NBC’s newest detectives

There’s nothing like being in last place in the ratings to make a network take a chance or two. It happened to ABC and they were able to produce big hits with Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. This past year seems to be the year NBC finally steps up to the plate with some decent programming.

Their Thursday sitcoms have found a nice groove and anyone would be a fool if they tried to tell you Heroes wasn’t the breakout hit of the season. Not to mention the exceptional, if under the radar, Friday Night Lights. Though it is a bit of a surprise that mid-season replacements Raines and Andy Barker, P.I. fit sublimely into NBC’s burgeoning slate of nightly shows.

Coincidentally, both shows also come from similar blocks of wood. The juxtapositioning of these two shows, which air back-to-back on Thursday nights, proves how easily it is to tweak a formula and produce not only a funny comedy, but also an interesting drama out of the tried and true detective genre.

It’s a genre, that has over the years become more scarce. With the exception of Veronica Mars on the CW, and USA’s Monk and Psyche, most detective shows are simply cops shows wrapped up in pretty descriptions and bow ties. That is where the two news shows from NBC differ, managing to pay homage to shows past like Columbo and Matlock without seeming staid or been-there-done-that.

Much of that is due to veteran actors Jeff Goldblum and Andy Richter and the supporting cast that surrounds them. Richter has Tony Hale (Buster on ‘Arrested Development’) as his sidekick and Goldblum, though mostly working alone, has Malik Yoba (‘Thief’ and ‘New York Undercover’) and Nicole Sullivan (‘MadTV’) to play off of.

Suffice it to say both shows are worth watching to see if they can find and sustain a little groove. Each also has their own twist on the genre, although neither is all that clever. Andy Barker, P.I. finds the main character, an accountant, moonlighting as a dick all because of an indentity mix up. And Raines is another one of those quirky detective, who solves crimes by mentally projecting the victim. Really he’s just going through an emotional crisis, but it helps him to solve crimes by talking to the dead. It sounds worse than it really is. Afterall the first episdoe of Raines was directed by the great Frank Darabont (‘Shawshank Redepemtion’ as if I had to tell you!) and Andy Barker, P.I. is produced by Conan O’Brien.

Check out the shows. They’ve got loads of promise and you won’t even feel upset over giving them your time. If you can’t catch them when they air on television, NBC has each show streaming episodes on their website.

Andy Barker, P.I. airs Thursdays on NBC at 9:30 p.m. Raines airs Thursdays on NBC at 10 p.m.

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  • Ace Cowboy March 20, 2007, 4:25 pm

    I thought Andy Barker was particularly unfunny, but I guess I’ll give it the benefit of the D(VR)oubt. As for Raines, well, I’m a sucker for Jeff Goldblum — the guy has a delivery about him that just works. Although, there was one scene where he actually had cop work to do and looked pretty silly with a bulletproof vest on trying to move quickly.