There was once a time when cartoons were reserved for children. However, in recent times, we have seen the rise of entire channel line-ups based on adult animation. FX is one of those channels and its crown jewel, the wonderful spy parody Archer, is nearing the debut of its fourth season.
For its first showing of the year, the show will launch with “Fugue and Riffs,” where the titular character (played by the king of modern voice acting H. Jon Benjamin) gets amnesia and decides that the only solution is a spa weekend.
Of course, as with anything Archer, a visit to the spa quickly dissolves into a trip to the DANGER ZONE. The episode is also going to feature a crossover reference to Bob’s Burgers, the FOX animated comedy that also stars Benjamin in the titular role, and will be followed next week by a guest appearance from Timothy Olyphant (Justified).
Archer is, as aforementioned, a parody of spy lore, and it works beautifully in that regard. Skyfall may have tried taking the genre to higher echelons, but this show brings it down to earth by mocking, belittling, and rejecting every convention guys like James Bond and Jack Bauer need to survive.
Whereas spy movies have damsels in distress, Archer often needs “man hands” Lana (impeccably voiced by Aisha Tyler) to save him from his own stupidity. Whereas most such flicks have “brothers in arms” with one traitor, pretty much everyone on this show would sell out everyone else for personal gain.
And while spy movies only give subject status to suave, erudite agents with fantastically shaped bodies and irresistible charisma, this show revels in the likes of sarcastic cage-fighter Pam (Amber Nash), resident nerd Cyril (Chris Parnell), the un-motherly mother Malory (Jessica Walters) and legitimate psychopath Cheryl (Judy Greer).
Every single character on the show is well-developed, a rarity in traditionally stupid comedies, and their interactions can find humor in even the most offensive of subjects. And, let’s face it; the humor in Archer is horridly offensive.
Archer describes his perfect day as one that ends with “a sensible dinner and after-meal whores” throughout; when asked what those are, he likens them to “having a cigarette after a meal to smooth everything out but without the cancer risk. Well, unless you count HPV but who does, really.”
According to his mother Malory, immigrants “just drive around listening to raps and shooting all the jobs.” When asked if he thinks gay people are abnormal, Archer simply responds, “Not abnormal, just ... gay!”
So it can’t be denied that the show’s dialogue is appallingly, unspeakably offensive, and funnier because of it. This show, like many of its competitors, makes potentially insulting statements but, unlike many of its competitors, makes sure to never start agreeing with its own characters.
Archer and his mother may have a problem with gay people, immigrants, or women; the show’s writing does not and it reflects that by giving the individuals from these categories meaningful roles and developed backgrounds.
If any criticism can be lobbed at the show, it’s that most foreigners on the show are criminals, which seems a bit stereotypical. However, that’s more a criticism of the genre it parodies than of the show itself, because the very fabric of spy lore is somewhat rooted in xenophobia.
For it’s part, Archer is a show that reminds us of those things but doesn’t idealize imperialistic tendencies the way many of its parodied works are fond of doing. And to top it off, it’s ridiculously funny.
Archer returns January 17 on FX at 10pm EST.