'Richter' Scales Comedic Heights
Plus: Winter's Reality Avalanche.
by Mark D. Johnson
January 17, 2003
Sundays at 9:30/8:30c & Tuesdays 8:30/7:30c on Fox
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the state of the television sitcom is not well. There is currently only one bona fide landmark comedy series on the tube these days that is tops among critics and fans alike. At a time when network schedules are overflowing with solid dramas and reality overkill, any sitcom not named “Friends” is either bland and repetitive or suffering in the ratings. Most in the latter category are there for good reason, but there are a few that deserve better, such as Fox’s creative office comedy “Andy Richter Controls the Universe.”
“Andy” first hit the air waves last year as a mid-season replacement, winning instant critical acclaim. It returned late this fall as part of Fox’s Sunday night comedy line-up and an additional Tuesday night time slot with the hope that it would help the network’s weak overall performance this season, yet it still hasn’t caught on. Is it the show itself, or just that audiences haven’t given the show a try? If the masses simply don’t like the show, then the state of the sitcom is worse than I thought, because “Andy” has a lot going for it.
You may remember star Andy Richter from his sidekick days on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” where he frequently displayed his sharp wit. We can be grateful for the career change though, because he’s a fine lead actor for this comedy series. His character, also named Andy, is an ordinary unmarried Chicago technical writer who frequently dreams up unlikely alternate scenarios of his life’s situations in a sort of Walter E. Mitty way. He often finds himself being nagged by the dead founder of the company, old Mr. Pickering, and in a refreshing departure from many sitcoms, Andy’s work friends are also the center of his social life. The four other main characters are Jessica, his tough boss but long-time friend, Keith, Andy’s handsome best friend, for whom everything seems to go right, Wendy, the receptionist, who is dating Keith, and Byron, the slightly odd, but amiable illustrator who shares Andy’s small office.
While the show has a tone and pacing similar to other current shows (“Scrubs,” “Malcolm in the Middle”), the concept is made fresh with clever scripts, enjoyable characters, and a well-cast ensemble. I’m a firm believer that sitcoms that forego live studio audiences and laugh tracks are a superior form of entertainment to the more traditional fare. Providing audible laughs for the audience would completely alter Andy’s “Universe,” which is a more intriguing and intelligent place without it.
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