Saturday, 6 July 2013

Rich's Televisual Ramblings - Archer

In my second column I am going to feature the show, Archer. It is an animated series that is similar to other animated shows such as American Dad or Family Guy and is extremely funny. Like these shows it is also episodic in that if you miss one episode you’re not going to sit there pulling your hair out as you contemplate working out what key plot points you might have missed. It is a show which I have been shamelessly plugging to friends for a long time. The show has currently just finished its fourth season airing in the US on FX and in the UK on 5*. It is a co-production between Floyd County Productions, Georgia Entertainment Industries and FX Productions.

Creator, Adam Reed, is a man whose previous efforts Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo are shows that I enjoyed immensely but felt were definitely unpolished gems. With Archer, however, he has created a program which hammers you relentlessly with jokes throughout its twenty-something minute runtime and is much more accessible to the casual viewer (compared to his previous shows). The premise is most noticeably a parody of James Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and a plethora of other 1970/80s espionage shows. These are all comedy tropes to which anyone can relate but the comedy geek in me loves all the off-the-cuff references to obscure pop culture. These take inspiration in everything from Kenny Loggins (the writer of the song “Danger Zone” from the movie Top Gun), who is referenced numerous times to Gator (the 1976 sequel to Burt Reynolds movie White Lightning).

Archer tells the story of International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) and the eponymous character is Sterling Archer (who from here on out I’ll refer to as Archer). He is a super spy, who is proficient at all of the skills synonymous with that profession, including weaponry, driving and hand to hand combat but is conversely cursed with a laundry list of character flaws, including, but not limited to, being an alcoholic, a narcissist and a chauvinist. To be fair it’s amazing that Archer is as well-adjusted as he is. To begin with ISIS just happens to be run by his mother, Malory Archer, an overbearing and emotionally cold woman who spends’ her entire time using the company’s resources in the pursuit of one self-satisfying goal or another. To compound matters Malory spent much of Archer’s childhood off on spying missions alternating between leaving him with her butler Woodhouse and some boarding school. Secondly, his partner, Lana Kane, is his ex-girlfriend and despite being the most competent agent ISIS has she is riddled with insecurity due to the fact that Archer’s mother is the boss. This sees her constantly confronted by nepotism and Archer’s own oedipal complex. In addition, there are a litany of supporting characters that are equally idiosyncratic.

There is an astonishing pool of talent providing the voices to the shows characters. H. Jon. Benjamin who plays Sterling Archer is known for voice acting on a number of other cartoons and animation but is perhaps best known for playing Bob Belcher on Bobs Burgers and guest starring on Family Guy manages to make a character who looks like the quintessential chiselled looking spy and through voice alone manages to make him into an obnoxious character. The primary cast is rounded up by Aisha Tyler (Friends) who plays Lana Kane, Jessica Walter plays Malorie Archer, a role reminiscent of her role Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development , Judy Greer (Arrested Development) as secretary Cheryl Tunt, Chris Parnell (30 Rock) plays comptroller, Cyril Figgis. The rest of the cast is rounded off by show creator Adam Reed who plays gay intelligence analyst Ray Gillette, Amber Nash who plays human resources director Pam Poovey who and Lucky Yates who plays Mr. Doctor Algernop Krieger.

Archer is a show that will have you literally crying with laughter and even weeks or months later you will find yourself quoting lines from this show. So in this humble man’s opinion take Kenny Loggins’ advice, “ride into the Danger Zone” and watch Archer.

Below I have linked to a video to some of the shows highlights from the first season:

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