Each time Andy Richter sat down with network execs to try to create a new comedy show, Conan O’Brien’s former sidekick had to answer two questions. ”The first thing out of their mouths was, ‘So what kind of dad do you want to play?”’ Richter says. ”And when they found out I didn’t want to be a dad, then it was, ‘Okay, what kind of office do you want to work in?”’
The answer to the second question can be seen in ”Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” which premieres March 19 on Fox (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.). Richter stars as Andy (”they definitely wanted me to be called Andy — I didn’t realize I was a brand,” he notes), a technical writer and aspiring author who toils away at a huge, faceless corporation that resembles General Electric, parent company of Richter’s former employers NBC.
Yes, Andy Richter, a driving force of the Dadaistic comedy of ”Late Show with Conan O’Brien,” is starring in TV’s umpteenth office sitcom — something he once said he’d never do. ”There’s this pose of great thirst out there for something new,” says Richter, ”but only as long as it’s a lot like what’s happened before.”
Still, as its title suggests, ”Andy Richter Controls the Universe” is meant to be more than another ”Just Shoot Me” clone. Richter says he wanted to do the show because of its central conceit: His character unreliably narrates the story, which means that we see Andy’s fantasies about dying or showing up at work in a suit made of puppies (yeah, it’s a little bit like ”Scrubs”). ”If it were just an office comedy, I wouldn’t want to do it,” he says. ”But it has all these other aspects and chances to just do jokes, to just do pure ‘funny.”’
On traditional sitcoms, says ”Universe” creator and executive producer Victor Fresco, writers come up with multiple ideas for any given scene, but have to settle on one — which often means the funniest jokes are sacrificed on the altars of story and character. ”I thought it’d be fun to have a show where you could actually have all of that stuff in there,” Fresco says. ”So we’ll show where the story could have gone, and then how it really did go.”