Early last year I took a chance on an animated TV show I knew absolutely nothing about. You see, I’m a huge fan of animated comedy and I’ll give pretty much anything a try but I never really expect much. As long as I get a few belly laughs I’m a happy man.
Growing up in the 90s meant that The Simpsons was everywhere. For ten years it was the best thing on TV by some distance. It gave us some of the sharpest satire we’d seen, was laugh-out-loud funny and was thoughtful to boot. The golden years from season 4 to season 10 were of such a high quality that it’s hard to imagine how the creators managed to make it so consistently good, especially since most shows produced today are lucky if they get two full seasons. The point is, watching The Simpsons had me hooked on Animated Comedy. But then The Simpsons started to get bad. Really bad.
Around the turn of the Millenium, The Simpsons started to lose it’s way and it’s been on the slide ever since. I started to look for my animated chuckles in other places. And I’ll take them anywhere I can find them. South Park, Family Guy, American Dad, The Life and Times of Tim, Bob’s Burgers. I’ll even perservere through an episode of The Cleveland Show in the off chance that there might be a giggle in it for me.
But there is nothing in the world of Animated Comedy at the minute that comes anywhere near to being as original or funny as Archer. Actually, scratch that. There is nothing on tv that comes close to being as original and funny as Archer.
In 2008, while holidaying in Spain, the shows creator, Adam Reed, was having lunch at a cafe. Finding himself unable to approach an attractive woman sitting nearby, Reed came up with the idea for the gentleman spy who would know exactly what to say in any given situation. And so Sterling Archer was born.
The show focuses on the exploits of the titular spy and his colleagues at the private intelligence firm, ISIS. But Archer isn’t your average Gentleman Spy. Archer is lazy, vain, chauvinistic, promiscuous, stubborn, sarcastic, insensitive . . . the list goes on. If you can think of a abhorrent character trait the likelihood is that it can be applied to Sterling Archer.
Archer Works at ISIS under his alcoholic mother, Malory, with whom Archer has a lot of issues, but that’s just the beginning. Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe what goes on at ISIS. Archer’s ex Lana and her new boyfriend Cyril also work at ISIS and Archer spends a lot of his time picking on the human doormat that is Cyril and making suggestive comments to Lana who isn’t quite sure if she’d like to fuck him or kill him. Cheryl/Carol is Malory’s secretary who likes to be choked during sex. Pam is the overweight, bisexual HR manager. Krieger, the scientist who indulges in some very questionable experiments. And so on, and so on. This group of weirdos and misfits somehow manage to avert disaster despite their inability to get along on any personal level.
Reed has created a pretty unique character in Archer. Some fictional spies, like James Bond, are both sophisticated and good at what they do. Others, like Maxwell Smart are bumbling fools who somehow manage to save the day. Archer is undoubtedly the greatest spy in the world in Reed’s universe, but he also happens to be a complete and utter douchebag. The privately educated, highly privileged brat that is Sterling Archer somehow seems a lot closer to what I imagine an actual spy would be.
He’s not the only character in Archer that’s an asshole. In fact, all the characters in the show are petty and selfish, making the circus that is ISIS a perfect setting for Reed’s post-modern take on the spy genre.
From Archer’s overbearing mother, Malory, to his ball-breaking ex, Lana, every one of ISIS’s employees has some sort of repulsive character trait. Their selfishness, vanity and bickering is comedy gold and not only does it make us laugh but, strangely, also makes them more relatable.
Each episode features some crisis that the ISIS team must deal with and more often than not the problem is one they have created for themselves. With the talent of the agents at their disposal, the team should have no problems overcoming any obstacle but the characters are usually too busy fighting to get the job done.Tags: adam reed, archer, h. jon benjamin, heart of archness