The best action-comedy series on TV just got better. How could anybody not love ARCHER now that it’s – MIAMI VICE?
by Andy Greenwald
For a long time The Simpsons was the fastest show on television. A combination of highly caffeinated, Harvard-educated show-offs in the writers’ room and the complete creative freedom afforded by animation transformed what was originally intended to be a straight (if yellow) family sitcom into an ADD-explosion of satire, asides, cutaways, and jokes so in you’d need Professor Frink’s Hoax-a-Scope to locate them.
These days, nearly every beloved (if poorly rated) single-camera sitcom is a cartoon, even if flesh-and-blood actors are involved. The rhythms and possibilities of animation are everywhere: Parks and Recreation has a rogue’s gallery that rivals Springfield’s, and the gleeful 30 Rock andArrested Development treat reality the way bungee jumpers treat bridges. The only thing that separates Community from full-on toon town is a couple of SAG cards — and even that’s not always enough. In response to such wholesale borrowing, actual cartoons had but one recourse: to get dirtier and a whole lot weirder.
Leading the charge on that score for the past four years has been Archer, FX’s martini-dry exercise in spy jinks. Created by Adult Swim veteran Adam Reed, Archer chronicles the willfully anachronistic adventures of the debonair, deeply dumb Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), an American James Bond type whose unflappable commitment to egotistical hedonism suggests a childhood in which he was shaken, never stirred. (This theory is only reinforced by the behavior of his mother, Malory, a gin-dependent ego monster voiced by Jessica Walter who also happens to be the chief of the International Secret Intelligence Service — or ISIS.) Weekly attacks from KGB agents, Cuban agents, and Burt Reynolds are interspersed with deep dives into drug- and sex-fueled strangeness: Secretary Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer), a secret billionaire, huffs rubber cement; HR chief Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) is into tentacle porn.
I watch Archer semi-regularly — along with fellow FX bro-com The League, it’s part of a rotation of entertaining, low-impact shows I tend to fire up on Netflix after a few drinks; it’s more of a chug-watch than a binge. But, until now, I’ve never written about it. The reason being, I rarely had much to say beyond “this is funny.” (Occasionally I would find it “very, very funny.”) This is not meant to be damning with faint praise. Rather, it’s praising with faint verbiage. Some shows are so good at what they do (and what they do is so hugely specific) that it’s hard to find an entry point for a review. For four seasons, Archer ran more smoothly than the break in Sterling’s best tuxedo pants. It could easily have run for four more. But a funny thing happened, something that’s all too common among TV showrunners but all too rarely acted upon: Adam Reed got bored. And because his show is a cartoon, he could grab the eraser and start all over again.
After the status quo–exploding season premiere…, Archer as we knew it is no more. For reasons I won’t spoil, ISIS is gone along with all the show’s go-go trappings of international espionage. Stripped of their mandate and their machine guns, the gang is left with nothing but their lingering resentments, their petty grievances, and each other. Oh, and a gigantic pile of cocaine. Thus, next week, Archerbecomes Archer Vice as Sterling and a very pregnant Lana (Aisha Tyler) begin the unglamorous dirty work of unloading the drugs in an attempt to reclaim their lost money and power. (They’ll form a cartel because, as Malory puts it, “if Mexicans do it,” how hard can it be?)