US animated tv series (2009-current). FX/Floyd County Productions. Creator and main writer: Adam Reed. Executive producers: Adam Reed and Matt Thompson. Directors: Bryan Fordney and Adam Reed. Voice cast includes H Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Adam Reed, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter and Lucky Yates. 110 episodes of approximately 22 minutes to date. Colour.
Archer is an Alternate History of sorts, described by its art director as taking place "in a vague, endless Cold-War era" (see Cold War), allowing historically incompatible elements to co-exist – for example, the KGB and Wikipedia.
Though the situation varies in later seasons, initially Sterling Malory Archer (Benjamin) is a spy for the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), an agency ran by his mother, Malory Archer (Walter). He is 36, a womanizing alcoholic, but his behaviour is that of an adolescent – enthusiastic, petulant, with no sense of his own mortality and indifferent to that of others. His mother, also an alcoholic, has what might politely be called old-fashioned attitudes and only rarely shows any affection for her son. Colleagues are fellow spies Lana Kane (Tyler) – super-competent, black and the target of Archer's affections, sometimes requited – and Ray Gillette (Reed), sensible, gay and (due to Archer) acquirer of three bionic limbs; scientist Algernop (sic) Krieger (Yates) – a Clone, probably not of Hitler; Cheryl Tunt (Greer) – secretary, heiress and unhinged; Pam Poovey (Nash) – Human Resources Director, also an overweight bare knuckle fighter with Lord Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib" (in Hebrew Melodies, coll 1815) tattooed on her back; and Cyril Figgis (Parnell) – accountant, briefly a Latin American dictator and Lana's non-boyfriend.
Episodes often spoof spy and Technothriller plots, so that sf elements are frequent – particularly in series one to six – though sometimes only as cutaways in otherwise non-genre episodes. Nevertheless, stories have included a Spaceship intended to Terraform and populate Mars, two regularly occurring Cyborgs, an ocean floor sea-lab (see Under the Sea), Aliens in Area 51, human Miniaturization and Clones; additionally, Krieger's experiments include the half-man half-pig "Pigley", Robot versions of his colleagues, and his virtual fiancée Mitsuko Miyazumi (Greer), a self-aware AI hologram. There are also moments of Satire, particularly of US foreign policy, and Parodies of such Cinema and Television productions as Fantastic Voyage (1966), Moonraker (1979), The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978) and The Terminator (1984). Seasons eight to ten have Archer in a coma, hallucinating different genres, eight and nine being noir and Island adventure respectively.
Season ten, called "Archer 1999", is set on a Spaceship crewed by the Archer main cast, though now Kreiger is a Robot, Pam an Alien and Mallory sometimes a ball of light, sometimes a physical hologram. They run a borderline-legal salvage operation, but spend most of their time avoiding murderous aliens and robots. Adventures include meeting Mr Deadly, a sentient doomsday device created by an extinct alien race; he desires to detonate but needs to be requested to do so: as Cheryl has a deathwish this proves a worry. Crashing on a planet, they find another wrecked ship containing their dead bodies: they theorize this is from a Parallel World until Mallory admits they are clones she made to double productivity. There are also space pirates, cannibals and alien Macrostructures. The season's name nods to Space: 1999 (1975-1977), though the tone is more reminiscent of Red Dwarf (1988-current): many other sf media are referenced, with genre Clichés subverted and enjoyed. There are in-jokes aplenty – Mallory enters robot Kreiger's room: "you come here to dream of electric sheep?" Krieger: "Don't be a Dick." The animation is often impressive. In the last episode Archer awakens from his coma: at least one more season is planned and will be a return to the original spy format.
The show is very funny (and occasionally violent): the Humour often comes from the constant bickering between members of the main cast, who behave as a dysfunctional family; only Lana and Ray approach being likable, though Pam has an indomitable charm. Archer begins as a wholly unsympathetic character (though it is clear his flaws are the result of his mother's frankly appalling treatment of him when young). Then in season two he develops cancer; he briefly becomes more empathetic and this improvement is not entirely lost after he is cured – in particular in relation to Lana and subsequently, their daughter – giving the character some useful emotional depth. [SP]
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