A funny new sitcom, like they used to make them

Before American TV comedies became an arms race among writers to see who could drop the most obscure pop-cultural reference, they used to be about modest people frustrated at their modest ambitions. And we can’t think of a guy more modest or frustrated than Andy Richter — except maybe the title character he plays on Andy Barker, P.I., a much-needed tonic to the typically abrasive midseason sitcom.

In his new series (premiering 3/15), the former Conan O’Brien sidekick is a humdrum accountant who moonlights as a detective. While the show coaxes laugh-track-free laughs from its star’s shortcomings, it also manages to solve one offbeat crime a week (was an overweight mogul offed by something more sinister than a ham sandwich?) and poke fun at crime-drama conventions (a car chase conducted while Andy offers tax advice to one of his passengers).

Self-deprecating without feeling needy, Andy Barker, P.I. should be the sitcom that finally earns Richter a permanent place in the prime-time schedule. Case closed!

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