TV Review: Sterling Fourth Season Premiere for ‘Archer’

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CHICAGO – Not content to stand on its status as one of the top tier and weirdest animated series on TV, the season four premiere of “Archer” begins with a premise that redefines the term crossover. The new season of “Archer” begins on FX on January 17th, at 10pm ET/9pm CT. Television Rating: 5.0/5.0
Television Rating: 5.0/5.0

The gang at the international spy agency ISIS is back for more adventures, anchored by the Spy Who Has a Mother Complex, the amazing Sterling Archer. The comic zeitgeist of the series is that everything that makes an international spy agency cool – suave, cocktail swilling, lady killer spies – is exploited for laughs within the reality of office politics, modern sexuality and bureaucracy. Each of the characters has a nutty personality complex that milk laughs, and as a group they are freaking hilarious. Nobody does it better, to quote steal from another popular spy series.

Season four opens with Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin) in undercover mode, suffering from a temporary amnesia. His arch nemesis Barry (Dave Willis) is still after him, and dispatches a group of Russian agents to eliminate him. Archer’s super spy instincts take over and the whole hit squad are writhing on the ground as he makes his escape. He then decides to do some ‘me time” at an overwrought spa.

Lana (voice of Aisha Tyler) and Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) spa in ‘Archer’
Photo credit: FX

At ISIS headquarters, the concern is that Archer has been missing for two months, and ISIS director Malory (Jessica Walter) – also Archer’s mother – assigns agents Lana (Aisha Tyler), Cyril (Chris Parnell), Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates) and Ray (Adam Reed) to infiltrate the luxurious getaway and bring Archer back to reality. Always there to lend support – and take advantages of the spa services – is Pam (Amber Nash) in Human Resources and executive assistant Cheryl (Judy Greer).

The show is a roller coaster of cutting jokes and sharp satire, making fun of the suave spy culture, co-dependent relationships, science, self-medication and virtually everything to do with modern life. Two great running gags involve the budget of ISIS, always in crisis (rocket launchers don’t pay for themselves) and the strange motivations of Sterling Archer, who desperately seeks some kind of acceptance, and takes out his angst against his both perceived and natural enemies.

The voice talent is key to both the fourth season premiere, in its audacious opening segment, and the overall hilarity of the series. H. Jon Benjamin is perfect as Archer’s voice, with the right amount of whiny when confronted by his mother. Jessica Walter uses her years of character roles, including her legendary comic role in “Arrested Development,” and turns that motherhood on its ear. Amber Nash and Judy Greer are prime for a spin-off, as anytime they’re together it is usually delicious chaos. especially when they scream and squawk whenever their characters are cornered in their own immorality. Not to mention Chris Parnell (“burn”) and Aisha Tyler, exasperated normality in crazy land.

The writing is dead on, and very smart. Another great running gag, delivered with perfection, is Archer’s constant reference to great literature – followed by an irritated, “doesn’t anybody ever read!” This came to fruition last season in the two part episode “Space Race,” when Archer gave – in the middle of a laser battle – a summation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” complete with a final review of “it sucks.” That lofty anarchy is what makes “Archer” one of the best shows on TV.

With the FX line-up including “Louie,” “Justified,” “The League,” “American Horror Story” and especially “Archer,” it’s that network alone that could make the argument for paying that cable bill each month, at least to save your sanity. “Burn.”

The Season Four premiere of ”Archer” is on Thursday, January 17th at 10pm ET/9pm CT on FX. Check local listings for channel location. Featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Jessica Walter, Aisha Tyler and Adam Reed. Created by Adam Reed. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald,

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