Andy Barker, P.I.: The Complete Series

While Andy Barker, P.I. never really got the chance to fully realize its potential, these six episodes are a good showcase for what could’ve been a very funny series.

Andy Barker, P.I.

Distributor: Shout! Factory
Cast: Andy Richter, Tony Hale, Marshall Manesh, Harve Presnell, Clea Lewis
Network: NBC
US Release Date: 2009-11-17

Andy Barker, P.I. ran for just six episodes in 2007 as a mid-season replacement on NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup. Co-created by Conan O’Brien and Jonathan Groff, a former staff writer on O’Brien’s show, the series stars frequent O’Brien collaborator Andy Richter in the title role as Barker, a mild-mannered CPA who accidentally gets pulled into doing detective work when he opens up his own office in a shopping plaza. Andy quickly befriends Simon (Tony Hale), owner of the plaza’s video store, and Wally (Marshall Manesh), the Afghani owner of a highly patriotic kabob restaurant.

With only six half-hour episodes created, Andy Barker, P.I.’s potential was largely left untapped. After setting up the unconventional cast of characters and the series’ premise, the show was just starting to settle into itself. Then it was canceled.

As the show revolved around Andy’s almost easygoing approach to solving the various cases that fall into his lap, he frequently uses his background as an accountant as a skill set in his detective work. Andy is meticulous and detail-oriented – essentially, a stickler – and this character trait works well in establishing him as the grounding force in a world of wacky cases and antics involving his well-meaning, but frequently inept friends.

Andy’s new office was previously Lew Staziak’s (Harve Presnell) private detective office. Lew is straight out of a '40s pulp novel. He is all noirish affectations and fast-talking witticisms and he quickly becomes a strange sort of mentor to Andy. Their relationship is one of the more engaging aspects of the series. Again, Andy is the sensible one while Lew is impulsive and brash. Presnell plays Lew as imposing and over-the-top and his delivery of classic pulp detective dialogue are some of the funniest moments in the series.

The series shifts back and forth between Andy’s work and time spent in the shopping plaza and his home life. Jenny (Clea Lewis) is Andy’s wife and essentially, a female Andy. Initially hesitant about Andy’s new venture, she quickly comes around and is supportive, if at times taken aback by the seedier elements of his new work. She and Andy both have an innocence and goodness about them, punctuated by inoffensive exclamations such as “Mother Hubbard”, that makes it easy to root for the Barkers.

In many ways, Andy Barker, P.I. resembles another NBC show, Chuck. However, where Chuck benefits from being a full hour long, Andy Barker, P.I.’s half-hour format can be somewhat limiting. The series attempts to weave mystery and comedy and while the humor works quite well, the mystery aspect suffers. For instance, the first two episodes rely rather heavily on videotaped evidence to solve a case and the culprit is usually obvious right from the beginning. While neither Andy Barker, P.I. nor Chuck pretend to be a gritty, suspenseful series, Chuck is able to mix these elements in with the comedy much more deftly.

The real strength of Andy Barker, P.I. lies in its characters and their ridiculous quirks. Tony Hale’s Simon is particularly outrageous as Andy’s self-appointed partner in crime-solving. Simon always thinks he’s unraveled the mystery through his film knowledge and his misplaced confidence works very well against Andy’s more level-headed approach. Simon is also infatuated with Nicole, Andy’s office assistant. He spends all of their interactions making inappropriate interracial innuendos. His over-the-top sexual advances, including one involving a black and white cookie, are particularly hilarious.

Wally is the character with the most potential to be a caricature, but Manesh does a nice job of keeping him just the right amount off center. A running gag involving surveillance cameras hidden in the busts of American presidents is used frequently in some aspect of Andy’s detective work. Wally’s exaggerated patriotism and sincerity is one of the funnier ongoing jokes in the episodes.

While Andy Barker, P.I. never really got the chance to fully realize its potential, these six episodes are a good showcase for what could’ve been a very funny series. Much of the credit goes to the cast, as they clearly had a lot of fun with the material. Unfortunately, the premise may have been a little too weird for it to really gain enough viewers right off the bat. Given more time, it may have found its footing and an audience.

The bonus features include commentary tracks for each of the six episodes, featuring Conan O’Brien, Jonathan, Groff, Richter, and various cast members. There is also a featurette on the making of the series that offers insight into the premise and plans for the series had it not been canceled so quickly; as well as a gag reel.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.