Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series
DVD | Box Set
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Andy Richter Controls the Universe was touted as “the funniest new sitcom of the spring” (2002) by TIME magazine and declared by US Magazine to have “scaled new heights.” Set in Chicago, the half hour comedy chronicles the day to day happenings of Andy Richter, an aspiring short story writer working for a large corporation writing “how to” manuals. Andy is constantly thinking about possibilities and how every moment in life could just as easily go another way.
The DVD universe is now a far brighter and happier place with the long-awaited release of this absurdly funny workplace comedy. Andy Richter Controls the Universe was sadly short-lived, but it has amassed a cult following arguably as devoted as the Arrested Development crowd. Andy Richter stars as Andy, a Walter Mitty-esque writer who lives the surreal life as a writer of technical manuals for a Chicago conglomerate. Andy is prone to fantasies, daydreams, flashbacks and inspired non-sequitor bits of nonsense, such as wearing a coat stuffed with puppies in a bid for audience acceptance, putting "King of the Penguins" on his list of career goals, or conjuring up the "Broadway version" of a boring office conversation. The lightning in a bottle ensemble puts a fresh spin on stock office characters. Paget Brewster manages to be wonderfully funny while not sacrificing authority as Jessica, Andy's tightly-wound, career-oriented boss ("Coffee should be drinking me"). John Patrick Stewart is Keith, whose Jude Law-like handsomeness affords him all of life's little perks (in one of Andy's reveries, Keith is presented with an envelope full of money from admiring co-workers). Jonathan Slavin is Byron, a socially awkward illustrator who shares Andy's office. Irene Molloy is Wendy, the sweet and lovely new receptionist, whom Andy adores, but who is dating Keith. They are exceedingly likable company. Andy Richter Controls the Universe deftly skewers corporate culture, as in the episode, "We're All the Same, Only Different," in which Andy must take sensitivity training after making remarks about the Irish that offend a black Irish-American co-worker. But the show really takes flight with its sillier plots, as when cash-strapped Wendy participates in a drug-testing program that lowers her voice to intimidating Demi Moore levels, or when Andy is blackmailed by Jessica's bratty nephew over a Marilu Henner sex tape. "Crazy in Rio" boasts an hilarious guest turn by Conan O'Brien as a deranged executive given to gloves made of cotton candy and duct-tape weddings. A boon for this series' devoted fans are four very funny unaired episodes as well as a retrospective featuring new interviews with all of the core cast members. Andy Richter Controls the Universe is thrillingly off-center. The original series title was "Anything Can Happen," and in this series, it's true. There is perhaps no better series epitaph than words spoken by Jessica in the Conan episode: "I feel truly privileged to have witnessed whatever that was." --Donald Liebenson
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While that sounds like a familiar set up, the writing and acting is very good, and the nice irony is that Andy's on screen 'real life' is pretty damn quirky, bizarre and interesting to start with.
Beyond that, the show isn't afraid of absurdity, and makes no effort to be 'real' - a style that was somewhat ahead of it's time. It also doesn't shy away from dark or politically incorrect comedy that edges into pretty sharp social satire.
Some episodes are much better than others, but none are bad, and the best are flat out terrific. It's also the rare sit com that actually grew on me on a second viewing.
One episode, where Conan O'Brien makes an appearance as the literally insane owner of the company is a classic. That episode truly rises to `Arrested Development' like levels of lunacy.
But enough about the show, by now you either know if you will like it or not I hope, what I really wanted to talk about is the DVDs. Now don't get me wrong, I'm glad these are out and I don't have to keep watching my downloaded copies on my computer screen, but I do have a couple gripes.
First off, the picture is cropped down from the original. Like Pan & Scan in reverse. Instead of cutting down a widescreen image to fit an old-style squarish TV screen, they cut down the original squarish picture of the TV show to fit today's widescreen TVs. So the bottom part of the original image and sometimes the top are chopped off. Not a huge problem, because obviously it was done in a way where you can still see what's going on all the time, but a bit annoying having about a third of the picture missing.
Secondly, (something that "N. Smith" touched on a little) is that some of the original music from the series was changed. Instrumental snippets of songs like "Teenage Riot" by the Ataris and "Cyclone" by the Dub Pistols were used to great effect in some episodes but now they've been replaced by generic pieces of music that convey vaguely the same feeling. Most people won't miss them, but it's just something I noticed while watching. The music that was specifically written for the show is great on its own, the other songs just added to that.
So there you go, a couple things that I didn't like, but which by no means drop this to less than a must-buy for me. 5 Stars, no doubt.
"Wow, we're really making a killing. Can't wait to go home, put on seven aprons and a couple of wigs and enjoy a highball out of a chipped State Bird glass."
Starting in 1999, they mis-handled the brilliant Family Guy, prematurely canceling it. Someone there got the inspired idea to release it on DVD, it was a huge hit, so much so that they brought the show back, and as of this writing it is still thriving on Sundays.
I believe they've done it again with this Andy Richter show.
Other reviews have nicely captured what's special about this show, so I'll just say that there are a handful of shows that just *have it* (e.g. Seinfeld, NewsRadio, Simpsons, Family Guy); This show is one of them.
As if the release of this show on DVD were not glorious enough, it was announced this week that Mr. Richter will be reunited with Conan O'Brien when Conan moves to the Tonight Show.
Oh my. This is delicious.
Most recent customer reviews
It doesn't include original music which leaves out some of the humor, e.g.Read more