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Gosh Darn It! "Barker" Bites the Dust

In retrospect, I should probably review a show before it's been cancelled. But with these networks and their itchy trigger fingers these days -- Black Donnellys has already been hauled off to the Eternal Dumpster of Cancellation, which is probably no great loss -- that's getting harder and harder to accomplish.

I've meant to sing the praises of NBC's Andy Barker, P.I. for a good long while now, but working on the April Fool's thing and a few other projects kept me sidetracked. Today, news broke that this sweet, whimsical, and entirely welcome series is officially kaput, but I figure it's not too late to urge you to watch the entire series online while you can. It's worth your time.

(I'm probably as guilty for poor Mr. Barker's liquidation as anyone, since I only watched the episodes online, unwilling as I am to be a slave to the increasingly tyrannical-feeling demands of network schedules -- and not owning a TiVo, to boot.)

Too many comedies, even enjoyable ones, bludgeon their audience with sledgehammer blows of mirth. That's not bad, especially when the comedy's actually funny, but a change of pace can be refreshing, and that's exactly what Andy Barker provides. It sneaks up and tickles your funnybone with the gentlest of feathers, and if its comedy is largely cumulative in effect, it's no less potent.

The joys of the series are small but numerous. Andy Richter brings an undoubtable sweetness, and surprising investigative chops, to the doughy title character. Clea Lewis backs him up with a sweetly dotty turn as his equally bland wife, with the tiniest of mad gleams in her eyes. Every line bitten off by Harve Presnell, as the half-senile old tough guy who mentors CPA-turned-private-eye Andy, is a hard-boiled little gem. Tony Hale is basically reprising Buster from Arrested Development as Andy's geeky video-store-clerk sidekick, but since when was that a bad thing? And there's some wonderfully subtle satire surrounding Wally, the Afghani immigrant whose kebab shop is a twisted microcosm of post 9-11 America, where the only thing more prevalent than patriotic imagery is intrusive surveillance.

Anyway, this is all moot now. But go, watch while you can. Andy Barker, P.I. is sweet, smart, classy, and very funny, which is almost more than you can ask of TV comedy these days. Alas, given all those qualities, it's really no mystery why it got cancelled.


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