From 1967’s Casino Royale to the Austin Powers films, the spy genre has certainly seen its share of playful parodies, humorous homages, and outright skewering, but, for me, nothing quite nails it as well as a ribald and raucous animated TV show called Archer. The brainchild of Adam Reed (Sealab 2021/Space Ghost: Coast to Coast), Archer turns the spy genre on its ear, eschewing globe-trotting heroics in favor of petty workplace squabbles, drunken dalliances, and the titular character’s oedipal relationship with his mother. Yeah, it’s like that.
I stumbled onto the series midway through its first season, and was immediately hooked by its retro-cool animated style (think Venture Brothers meets Mary Worth) and surprisingly adult humor. The world of super spy, Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, of Bob’s Burgers and Home Movies fame), is a fascinating place, filled with quirky characters and complex relationships, with much of the series taking place in the decidedly unglamorous headquarters of Archer’s employer, ISIS – the International Secret Intelligence Service – which is headed up by Archer’s mother, Malory (Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter). The folks in Malory’s employ are a virtual Whitman’s Sampler of neurosis, including Archer’s overachieving ex, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler); sex-addicted accountant, Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell); resident slob, Pam Poovey (Amber Nash); and psychotic secretary, Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer). Also on-staff are the flamboyantly gay Ray Gillette (Reed), prototypical mad scientist/gadget guy, Doctor Krieger (Lucky Yates), and Archer’s butler, Woodhouse (George Coe), who, like Batman’s Alfred, raised Sterling since he was a boy, and, as a result, now serves as the spoiled spy’s resident punching bag.
Season One established the complex relationships between this motley crew, while also introducing us to their chief rival, the agency known as ODIN. Here we saw ISIS lose several agents to ODIN, including Archer, and also learned of the monetary woes plaguing Malory. Season Two picks up where things left off, with Malory seeking outside investors, including ODIN head, Torvald Utne (guest star, Jeffery Tambor), in an effort to keep ISIS afloat. We are also introduced to Archer’s “son”, the Wee Baby Seamus, who Archer supposedly fathered with one of the many escorts he squanders his earnings on. These are plot threads that weave in and out of a season that sees Archer tasked with protecting an overly sexed 16 year old German socialite, a computer virus that threatens to expose all of ISIS field agents, and Archer’s courageous battle with…um…breast cancer.
Much like Reed’s other twisted creations, Archer has a very dry and disarmingly dark sense of humor that may not appeal to everyone. This isn’t the rapid fire gross-out laughs of a Family Guy or sweetly funny like The Simpsons and Futurama; while there are plenty of innuendo-laced one-liners to go around, Archer’s humor can, at times, be very subtle, with some jokes taking an entire episode to pay off, but, once they do, they’ll stick with you for days. Seriously, since watching this set (all in one sitting, mind you. That’s how much I like this show!) I’ve burst out into laughter thinking of some of the choicer bits. That’s especially troubling when you’re walking through a mall by yourself or sitting in the front row at a wake. Hell, I’m actually laughing out loud as I type this just thinking about the anything involving the Wee Baby Seamus and Woodhouse’s “dependency” issues.
Fox brings Archer: Season 2 to Blu-ray in a two-disc set that features all thirteen episodes in glorious 1080p. The 1.77:1 transfer is sharp and very vibrant, and the series’ unique animated style comes across beautifully. The transfer is accompanied by a robust 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that offers boffo bass, crisp dialogue, and some surprisingly well-implemented surround effects.
Extras include a collection of very short animated sketch bits, including an Ask Archer segment, and Archersaurs: Self Extinction, which is sort of a tabloid journalism-style “what if?” look at the world of Archer. The only feature with any real substance is the 13 minute ISIS Invades Comic Con piece, where the cast of the show take part in a panel Q&A. There’s also Blu-ray live functionality, which allows you to download another segment of Ask Archer (at least when I tried it), and view a bunch of trailers and EPKs for other Fox releases.
If you’re a fan of Reed’s other shows, or howl in delight at the offerings of Adult Swim, I think it’s a safe bet that you’ll dig Archer. With Season 3 just starting up (as of this writing), it’s a great time to go out and pick up this set (and Season 1, of course), and get caught up! This is currently one of my favorite shows on television, animated or otherwise, and I can’t recommend it highly enough to folks who share my somewhat twisted sense of humor. Get it!