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Andy Barker, P.I.
The Complete Series

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Starring: Andy Richter, Clea Lewis, Harve Presnell, Tony Hale, Nicole Randall Johnson

Directed by: Jason Ensler

 

Studio: Shout! Factory

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Audio Commentaries, Writers Class 101, Going Where The Numbers Take You, Gag Reel

Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Episode Selection, Scene Selection (4 Scenes per episode), Two-Disc Set

Released: November 17th, 2009


 

 

All six episodes of "Andy Barker, P.I." are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Save for some edge halos throughout (which can be a bit distracting) and a few instances of shimmering, these are very sharp and refined transfers. Everything here looks fantastic: fleshtones look pure and accurate, black levels are strong and overall detail is remarkably polished (you can definitely see a lot of little things in the background). Color saturation is very satisfying too, with bold and vibrant colors that never underwhelm, nor smear or go overboard. The neutral colors of Andy's house look nice and the bland coloring of the strip mall fits perfectly. In more specific instances, the greens of "Fairway My Lovely" and the browns in "The Lady Varnishes." I did not detect any edge enhancement, blemishes or other sorts of flaws either. The series had a great, film-like look — all of which is captured quite nicely in this DVD set.

 

All the "Andy Barker, P.I." episodes feature English Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, which also satisfy when it comes to the mood of the series. Sound effects are a bit front-centric, but there are moments that do call for the rears and they are engaging. The show features its fair share of action, be it with car chases, on-foot chases, down and dirty fighting and even chickens — and the 5.1 tracks are definitely discrete and often enveloping to get the viewer more involved with the mayhem. Dialogue is very crisp, clear and easy to hear. The pop songs throughout (for comedic effect) sound nice through the speakers, as does Adam Cohen's zippy score. Dynamic range is rather strong, while fidelity is high and subwoofer use is decent. In all, these sound mixes are sturdy and dependable — just like Andy Barker himself.
 




I think I would have been happy enough just to have this series on DVD, but Shout! has thankfully produced a few supplements to go with it. First off are the Audio Commentaries. All six episodes feature a commentary, and each feature a different mix of writers (Jonathan Groff, Conan O'Brien, Gail Lerner), actors (Andy Richter, Tony Hale, Clea Lewis, Nicole Randall Johnson, Marshall Manesh) and director Jason Ensler. I listened to a few of the tracks in whole, and snippets of others. Fans of the show will definitely want to invest their time in these. There's a lot of joking around (O'Brien is his usually self-depricating self on the pilot commentary), with lots of credit given to the actors, writers and production team (especially since all the episodes following the pilot were shot in a lump sum, with different scenes for different episodes being shot each day). But there are also a lot of anecdotes about certain scenes, actors and shooting. On Groff's commentaries, he's pointing out where certain things were shot and where certain sets were built. The mood throughout these are very easy-going, and everyone's good nature and poking provide a lot of laughs. Clearly everyone really enjoyed making this series, and working with each other. It's a shame that the stars alligned and that the series didn't last longer.

The first disc's sole video-based supplement is Writers Class 101. Jonathan Groff leads a round table with some of the show's writers: Jane Espenson, Josh Bycel and Jon Ross. It's a little annoying how it's edited: namely a kind-of split screen effect is implemented to highlight each writer soley most of the time, which gives off the feel that these were separate interviews. Other than that though, the quartet discuss the development of scripts for the series. There's a good focus on Andy Barker himself and his personality, and this fine line where he gets caught up in detective work but still finds to be an accountant satisfying. From there, there's a breakdown of the supporting characters and the help they give Andy Barker in the series. Mixed throughout are thoughts on the episode titles, favorite moments from the series and memorable lines, plus props to director Jason Ensler. Everyone here brings forth interesting insights and perspectives in how they were able to map the series out. Budding writers, be sure to take notes.

The second disc features Going Where The Numbers Take You, a piece that gives a good overview of the series. Interviewed are Conan O'Brien, Jonathan Groff, Andy Richter, Tony Hale, Clea Lewis, Jason Ensler and Marshall Manesh. Conan begins by describing his initial inspiration for the series, where he would pass a strip mall in Connecticut near his house. O'Brien then developed the show with Groff (who was the head writer on Late Night from 1995-2000), fleshing out the premise beginning in the summer of 2005. Once that's all set up, most of this extra delves into the characters, with everybody praising each other. It seems that Andy Barker is a less stubborn and sarcastic version of Andy Richter, but otherwise they are hard to separate. Hale, Lewis and Manesh go into their characters, and Hale notes he played his audition darker and the character got refined once he took the role (O'Brien also expresses surprise that Hale did the series right off of "Arrested Development"). The late Harve Presnell and his character is also discussed — namely how masculine and tall the actor was. (It seems these extras were produced before his death, and the featurette is even dedicated to him.) O'Brien and Groff also note that they wanted to have Andy be ambivalent about the detective work, which is how it mostly is in the series, and that the network was pushing for a more Walter Mitty-style character arc.

When the show is summed up in the last few minutes, it's hard not to feel Richter's disappointment the show got cancelled so quickly. (But then again, he was The Tonight Show's gain.) But Conan's words at the end also have resonance and are bittersweet (save for the cracks about possible income he would have made if the show lasted). This is another excellent watch.

There's also a Gag Reel that runs 4 minutes. It's pretty amusing, namely as it reveals Andy Richter to have quite a big potty mouth.

As great as all this is, I can't help but feel a little disappointment: the DVD extras reference deleted scenes and an extended version of the pilot, but they are nowhere to be found in this set. I wonder what happened that those got held up...
 

Like many great TV shows before it, "Andy Barker, P.I." left the airwaves way before its time. This was a phenomenal, extremely sharp and well-written comedy that deserved more than 6 episodes. What impressed me most about the series was how all the actors meshed, and how the writers nailed the tone of the series instantly: this wasn't a series struggling to find its groove. With that in mind, I'm sure if it lasted, it was only going to get better.

This DVD set is a fantastic package: it has the series but celebrates it too, with great commentaries and featurettes. The episodes look and sound superb, as well. In short, I applaud Shout! for picking this up for release and creating supplements for good feature. For fans of Andy Richter, Conan or just great single-camera comedies in general, this is a must buy.