Archer (TV series)

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Archer 2010 Intertitle.png
Title card for Seasons 1 to 4 and Season 6.
Created by Adam Reed
Voices of
Theme music composer Scott Sims
Opening theme Archer Theme Song
Ending theme The Killer
Composer(s) Mel Young
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 73 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Adam Reed
Matt Thompson
  • Neal Holman
  • Eric Sims
  • Casey Willis
  • Bryan Fordney
Running time 19–21 minutes
Production company(s) Floyd County Productions
Radical Axis
FX Productions
Original channel FX
Picture format 16:9 HDTV
Original run Pilot sneak peek:
September 17, 2009 (2009-09-17)
January 14, 2010 – present
Related shows Bob's Burgers
Frisky Dingo
Sealab 2021
External links

Archer is an American adult animated television series created by Adam Reed for the FX network. A preview of the series aired on September 17, 2009.[1] The first season premiered on January 14, 2010.[2] The show has been renewed for a sixth and seventh season, each consisting of 13 episodes[citation needed]. The show carries a TV-MA rating.

The inspiration for Archer came to Reed while in a cafe in Salamanca, Spain. Finding himself unable to approach a beautiful woman seated nearby, Reed conjured up the idea of a spy who "would have a perfect line".[3] Reed conceived the show's concept while walking along the Vía de la Plata in 2008.[4] He pitched his idea to FX, which accepted it and ordered six episodes, along with an additional four scripts.[5]



Set at ISIS, the International Secret Intelligence Service in New York City, suave and profoundly self-centered master spy Sterling Archer deals with global espionage; his domineering, emotionally distant mother and boss, Malory Archer; his ex-girlfriend (and fellow ISIS agent), Lana Kane; and his other ISIS co-workers (including fellow agent Ray Gillette, accountant Cyril Figgis, Human Resources Director Pam Poovey, dimwitted secretary Cheryl Tunt, and Applied Research head Doctor Krieger); as well as a code name: "Duchess" (after his mother's deceased Afghan Hound).[6]

For the sixth season, show creator Adam Reed, along with executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis, made the decision with FX to end the use of the 'ISIS' term within the series and merge the organization within the CIA; the decision was made due to many news organizations referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria organization by the 'ISIS' acronym and to nullify any attempt to connect the series to it. Past episodes will not see the organization and the term edited out, though Archer merchandise with the ISIS initials will be withdrawn from sale.[7]

Archer Vice[edit]

archer written in white with the word Vice written underneath in pink
Title card for Archer Vice.
Main article: Archer (season 5)

A season-long arc took place in the fifth season, reconfiguring the show from a spy series to a Miami Vice-style satire of the drug industry. To reflect this, the show's title was changed to "Archer Vice." When ISIS is disbanded by the U.S. government, its former employees take note of a hidden stockpile of cocaine that the agency accumulated from previous operations. They establish a new headquarters in Cheryl Tunt's manor and form a drug cartel, before heading south to sell the cocaine to fund their retirements.[8] Cheryl, who is already extremely wealthy, instead decides to launch a new career as a country singer. Along the way, the group attracts the attention of rival gangs and face problems that arise from the characters adapting to their new roles.[9]

The series was "unrebooted" for Season 6, with the characters returning to their previous careers in espionage, though no longer operating under the ISIS banner, but rather as operatives for the CIA.

Time period[edit]

The show's time setting is comically anachronistic, deliberately mixing technologies, clothing styles and historical backdrops of different decades. The characters wear 1960s clothing and hairstyles, and many episodes feature references to the Soviet Union as a current nation, yet in the fourth-season episode "Once Bitten", Turkmenistan is an independent nation rather than a Soviet republic. It also contains references to Fidel Castro as the current leader of Cuba. The show frequently uses pop-culture references which are contemporary to the 2010s, yet character backstories place them at older events — such as Woodhouse's service in World War I, or Malory's involvement in various espionage events of World War II and the Cold War era — which would require them to be much older than they are if the show were actually set in the 21st century.

The technological sophistication within the series also varies, with characters using dated computer technology (e.g. reel-to-reel mainframe systems, desktop computers closely resembling the Apple Lisa, dot-matrix printers, and punch cards) and making surveillance recordings on cassette tape rather than digitally, but also using modern technologies such as GPS devices, the Internet, laser gunsights, cryptocurrencies, USB flash drives and cellular phones (season 6 saw the appearance of touchscreen devices and flip phones). This ambiguity is explicitly recognized in at least two episodes, in which characters are unable to answer when asked what year they think it is.[10]


The show's first season ran from January 14 to March 18, 2010. The second season premiered on January 27, 2011.[citation needed] The season 1 DVD was released in Region 1 on December 28, 2010. On March 29, 2011, it was announced that FX Network had ordered a 16-episode third season of Archer.[11] A three episode special dubbed "The Heart of Archness" was aired in September 2011. Ten new episodes from season 3 began airing on January 19, 2012.[12] On February 23, 2012, FX ordered a 13-episode fourth season of Archer[13] which premiered on January 17, 2013.[14] On February 27, 2013, FX renewed the show for a fifth season consisting of 13 episodes.[15] On March 6, 2014, FX renewed the show for a sixth and seventh season, each consisting of 13 episodes.[16]


  • Sterling Malory Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), codename: Duchess, is 184 lb (83 kg), 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), 36 years old, and is considered the world's most dangerous secret agent comparable to James Bond. He is extremely egotistical and self-involved. Though he shows proficiency in stereotypical spy skills—weapons, driving, martial arts—his only real interest in the job is the opportunity to enjoy a jet-setting lifestyle full of sex, alcohol, thrills, lacrosse, fast cars, spy gadgets and turtleneck sweaters.
  • Lana Anthony Kane (Aisha Tyler) is the top female agent at ISIS and Archer's ex-girlfriend. A beautiful black woman, she is a competent and deadly agent but is constantly frustrated that she is treated as the number two ISIS field agent behind Archer, as Archer's mother runs the agency. The fact that she is six feet tall with abnormally large hands is often a source of jokes at her expense. She is revealed to be pregnant at the end of Season 4, via a sperm donor. In the Season 5 finale, Lana gives birth to a daughter whom she reveals to Archer as his through in-vitro fertilization.
  • Malory Archer (Jessica Walter), Sterling Archer's mother and the head of ISIS, is a self-centered alcoholic who regularly hatches half-baked and invariably disastrous schemes to use the agency's resources to her own personal advantage. She has staged a false assassination attempt on a U.N. official to secure a lucrative government contract, called in fake threats to restaurants and air ships in order to get reservations and cabin berths, sent ISIS agents to blow up an oil pipeline in Turkmenistan, murdered the Prime Minister of Italy and tricked the ISIS staff into disposing of the body, assisted a coyote syndicate so she could use the reward money to redecorate her office, and attempted to salvage a hydrogen bomb from the ocean so she could ransom it back to the U.S. government.
  • Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) is the comptroller of ISIS. Cyril is portrayed as quite competent at his job, but is plagued by a number of personal issues. He was Lana Kane's love interest at the beginning of Season 1, but due to residual trust issues from her relationship with Archer (and her finding out Cyril was cheating on her repeatedly), she refused to call Cyril her boyfriend or say she loved him. Later seasons see him struggling with sex addiction and becoming an active field agent, with generally (though not consistently) disastrous results.
  • Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer, speaking; Jessy Lynn Martens, singing, Archer Vice[17]) also known as Carol, is Malory's secretary. In the pilot episode, she was portrayed as a lovesick, ditzy secretary frequently taken advantage of by Archer, but that side of her character was gradually phased out as her behavior became more and more unhinged: she has pyromaniac and sadomasochistic tendencies, eats an office plant and is often sniffing or swallowing rubber cement. She is also revealed to be an heiress with a fortune of half a billion dollars (it was one billion, but she had to split it with her "stupid gross brother Cecil").[18]
  • Pamela "Pam" Poovey (Amber Nash) is ISIS's human resources director. A gossipy hedonist who is the butt of many jokes regarding her weight, she serves as a foil for most of the members of the cast, often calling them out on their zany schemes. Though initially portrayed as being socially inept with few life skills, it is gradually revealed that she is a trained drift car racer and bare knuckle fighter, with over a dozen kills under her belt (represented on her back, along with the third verse of Lord Byron's poem "The Destruction of Sennacherib" in tattoo form). Among her other interests are graffiti, directing amateur tentacle porn, and cock-fighting with Siamese fighting fish. She eventually convinced Malory to approve her for field work.
  • Doctor Algernop[19] Krieger (Lucky Yates) is the head of the ISIS applied research department. He spends most of his time working on projects to facilitate his kinky sexual fantasies. He has had several holographic anime-style girlfriends, and has developed the technology to turn human beings into cyborgs. It is discovered he is possibly a clone of Adolf Hitler, being one of the "Boys from Brazil". He has an affinity for the band Rush and in one episode is shown to own a drum kit identical to that of Rush drummer Neil Peart.
  • Raymond Q. "Ray" Gillette (Adam Reed) is an openly gay intelligence analyst/field agent and one of the few competent members of ISIS. Along with Lana, he serves as the voice of reason on the show. Raised in an impoverished part of West Virginia, he was once an ordained minister, as well as an Olympic bronze medalist in the giant slalom. He spent most of Season 3 pretending to be paralyzed after being injured on a rescue mission, but then actually became paralyzed following a space shuttle crash at the end of the season. In Season 4, he receives bionic legs, allowing him to walk again, although they malfunction in various ways in subsequent episodes. In Season 6, a giant carnivorous plant bites Gillette's right hand off during a fight to the death. Gillette appeared only three times in Season 1, becoming a regular character from the second season onward.
  • Woodhouse (George Coe; Roy McCrery, flashbacks; Tom Kane, Archer Vice) is Sterling's long-suffering, heroin-addicted, English valet, who patiently accepts the unending stream of abuse hurled at him by Archer, in part due to Archer's resemblance to a pilot friend of his from World War I whom Woodhouse had an unrequited crush on. He is an old acquaintance of Malory and one of the few people she (generally) treats respectfully.


A man with his arms in chains being interrogated by an older man in a green uniform
The first scene in the "Archer" pilot episode.

Each episode of Archer takes several months to produce following the completion of the script. The show is mostly animated by Reed's Floyd County Productions in Atlanta, Georgia,[20] while 3D background models are made by Trinity Animation in Kansas City, Missouri.[21] Originally, Radical Axis housed the show's animation staff for Season 1, but the crew has since moved to their own facilities close to Emory University.

From left to right: Aisha Tyler, Adam Reed, H. Jon Benjamin, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer and Amber Nash at Comic-Con International in 2010

The artistic style of the series was designed to be as realistic as possible, so the character designers used as much reference material as they could.[22] The character drawings are based on Atlanta-area models; they coincidentally resemble some of the voice actors in the series.[23] As Chad Hurd, the lead character designer for the series, noted, the end result resembles "a 1960s comic book come to life."[24] Television critics have also compared the show's overall visual style to that of the drama series Mad Men,[25] and noted that lead character Sterling Archer bears a substantial resemblance to Mad Men's protagonist Don Draper.[26] The artwork is also similar to the original Jonny Quest cartoon series penned by artist Doug Wildey in the 1960s.[citation needed]

Stylistically, the show is a mix of several different time periods; show creator Adam Reed described it as "intentionally ill-defined", noting that the show "cherry-pick[ed] the best and easiest from several decades".[23] Numerous plot details arise from contemporary culture, such as affirmative action and sexual harassment complaints.

Archer is influenced by the early James Bond films, as well as OSS 117, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and The Pink Panther,[23] and can be compared to Reed's former shows for Adult Swim, Frisky Dingo and Sealab 2021.[22] Driven by rapid-fire dialogue[27] and interaction-based drama, the series is "stuff[ed]...with pop-culture references"[28] and features an anachronistic style, using fashion from the early 1960s, a mix of 1980s-era and modern technology and a political status quo in which "the Cold War never ended".[23]

Relation to other media[edit]

Arrested Development[edit]

Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross, and Judy Greer previously starred in the Fox critically acclaimed comedy series Arrested Development. Since both shows largely revolve around feuds and rivalry disputes between family members, Archer has been described by its creator, Adam Reed, as "James Bond meets Arrested Development."[29] There are also notable similarities between the characters played by Greer, Walter, and Tambor. Of particular note is Archer's relationship with his mother, which parallels somewhat Buster Bluth's relationship with Lucille Bluth, including the fact that both sons refer to her as "Mother" and are still under great parental influence as adults. Judy Greer's character is a "lovelorn secretary",[30] Walter is the wealth-wielding matriarch, and Tambor, while not the husband, is her long-lost love interest and possibly Sterling's biological father (which is similar to Tambor's secondary role on Arrested Development, Oscar).[31] Both shows also frequently use callbacks and catchphrases. Walter said in an interview that she became interested in Archer after her manager sent her the pilot script describing Malory as "Think Jessica Walter in Arrested Development."[32]

Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo[edit]

Just as some series voice-actors have worked together previously, notable people on the Archer animation and production teams, including Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, were also cooperatively involved in several shows for Adult Swim, most notably Frisky Dingo and Sealab 2021. All three shows share similar animation styles, which began with Sealab's cut-and-paste juxtaposition of vintage cartoon clips and modern dialogue, was modernized with computer animation for Frisky Dingo, and continues with essentially unchanged appearances for some characters in Archer. The show also shares numerous stylistic and character development similarities with its two predecessors.[22] One of the supporting characters from Frisky Dingo, Mr. Ford, makes a cameo appearance in "Drift Problem", the seventh episode of Season 3 of Archer, repeating one of his Frisky Dingo catchphrases ("My ass is everywhere."). Simone, Frisky Dingo's homeless prostitute/heroin addict, makes a cameo appearance in the seventh episode of Season 6 of Archer, telling Archer that he doesn't have "kick pants" (a reference to Xander Crews wearing the bottom half of an Xtacles suit).

Additionally, the season 4 finale (Sea Tunt: Part II) included a nod to Sealab 2021 (a show that series creator Adam Reed previously worked on[33]), featuring an underwater research laboratory with an insane commander named Captain Murphy (Sealab 2021 revolved around an underwater research laboratory with an insane commander named Captain Murphy). The character bore a heavy resemblance to the aforementioned Sealab 2021 character both in appearance and mannerisms. He is later killed by an off brand soda machine, which is the central plot of an episode of Sealab 2021. As a tribute to Harry Goz, the actor who played Captain Murphy in Sealab 2021 (who died in 2003), the soda machine dispenses Goz soda in the Archer episode.[34][35]

Bob's Burgers[edit]

Since 2011, H. Jon Benjamin has simultaneously voiced the title characters in both Archer and the Fox animated series Bob's Burgers. Since then, the show has referenced Bob's Burgers as well as guest-starred various cast members. Prior to Season 4, Bob's Burgers cast member Larry Murphy made a minor appearance in the Season 3 episode "The Limited" as Frank, one of Cheryl's train conductors.[36] During the season 4 premiere, Archer, after getting amnesia, is convinced he is Bob Belcher and works at the Bob's Burgers restaurant. The episode featured a cameo by John Roberts as Linda Belcher. The opening action sequence also paid homage to the David Cronenberg movie A History of Violence. Additionally, the two-part season finale of season four stars Bob's Burgers actors Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal; Mirman played Cheryl's philanthropic brother Cecil Tunt, while Schaal played Cecil's opinionated girlfriend.[37]


The show has seen positive reviews, scoring a 78/100 on Metacritic for its first season, 88/100 for its second, indicating "universal acclaim", 75/100 for its third, and 80/100 for its fourth.[38] Entertainment Weekly called it a wittily raunchy spy spoof,[39] and the Miami Herald referred to it as "a millenial (and very much R-rated) Get Smart that acerbically and hilariously plays on our post-9/11 fears that 'U.S. government intelligence' might be a grim oxymoron."[40] In 2010, Benjamin was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.[41] In 2012, the show was nominated for an Annie Award.[42] In 2014, the show was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.

Home release[edit]

DVD name Region 1 release date Region 2 release date Region 4 release date Blu-ray release date Episode count Discs Additional content
Season 1 December 28, 2010[43] May 2, 2011[44] March 2, 2011[45] December 27, 2011[46] 10 2 An allegedly unaired Archer pilot titled Archersaurus (essentially the first episode with Archer replaced by a human sized velociraptor), an unaired network promo, deleted scenes, a six-part "The Making of Archer" featurette, bonus episodes from The League and Louie.
Season 2 December 27, 2011[47] May 7, 2012[48] February 29, 2012[49] December 27, 2011[50] 13 2 Archersaurus - Self Extinction; Ask Archer; Semper Fi; L'espion Mal Fait; ISIS infiltrates Comic-con.
Season 3 January 8, 2013[51] March 13, 2013[52] January 8, 2013 13 2 Commentaries on "El Contador", "Drift Problem", and "Lo Scandalo "; extended version of "Heart of Archness"; Audio Book Fail; Cooking with Archer; and trailer for Gator 2
Season 4 January 7, 2014[53] February 5, 2014[54] January 7, 2014 13 2 Fisherman's Daughter; and Archer Live!
Season 5 January 6, 2015[55] January 6, 2015[55] 13 2 "Midnight Blues" Music Video by Cherlene Tunt; Cherlene Tunt Interview on Wake Up Country; Old MacDonald Pam Poovey Had a Farm, The Musical


How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written (ISBN 9780062066312) a how-to book "written" by Sterling Archer was released January 17, 2012.[56]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2010 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Voice-over Performance[57] H. Jon Benjamin for voice of Sterling Archer Nominated
NewNowNext Award Best Show You're Not Watching[58] Archer Won
2011 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Comedy Series Archer Nominated
2012 Comedy Awards Best Animated Comedy Series Archer Won
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Animated Series[59] Archer Won
2013 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Animated Series Archer Won
Annie Awards Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production Archer Nominated
2014 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Animated Series Archer Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Animated Program[60] For "Archer Vice: The Rules Of Extraction" Nominated


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  29. ^ Levin, Gary (July 16, 2009). "FX's 'Archer': Bond meets 'Arrested Development'". USA Today. Retrieved Sep 15, 2010. 
  30. ^ Lee, Allyssa (Jan 6, 2010). "Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter to Reunite on 'Archer'". TV Squad. Retrieved Sep 15, 2010. 
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  58. ^ "2012 NewNowNext Awards | Vote for Everything New, Now and Next in Pop Culture | Logo TV Awards". Retrieved 2014-05-29. 
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External links[edit]