Binging: Archer

So, you’ve finished The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Killing but you’re still hungry for more boxsets. Fear not, Standard Issue writers are on the case with some hidden gems you might not yet have seen. This week, Debra-Jane Appelby wants us to watch Archer. Sex with robots, you say?

Archer with a gunTwo of the greatest things to come out of the Cold War – apart from the impending threat of nuclear annihilation – were spy movies and spy movie spoofs. For every James Bond there was a Derek Flint; for every Spy Who Came in From the Cold there was a Man from U.N.C.L.E..

With the resurgence of a rebooted Bond, all-action amnesiac Jason Bourne and angst-ridden Jack Bauer (check the initials for homage), we finally got our own super-spy spoof in the shape of ‘mature’ animated series Archer.

Following the exploits of the (then innocently-named) spy agency ISIS and its star super-agent Sterling Malory Archer, the series introduces a diverse cast of crazies and screw-ups. Think James Bond meets Family Guy filtered through Arrested Development with a hint of Inspector Clouseau.

Irreverent isn’t the word. Even downright irreverent doesn’t go far enough. Yes, at times the main character is racist, homophobic and incredibly misogynist but it serves only to set him up for the fall. He is everything that’s wrong with the macho superhero spy epitomised by Fleming’s Bond. He is forever being bailed out by his colleagues, mainly the super sexy, super competent Lana Kane, or, butt of his pranks and love rival for Lana, nerdy comptroller Cyril Figgis. Or gay cyborg (don’t ask) Ray.

Archer eating dinner in the jacuzziIt is the women I enjoy the most. Apart from heroic Lana there is the doyen of ISIS herself, owner, operator and (reluctant) mother of Sterling, Malory Archer. Pam Poovey is the most inappropriate HR chief ever, sex-mad, food-mad and as hedonistic as a syringe full of concentrated 1960s. And then there is the strangely driven Cheryl (sometime Cheryl: don’t ask) who starts off as a Moneypenny figure but grows into the craziest, husky voiced, Hannibal Lecter-type manipulative figure ever.

It’s one of those shows where you spend five minutes going, “What the frick is this?” and, before you know it, Netflix is asking if you’re still watching Archer because you’ve been glued for three hours.

Archer has struggled to find a decent slot over the years as it makes South Park look like Dora the Explorer in its explicit content. Season six will hopefully be airing in the UK at some point. However, the first five seasons are on Netflix and make for the perfect binge material. Thirteen episodes a season, 23 minutes long each, jam-packed with insanity, in-jokes, pop culture beatdowns and plenty of ‘I can’t believe they went there’ moments.

The show comes from Adam Reed who created Adult Swim, so it has a comic-book style of animation with realistic back grounds and very anatomically correct character models. The show also has a purposefully ambiguous chronological setting. The characters look and dress in a somewhat The Man from U.N.C.L.E. style and the office is populated with ‘80s gadgets. But then the cars seem to be ‘70s and there are many references to contemporary pop culture, style and technology. ISIS does encounter Russians and Cubans in a pseudo Cold War setting, yet it also tackles a very modern eco-terrorist. Mostly it seems to spend most of its time fighting with rival organisation ODIN for various security contracts.

Archer takes the legacy of The Simpsons and its more outrageous follow-ups like American Dad and puts it through the spy genre mincer to create yet another gross feuding family of misfits we all love to watch screw up. It’s just in most shows they don’t get to do that whilst having sex with the robotic reanimated corpse of their double agent ex-girlfriend and blowing up a space station. Don’t ask.

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Written by Debra-Jane Appelby

Loud, Yorkshire, opinionated, techno-geek, trans-woman comedian with a fondness for excessive culinary pleasures and too little exercise.