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FX's 'Archer': James Bond meets Oedipus

BY CHRISTINA ANGER
Daily Arts Writer
Published January 18, 2010

There’s a reason FX’s “Archer” has a 10 p.m. time slot. The little children of the world are asleep, and its target audience, teens to immature adults, are ready for another dose of cartoon absurdity. Unexpectedly, “Archer” suppresses the toilet humor and homes in on truly adult material.

The plot of “Archer” centers on a spy agency. While the show may look like just another derivative animated series, it's actually a semi-sophisticated satire. Its spies are neurotic, clumsy and oedipal. Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, "Family Guy") is your main spy, the James Bond of the agency (although he doesn’t "like to use that comparison — but yes").

His mother is his boss, voiced by Jessica Walter (“Arrested Development”). Nobody could say “These antihistamines are insane” with more couth. In almost every scene, the new FX show makes some kind of taboo sex joke, starting with Archer in bed with his girlfriend and on the phone with his mother, whispering that he “can do both.”

Everything about “Archer” seems like a slightly tweaked version of “South Park” or “Futurama.” “South Park” makes most girls cringe (check) and “Futurama” is heavy on plot with a side of sitcom humor (check). But "Archer" embraces another common form of humor as well — the kind of narcissism that asks “Why don’t they make a reality show out of my life?”

“Archer” is for everyone who laughs at a fat joke, boob-job joke or racist joke, yet is able to catch some subtle cultural references — like when Archer finds himself in an ironic situation and huffs: “This is like O. Henry and Alanis Morissette had a baby and named it this exact situation!”

That quote goes far beyond the spy humor, people. Sure, Archer’s special pen with the faulty cap that kills a prostitute during a mole training session is amusing, but it doesn’t top the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you catch a line that flies over the heads of much of the general public.

A gorgeous spy is nothing without a nerdy sidekick, and a comedy show is nothing without relationship drama. Luckily, the writers of “Archer” are well aware of these necessities and drew up an all-in-one character: accountant-turned-sidekick Cyril (Chris Parnell, “Saturday Night Live”), Archer’s ex’s new boyfriend. Oh, the drama.

"Archer" is brimming with literal LOL moments and its fair share of farce. What company hasn’t had a secretary that hacked into the insurance to cover her boob job? Needless to say, there are no stale moments in the episode. Archer begins to fill the void left by “Arrested Development,” a show that created a cult-like, quote-heavy bond between friends and fans.

Pencil in “Archer,” and relish the fact that it’s not necessary to stifle the intelligent part of your sense of humor for an entire half hour. Is it possible to laugh guilt-free at a cartoon after the age of 6? “Archer” doesn’t like to use comparisons — but yes.


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