We all have our guilty pleasures, and one of mine is “Archer.” With its brilliant animations and a spot-on, snarky script, this show is ridiculous, raunchy, irreverent and””let’s be honest””completely hilarious. As soon as the retro-styled, 007-esque opening credits start rolling, I know I’m about to get just about everything I want from a comedy. And (confession) I don’t even like that many animated comedies; they tend to annoy me a bit. “Archer,” though, satisfies on so many different levels. The sixth season is currently in progress, and while I have yet to catch up, I think the show as a whole deserves some attention.
One of the things that makes “Archer” so great is its unflinching willingness to satirize itself. The show knows it’s nothing new: international spy organization sends agents all over the world, generally wreaking havoc as they accomplish their “missions.” SO original, right? But the show’s self-reflection makes it unique; with its group of incredibly screwed-up characters, “Archer” satirizes the spy-show trope.
Sterling Archer, our main character, serves as a James Bond-type field agent. He’s just as suave, just as much a womanizer and an alcoholic as Bond, but the show doesn’t even pretend that such flaws are OK. Instead, it brings them to the forefront, highlighting how incredibly messed up it is that such a guy wields such power.
Similarly, his mother Malory, in her capacity as head of the organization, is clearly a narcissistic megalomaniac who frequently uses her power to serve her own agendas.
These are only two of the show’s range of equally messed up characters, all of whom facilitate an examination of how incredibly flawed people can be. With their presence, the show intentionally undermines the glamor of the standard spy story, making it a refreshing take on the genre.
Another aspect of the show that really draws me in is its constant playfulness. “Archer” isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect or more than slightly inappropriate, which is refreshing. The fifth season, “Archer Vice,” was especially delightful with its ironic take on the drug industry. I mean, Pam’s transformation into a raving cocaine addict eating coke cupcakes made from the group’s stash was hilariously exaggerated””and that’s just one of many such moments. It’s that hyperbolic nature that makes the show’s satire so effective; it’s just so incredibly over-the-top that you can’t take it seriously.
As a show, “Archer” gives us the best of many worlds, and I think that’s what makes it so satisfying. For one thing, its animations are top-notch; plus, its animated nature somehow helps to satirize its own genre with a sort of stylized falseness. As a comedy, it walks the fine line between slapstick and sophistication; it’s a smart comedy with intentionally stupid moments. And, finally, it still gives us everything we want from a spy show.
It may satirize itself, but there are still plenty of gun-slinging cliffhanger moments to satisfy those of us who may have a slightly unhealthy addiction to such things. So perhaps it’s not such a guilty pleasure; there’s a lot to love about “Archer,” and it’s not just about the laughs.