[Editor’s Note: Andy Barker has officially been cancelled by NBC, and it’s final two episodes will air this Saturday, April 14th on NBC.]
Well, we’ve now had the opportunity to view three episodes of NBC’s midseason replacement comedy Andy Barker P.I., and it’s rather unfortunate that the show has absolutely no chance at a future. At the end of its five episode run (One episode will remain online-only), the show will undoubtedly be shelved and never seen again barring some form of Conan-fellatio by the good folks at NBC. This has been a foregone conclusion from the very beginning; while a similar six-episode order was what ended up resulting in ‘The Office’, Andy Barker just hasn’t had the same level of cultural impact or creative prestige to justify renewing it in spite of its low ratings.
And, in the end, I think that this is rather unfortunate. While it is not the smartest comedy on television right now, it is a triumph of strong casting, self-indulgent writing (this is a good thing) and attention to detail. Its premise of an accountant turned private eye is perfect for star Andy Richter, and the writing has done well at satirizing detective show cliches as much as physically possible. Co-star Tony Hale has relished in yet another supporting role which often overshadows the lead, and the rest of the cast round out a universe in which one imagines someone like Andy Barker living. Even though it uses all sorts of sitcom constructs (Lunch at Wally’s, Bedtime with Andy and Jenny), it all seems like one giant homage to what was once so prevalent in television comedy.
However, considering how positive I’m speaking about Andy Barker, you’d think that this would be a positive ‘Save this Show’ post or something of the sort. Considering I’m willing to sacrifice ‘Scrubs’ for ’30 Rock’, you’d think that I’d be more than willing to sacrifice something else in favour of a show I genuinely like. And, well, you’d be partially right. However, the reality is that NBC has a problem right now, one which no one could have foresaw two years ago: after losing ‘Friends’ and ‘Will & Grace’, and the failure of ‘Joey’, NBC has nonetheless found itself with too many comedies.
They’ve spent the entire post-Friends era searching for a replacement, and while that never quite emerged they did find two bona fide critical and audience hits in My Name is Earl and The Office. Pairing them with the long disadvantages and abused Scrubs, and bringing in new critical sensation 30 Rock, the network returned comedy to Thursday Nights. And yet, for the first time, they’ve run into a real problem. They have two already renewed shows, and one critically acclaimed one (’30 Rock’) likely to be renewed, and another one that, while it could find its way to ABC, will be sticking around in some capacity.
And while I’d like to say we could just shuffle Scrubs off to ABC, there is still the issue of new Comedy Pilots for next season. The network has seen relative success counter-programming Comedy Night Done Right against Grey’s/CSI, and I suspect they’ll keep the block together for next season. This is the perfect place to launch a new comedy, and yet if there are no spots available you have to head elsewhere. And, for NBC, that elsewhere is a scary place.
The 8pm Hour, if executives get their way, will be exclusively game/reality shows except for Thursday nights. As a result, none of these reality shows (Deal or No Deal withstanding) will be able to provide a suitable comedy lead-in to combat major 9pm programming (Criminal Minds, Two & A Half Men, Heroes, House). Scrubs and 30 Rock struggled in such a position earlier this season, and comedy 20 Good Years didn’t even last three episodes. NBC has finally found a comfortable breeding ground for comedies, and they need to leave some room in the garden for a new face.
This means, however, that there simply isn’t space for an adequate, charming comedy like Andy Barker P.I. 30 Rock has more star power and, in my opinion, more comedic potential, and is better suited to move forward. Andy Barker is just too similar in some ways; both are pet projects of NBC employees (Conan O’Brien, Tina Fey/Lorne Michaels) and the one with the full season order is likely to win out in the end.
What is most frustrating about this is that so many other networks are dying for a good comedy. Both FOX and ABC, specifically, have struggled to get comedies off the ground, and even CBS has had issues keeping momentum for shows like Out of Practice and The New Adventures of Old Christine. In an environment where other networks would die for a show of Barker’s quality (Its producer being Conan keeps it from jumping ship), it kills me to see it being the odd man out over at NBC.
So, it is with a humble heart that I must foretell the imminent death of Andy Barker P.I. Here’s hoping that your remaining episodes bring great joy to the people, and that next year’s pilot season brings another great comedy to perhaps round out Comedy Night Done Right once and for all.