Archer, the new animated series which premieres tonight on FX is doing to the spy genre what The Venture Bros. did to Johnny Quest: tearing it a gaping new one.
The show is an irreverent, raunchy, cringe-inducing, drag-out funny send-up of a genre we've come to know for its cool, suave, ninja-deadly machismo archetypes, boasting a cast and characters that hit all the right notes on the funny bone. If it isn't on your radar, here's the 411 on Archer.
The show was created by Adam Reed, the (slightly demented) mind behind Adult Swim's animated series Frisky Dingo and cult-classic favorite, Sealab 2021. The cast of voice actors boasts some outstanding comedic talent and...oh, just check out this official press release for the show:
Archer is set at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), a spy agency where espionage and global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine, betray and royally screw each other.
The series features the voices of H. Jon Benjamin (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) as suave master spy “Sterling Archer,” whose less-than-masculine code name is “Duchess"; Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) as his domineering mother and boss, “Malory Archer"; Aisha Tyler (Talk Soup, 24) as his ex-girlfriend and current co-worker, “Agent Lana Kane"; George Coe as his aging-but-loyal butler, “Woodhouse"; Chris Parnell (30 Rock) as ISIS comptroller and Lana’s new love interest, “Cyril Figgis"; Judy Greer (Arrested Development) as Malory’s lovesick secretary, “Cheryl"; and Amber Nash as “Pam,” the director of human resources for ISIS.
Having seen one of the premiere episodes way back in the summer, I can tell you that Archer delivers the funny from the very first moment to the very last. My favorite part of the show? The sick and brilliant twist of having Archer's mom, Malory, be his boss. That one premise alone is a deep mine for some serious (and at times disturbing) comedic gold.
I recently had a chance to speak with Archer creator Adam Reed and show star (and bonafide funny lady) Aisha Tyler about what it's like lampooning James Bond and Jason Bourne. Here are some highlights of the conversation:
Adam Reed (Show Creator)
- To do the animation they first photograph models, then animate using 3D background CGI and photoshop software; actual animation is done using Adobe After Effects software.
- They don’t photograph the actual voice actors as models, because “We would make them do horrible things they would never do in real life.”
- FX legal constantly lets them know where the line between appropriate and inappropriate is. I can tell you: they tip-toe over it pretty often.
- Reed got the idea for the show while walking across Spain for several months. Too shy to approach hot Spanish ladies at cafes, he would say to himself, “James Bond would totally be over there with that Spanish girl right now - and they would be enjoying ceviche and laughing.”
- He read a lot of the classic Ian Fleming James Bond novels and noticed that they have some pretty racist and misogynistic undertones – great fodder for an animated leading man.
- Archer’s mom, Malory, was a “driveway moment” revelation (came to him while pulling into his driveway) that inspired serious hilarity.
- Archer is an amalgam of guys Reed doesn’t like – ex-girlfriends’ new boyfriends and such...
Archer and Lana on the case.
Aisha Tyler (Agent Lana Kane)
- She's a fangirl of cartoons – she especially loves the juxtaposition of cartoon animation (seemingly innocent) and "raunch" humor.
- Aisha heard Adam’s name attached to the project and jumped on it (she loves Sealab 2021); Adam was wracking his brain to find somebody funny to voice Lana and Aisha Tyler was the girl for the job.
- They've already coined some hilarious new terms - such as "b@#l slapiest" interracial pornography and "the Dane Cook of martial Arts." Ringtones are sure to follow.
- Semantic discussions - such as the term “b@#l slapiest” vs. “b@#l slappenest” - can take up the better part of their day.
- Her favorite moment so far is the yacht episode where Archer and Lana have to shoot their way out of a bad situation half-naked, following a gag-inducing three-way encounter (this show is pretty wild).
- Fanboys, Aisha would love to voice an action character in a video game - get on it!
Finally, here are breakdowns of the two premiere episodes:
“Training Day” – Lana’s residual lust for Archer prompts Malory to promote Cyril to field agent. Archer then trains his new competition as only he can, whilst Malory frets over her own past and her son’s future. Written and Voice Over Directed by Adam Reed.
“Mole Hunt” – Archer goes to great lengths to cover up discrepancies in his ISIS expense account as he attempts to access the agency’s mainframe computer. Cyril and Lana’s Friday night dinner date is interrupted by work. Written and Voice Over Directed by Adam Reed.
The episode I've seen is "Mole Hunt" and if the ending doesn't leave you in stitches, I don't know what will. If you are not a fan of shows like The Venture Bros., I'll say that Archer is still worth a look; the banter between the actors is funny as all get-out. Serious comedic pros at work, here. If you DO like shows like The Venture Bros. or Frisky Dingo - what else do I need to tell ya? I'll let some promos do my talking for me:
Archer premieres tonight, Thursday, January 14th, with two episodes airing at 10 and 10:30pm on FX. Have a look and tell us if the show will be included in your winter roster.