Archer Complete Season 2
by Joe Steiff
now available on DVD and Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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Okay, is there a sexier secret agent than Sterling Archer? Or a dumber one? Sure, his ex-girlfriend Lana is the brains of the operation – and does she ever dress to show the curves – but Archer’s apparent inability to locate his clothes most days means equal opportunity eye candy. And there you have it, a TV show where any given episode has more nudity, sex, gunfire and mommy issues than several 007 features put together. And much more fun. Did I forget to say it’s animated?
Season 3 of this anachronistic and hilarious spy spoof is coming our way in just a few weeks, but in the meantime, you can settle in with Season 2, just released on DVD (or Seasons 1 and 2 both now on Blu-ray). Even better, invite a few friends over, because Archer is a TV series meant to be shared. When you’re not laughing out loud, you’ll want to nudge the person next to you as your jaw drops at some of the “holy shit snacks” that come out of Pam’s mouth.
During the 13 episodes of Season 2, Archer gets engaged, becomes a father, meets a movie star, deals with breast cancer, gambles away a fortune and tries to figure out who his father is, not necessarily in that order and not quite in the ways you might imagine. Along the way, like any good spy, he globe-trots, from Russia to Monte Carlo to Scandinavia to the Louisiana bayous. He manages to ingest a lot of Zima along the way and continually finds himself in compromising situations (yes, we’re talking about you, Anka).
Though I had watched the episodes as they were originally broadcast, I decided I owed it to you, yes, you, to marathon through the Season 2 DVDs just to be sure this series is as good as I remembered. Though it’s been nominated for and even won some awards, I had to be sure, right? And my conclusion?
Yes. It is. Good. Really good.
Not since the animated Tick has a hero been so quotable or made me this tingly (Spoon!). The aesthetic of the show is a mashup of different eras and technologies, giving the series contemporary aspects while borrowing elements from mid-20th Century Modern to create a feel that’s both fresh and oddly familiar.
For those of you who haven’t read his file, Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) works for ISIS, a vast organization run by his mother Mallory (Jessica Walter) – and that’s enough right there for major dysfunction. But there’s more! His ex-girlfriend, Lana (Aisha Tyler), is the agency’s top female agent, unlucky in love just enough to create massive trust issues. Add to this Malory’s glue-eating secretary Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer), the head (and I do mean, head) of HR Pam Poovey (Amber Nash), comptroller and sex addict Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell), the (perhaps) ex-Nazi head of research Doctor Krieger (Lucky Yates), and openly gay intelligence analyst Ray Gillette (creator Adam Reed), and well, you’ve got just about as dysfunctional an office setting as you can imagine. Throw in Archer’s childhood manny and now British valet, Woodhouse, and the dysfunction takes the concept of family as far off track as you could get.
All of the voice actors are exceptional, especially H. Jon Benjamin (nominated for an Emmy for this role), Aisha Tyler and Amber Nash. The animation is surprisingly expressive in some of Archer’s closeups, fitting for a character who seems to be gradually overcoming (at least some of) his narcissism and actually developing emotional complexity in Season 2. Big points for this production being made in Georgia and Missouri, proving there is intelligent life outside of Hollywood.
The 5 bonus features on the DVD are equally fun; my personal favorite is “Semper Fi,” but probably the most revealing is “ISIS infiltrates Comic-con.” All are worth your time. Watching the episodes again and enjoying the extra features was like revisiting that long-ago crush – you try to figure out why it’s been so long since you’ve spent time together. And now there’s no reason not to. Archer and Lana can be sitting right on your shelf, just waiting to hang out with you. And if the previews are any indicator, Season 3 is going to keep the long winter hot: Archer drunk and slathered in every bodily fluid there is (his words, not mine, I swear). What? Is it so wrong to have a little man crush on a cartoon character?
Season 3 premieres on FX starting January 19, 2012.
Joe Steiff teaches in the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago and is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking. He has contributed to and co-edited several books in the Open Court Popular Culture and Philosophy series, including Anime, Manga and Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Mission Accomplished or Mission Frakked Up?
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