Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series
Directed by Andy Ackerman et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1anamorphic
Running Time: 417 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 42.99
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Review Date: March 14, 2009
James Thurber’s whimsical Walter Mitty was renowned for his hilarious flights of fancy, and with Andy Richter Controls the Universe, we have the closest thing to that magical tale that television has attempted in many years. This new three-disc set of the nineteen episode total series output (the show spanned two television seasons) puts the series’ quirky point of view and droll characters on display for all to see. The show was not always at the top of its game, and as it ran, it began to delve less in fantasy scenarios and more with its eccentric cast of characters simply trying to cope with life’s little foibles that always seem to tangle them up. Like other Fox comedies such as Arrested Development, the show appealed to only a niche audience and never really caught on in a big way. But the show has enormous creativity at its best, and even the lesser episodes will likely put a smile on your face.
Andy Richter (Andy Richter) writes technical manuals for various industrial products manufactured by Pickering Industries. Sharing his office is manual illustrator Byron (Jonathan Slavin), a nervous nerdy type who joins Andy in that constant search for love and fulfillment (Andy lands a series of girl friends during the run of the show; Byron finds his ideal mate in Andy‘s grandmother). Andy’s boss Jessica (Paget Brewster), his best friend Keith (James Patrick Stuart), and Keith’s receptionist-girl friend Wendy (Irene Molloy) complete the office ensemble. All have personalities that allow the show’s writers to bounce some surreal plots off of, and in Richter‘s Mitty-like fantasies, the plots often stop and start over either more realistically or more absurdly, whichever can bring about the greatest number of laughs. Irene Molloy is the least accomplished performer of the group; she seems to have to work harder to earn her laughs. Those familiar with Paget Brewster from her current dramatic assignment on Criminal Minds will be delighted by her comic timing and command of humor in the series. James Patrick Stuart has his pretty boy “to the manor born” character down to a science and is expert enough not to earn audience scorn by downplaying his good looks and merely playing the character innocently accepting of all the good that comes his way through his appearance. Also turning up in most episodes is the scowling, disapproving, long-dead founder of the company Mr. Pickering (John Bliss) who constantly berates Andy for his bad life and work choices and who takes great pleasure in seeing him struggle.
Among the notable scenarios Andy and company get involved with include Jessica’s dating twins (one is a whiz at conversation, the other a remarkable lover; she’s content to take the best of each), Andy and friends trying to understand Byron’s religious leanings (worshipping a sheep god), Wendy’s struggle to make it in show biz, and the group trying to be more tolerant of minorities including the Irish. Though not filled with guest stars, a few surprising ones show up during these episodes: Jon Cryer, Molly Sims, Conan O’Brien, Rose Marie, Jack Carter, Cedric Yarborough, Rex Lee, Jim Beaver, Marilu Henner’s voice, and June Lockhart.
Here are the episodes from the three disc set:
1 - Pilot
2 - Grief Counselor
3 - Little Andy in Charge
4 - Second Episode
5 - Gimme a C
6 - Wedding
7 - We’re All the Same, Only Different
8 - Twins
9 - France
10 - Holy Sheep
11 - Relationship Ripcord
12 - The Show Might Go On
13 - Crazy in Rio
14 - The Maid Man
15 - Bully the Kid
16 - Duh Dog
17 - Final Fantasy
18 - Saturday Early Evening Fever
19 - Charity Begins in D Block
Once again, the box notes include a caveat about edits in the shows and the changing of music for this presentation. Those much more familiar with the show than I will be able to be more specific about changes which have been made.
The program is framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Nine of the episodes were taped, and those programs feature very good sharpness and luscious flesh tones. The remaining ten episodes were filmed, and those transfers are soft and are much less visually appealing with color a bit dated looking. There are occasional dust specks but nothing too serious in terms of other digital artifacts. Each episode has been divided into 4 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track is minimally stereophonic. Since the show is largely dialog-driven, it’s important that this aspect be clear, and it’s well done. That and sound effects seem to land strongly in the center channel with the music being channeled to the left and right front speakers.
Star Andy Richter and creator Victor Fresco contribute two audio commentaries for the set. The commentary for the pilot is entertaining with specific comments made about each of the principal actors and mentioning some scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the episode. The commentary for “Little Andy in Charge” is less interesting as they appear to run out of stories and comment more about what’s happening on the screen.
“How Andy Richter Controlled the Universe” is an anamorphic 25-minute interview with the show’s creator Victor Fresco and the five principal actors all looking back on the making of the show and their fondest memories of working with one another. (Each person is interviewed separately.)
“What If Andy Richter Controlled the Universe” is a throwaway 4 ½-minute trifle in which the five actors speculate on what the world would be like if Andy were in charge and how it would be different if he or she were the one in charge. It’s also in anamorphic widescreen.
There are previews for CBS/Paramount comedies like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Becker, and Evening Shade, among others.
A funny, quirky show with a unique approach to storytelling, Andy Richter Controls the Universe is very enjoyable and very different. A couple of bonus features give added value to the package which has been a long time coming to home video.