TV Review: Amazing Episode Kicks Off Third Season of FX’s ‘Archer’

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CHICAGO – There’s so much variance in quality when it comes to TV animation for adults. On one end of the spectrum, there’s the already-canceled “Allen Gregory” and the hopefully-to-follow “Napoleon Dynamite.” On the other, you have a show like “South Park” that has lost none of its creative drive. With “Family Guy” faltering in the last couple years, there’s only one real contender to the Parker/Stone throne and tonight’s premiere of “Archer” proves that this often-brilliant show needs to be in the conversation when one considers the best animated shows on TV. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

I sometimes forget how funny “Archer” is until a new season premiere screener shows up. The first episode of the third season, “The Man From Jupiter,” which features a riotous guest appearance by Burt Reynolds, is one of the funniest things that I’ve seen in a long time, animated or live-action. Reynolds plays himself, proving that he has an incredible sense of humor about some of the career choices and general behavioral antics that made him both a household name and the brunt of jokes on “Saturday Night Live“‘s Celebrity Jeopardy sketches. For those of you who know the Reynolds filmography deep enough to get a Hal Needham reference, “The Man From Jupiter” is simply amazing — the kind of thing that’s so often obscure and so over-the-top that you kind of can’t believe it exists. With the increasing tendency for television to homogenize and look like something else on another channel, it’s amazing to see something so ridiculously unique as “Archer.”

Photo credit: FX

Part of the reason “Archer” is constantly surprising with its originality is that the concept has been done before. We’ve seen animated spy spoofs like “Venture Bros.” and “Frisky Dingo,” another creation of “Archer” creator Adam Reed. (Both of those shows are GREAT by the way and well-worth seeking out on DVD if you’re unfamiliar). And FX is not a network known for animation. “Archer” defies all expectations. It shouldn’t work. But it so completely does.

Photo credit: FX

The season premiere of “Archer” opens with Agent Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) hitting on a girl at a bar only to stumble into a fight with the one and only Burt Reynolds, playing himself. After a few AMAZING references, including the revelation that “Operation C.I.A.” is why Archer became an agent along with his plans for “The final chapter in the McKluskey trilogy,” Archer learns that Reynolds is there to meet Archer’s mom (Jessica Walter) for a date. He doesn’t take this well. How would you feel if your childhood icon was getting ready to bang your mom? Archer passes out.

The next day, Archer learns that there’s a Cuban hit squad that’s been sent to take him out. He’s not nearly as worried as he is about the fact that his mom is dating the man once known as “Gator.” In fact, Archer doesn’t even really believe that the hit squad is real. So, he chooses to send his mom a fake break-up letter from Mr. Stroker Ace and kidnaps Reynolds. Of course, that’s when the hit squad gets to town. Reynolds gets sucked into the action and what ensues is straight out of the prime of Burt with cars sneaking through alleys on two wheels and ridiculous ends to car chases. Secondary characters like Lana (Aisha Tyler), Cyril (Chris Parnell), and Cheryl (Judy Greer) take on smaller roles with the arrival of Reynolds but they get back to front and center the next week with the nearly-as-funny “El Contador.”

And that’s the best news for “Archer” fans. The premiere isn’t a fluke. The second, third, and fourth episodes are totally hilarious (#2 is the thinnest on a humor level but even it features more laughs than most half-hour shows on TV). The pop culture references are increasingly amazing to this critic. “Predator” and Marlon Perkins are name-checked in number two just for an example of the hysterically obscure choices. I’m hoping that the press surrounding the Burt Reynolds appearance brings people in and they stick around for a show that seems to be getting better with every episode. This is one of the funniest shows on TV and my greatest hope is that it follows the pattern of the best animated shows on TV and stays on for YEARS. The TV world is a better place with a show as original as “Archer” on the air.

“Archer” features voice work from H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash, George Coe, Lucky Yates, Adam Reed, and Jessica Walter. The show returns for its third season on January 19th, 2012 at 9pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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