My take on Archer
So, you want something original on TV? You want something that not only pushes the envelope, but has sex with it, shoots it in the foot, and engages it in witty repartee?
This animated spy spoof is definitely not for kids. It uses “the s word” (yep, on network TV), but uses other words in manners which may be unique. I mean, there was recently a two word alliterative anatomical description that you’ll never hear anywhere else. Well, you may now…on college campuses, and other hipster hang-outs. It’s the kind of thing certain people may quote.
It’s not just shocking, though…even though I can’t resist calling a TV MA LSV rated show with an incompetent lead secret agent, “Get Smut”. ;) A lot of the humor actually comes from the relationships between the characters…just like you want in any show that will really involve you.
Sterling Archer is a handsome, lethal superspy…but also a bit of a doofus. He and his ex, Lana Kane, work for ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service)…an agency headed by Archer’s randy and domineering mother, Malory. Lana is now with the much less masculine Cyril. Cyril, meanwhile, is having an affair (or at least sex a couple of times) with another coworker, Cheryl (who is also called Carol…she changes her name)…while she lusts after Archer.
This all leads to a lot of conflict, as you can imagine, much of it observed or encouraged by another agency member, Pam. The writing is excellent…funny, quirky, and in an odd way, real. I loved a fake promotional video for a new “rigid airship” (they don’t want to call it a blimp), the Excelsior. One of the key points of the video is that the luxury cruiser doesn’t have the risk of exploding and burning, like the Hindenburg:
Voiceover: “When you fly Excelsior, you’re flying in style…and safety!”
Cute little tow-headed kid: “Safety? But isn’t hydrogen flammable?”
Anuncular pilot: “And how, Jimmy. That’s why Excelsior is filled with (cut to cartoon match and atom) safe, natural helium. Why, it’s actually flame retardant.”
Even though Archer has watched this video, he spends most of the episode talking ignorantly about how the blimp is going to blow up…which suprisingly, doesn’t prompt anybody to say, “Oh, the inanity!” 😉
There is cartoon violence…people get shot…a lot. It’s usually for humorous effect, though.
Lana (to a nude Archer, with whom she is on assignment): “Can you just get out of the way?”
Archer (sarcastically): “What, are you going to shoot me again?”
Archer: “Oh. Well then, hang on.” (Gets out of the way)
The voice cast is great, and their cartoon counterparts even resemble the actual actors in many cases. Aisha Tyler (Lana) had a memorable arc on Friends…Joey and Ross fought over her. Jessica Walter (Malory) was Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development. Another alumnus of that late lamented show is Judy Greer (Cheryl/Carol), who played Kitty Sanchez.
I don’t want to “..and the rest” the rest of the cast. There are a lot of comedy veterans, and it shows: H. Jon Benjamin (Carl on Family Guy), Chris Parnell (Dr. Leo Spaceman on 30 Rock), George Coe (Ben Cheviot on Max Headroom), and Amber Nash (Valerie on Frisky Dingo) all bring rich characterizations.
When a show manages that, you’ve got to credit the behind-the-scenes(um…off the storyboard? behind the keyboard? Darn!) talent. Adam Reed, Archer’s creator, also brought us Sealab 2021 (a sequel to the 1970s non-hit Sealab 2020) and Frisky Dingo. If you don’t know those two shows…well, that’s why blogs like this exist, right? 😉
Let’s see, have I told you everything you need to know? Cartoon nudity? Check. Verbal body part humor? Check. Gratuitious violence? Check. Great show? Check. Oh, one other thing…you might want to know when you can see it…you know, besides on Tivo whenever you want. It’s usually on FX on Thursdays at 10:00 PM.
The show has been renewed for a second season. You can also follow the production crew on Twitter: ArcherProd. There’s homework for tonight’s show…
Final note: if you thought this article was going to be about the series of Lew Archer books by Ross Macdonald, I’m impressed. If you thought it was going to be about the Brian Keith TV series based on those novels…I’m a little intimidated, actually. 😉