to be a big success on primetime TV, only time will tell. But at least Richter still has his old pal, O’Brien, faithfully by his side.

“I don’t know what makes anybody a series star,” O’Brien says. “To me, Andy has always been one of the most likable presences that I’ve seen on television. You see Andy on TV and you like him. I think he’s a terrific actor; he’s very funny. And I think, in this show, he’s the heart of the show. He’s trying to do the right thing.

“I know that I’m not giving you the wise-ass answer, but I think that’s where it starts.”

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