TV Review: Hysterical ‘Archer’ Returns For Stellar Second Season

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CHICAGO – The second season premiere of “Archer” opens with a hysterical scene that ends with a suave super-spy saying “Look at me, I am the perfect gentleman.” Of course, the statement comes by virtue of the fact that Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is pointing out that he’s not taking a softball joke set-up involving a 16-year-old German jailbait and her body hair. It’s the kind of unique humor you’ll find only on “Archer,” one of the more consistently clever and riotously funny shows on television, back tonight, Jan. 27, 2011 on FX. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

“Archer” is so funny that you can DVR it and watch it again (and truly should pick up the season one DVD, recently release by Fox). I’ll admit to watching the second-season premiere, “Swiss Miss,” more than once. There’s something about the best adult-driven animation that makes it incredibly rewatchable. It’s how Adult Swim became such a phenomenon. “Archer” stands above any of the FOX animated juggernauts and at least beside any other animated program on TV right now.

Photo credit: FX

On paper, “Archer” shouldn’t work. It’s skewing spy shows in a way that makes it sound not unlike the often-brilliant “Venture Bros.” and it was created by Adam Reed, who made the great “Frisky Dingo,” so one would naturally be nervous that it couldn’t live up to that show, especially on a network not exactly known for animation. But FX has been one of the most creatively supportive networks for the last decade and they clearly give Reed and his team the freedom to create their bizarre mix of comedy. The result is one of the funnier shows on TV.

Photo credit: FX

The premise of “Archer” is simple enough that it allows for an amazing amount of creative freedom in terms of plotting. The show is an odd hybrid of workplace comedy (like “The Office”) with spy-movie references and action-driven humor. Like most things about “Archer,” that may not sound appealing on paper, but it works.

The great H. Jon Benjamin (one of the hardest working men in animation who also voices “Bob’s Burgers” now on FOX) stars as the title character, suave super spy Sterling Archer, a man who likes to drink and screw in a fashion that would make Connery’s 007 blush. Archer is the superstar of the ISIS organization, which is headed by his lunatic mother (the great Jessica Walter of “Arrested Development,” recently seen on “Retired at 35”). The odd workplace also includes his super-spy ex-lover Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler), awkward co-worker Cyril (Chris Parnell of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”), and the wildly unpredictable Cheryl (Judy Greer).

The first season of “Archer” reminded me of the first of “South Park” in that the sometimes-crass humor could lead someone to believe that this was nothing but low-grade frat boy comedy. There are elements built around sex and violence — the season premiere is essentially about Archer trying to avoid an international statutory rape charge as a 16-year-old girl keeps coming on to him with hilarious results — but the writing here is much smarter than your grandma would have you believe.

If you already love edgy animation like “Venture Bros.” and “Robot Chicken,” you’ve probably already been indoctrinated into the cult of “Archer.” Let me speak now to the people who love “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The League” — FX’s two brilliant live-action comedies. “Archer” fits right in. Don’t avoid it merely because it’s animation. It’s just as funny and often even smarter than those programs.

How is season two different from the first “Archer” outing? The show definitely seems more confident than it did in its first few episodes as the writers and voice actors get more consistent with their characters and senses of humor. Most animation gets better in its second season as everyone gets into the same rhythm. “Archer” seems to be following the same pattern.

If you want to catch up on season one, it was recently released by Fox in a two-disc set. The ten episodes are presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. It’s a decent set but it would have been great to see “Archer” pop in 1080p on Blu-ray. Still, fans of the show should definitely pick it up. Jump on the bandwagon early before everyone else tells you how much they love “Archer.”

Special Features:
o The Original Unaired “Archer” Pilot
o Unaired Network Promo
o The Making of “Archer”
o Deleted Scenes
o “The League” Pilot Episode
o “Louie” Pilot Episode

‘Archer,’ which airs on FX, features voice work from H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash, George Coe, Lucky Yates, Adam Reed, and Jessica Walter from creator Adam Reed. The show returns on January 27th, 2011 at 9pm CST.

‘Archer: The Complete Season One’ was released on DVD on December 28th, 2010 by Fox. It is not rated and runs 220 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

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