Archer (TV series)
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (May 2017)|
Intertitle from Seasons 1–4 and 6–7
|Also known as||
|Created by||Adam Reed|
|Theme music composer||
|Opening theme||"Archer Theme Song"|
|Ending theme||"The Killer"|
|Composer(s)||J. G. Thirlwell|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||93 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||19–24 minutes|
|Picture format||16:9 HDTV|
|Original release||September 17, 2009– present|
Archer is an American adult animated spy sitcom created by Adam Reed for the FX network. The series focuses on the life and exploits of Sterling Archer, the self-proclaimed '"world's greatest secret agent." The first four seasons focus on him working for the fictional spy agency ISIS, under his mother, Malory. Since then, they have become drug dealers, arms dealers, CIA agents, private investigators and most recently, post-World War II detectives with the first episode taking place in 1947. The series premiered on September 17, 2009. On June 21, 2016, FX renewed the series for an eighth, ninth, and tenth season, each to consist of eight episodes. The eighth season premiered on April 5, 2017, with the series moving to sister network FXX.
Reed indicated in September 2016 that he planned to end the series after the tenth season.
- 1 Premise
- 2 Episodes
- 3 Cast and characters
- 4 Production
- 5 Relation to other media
- 6 Reception
- 7 Home release
- 8 Books
- 9 Cherlene (Songs from the Series Archer)
- 10 Awards and honors
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Working for the "International Secret Intelligence Service" (ISIS) in New York City, suave, profoundly self-centered master spy Sterling Archer deals with global espionage, as well as his domineering, emotionally-distant mother and boss Malory Archer, fellow ISIS agent and ex-girlfriend Lana Kane, and ISIS employees Ray Gillette, Cyril Figgis, Pam Poovey, Cheryl Tunt, and Doctor Algernop Krieger.
Season 5: Archer Vice
A season-long arc took place in the fifth season, re-configuring the show from a spy series to a Miami Vice-style satire of the drug industry. To reflect this, the season was titled Archer Vice. When ISIS is disbanded by the U.S. government, its employees take a stockpile of cocaine that they acquired from previous operations and form a drug cartel to fund their retirements. Meanwhile, Cheryl decides to launch a new career as a country singer.
In the sixth season, the series returned to the spy format, and essentially "unrebooted" the characters back to their personalities before the fifth season. However, some elements from the fifth season had a big impact on the series going forward, including new character introductions (Lana Kane giving birth to her daughter, and Christian Slater playing a fictional version of himself), and the revelation of the CIA's involvement in some of the events that happened during Archer Vice. The characters now started working as contractors for the CIA.
The seventh season once again retooled the show, after the characters were fired from the CIA and blacklisted from espionage in the sixth-season finale following failure during a mission. They move to Los Angeles, California to start their own private detective agency, known as The Figgis Agency (named after character Cyril Figgis). The show once again took on a serialized, season-long story arc.
Season 8: Archer Dreamland
This season resolves the cliffhanger from last season, revealing that Archer has been in a coma for three months, but finds himself trapped in a 1940s noir-esque setting called Dreamland.
Season 9: Archer Danger Island
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|1||10||September 17, 2009||March 18, 2010||FX|
|2||13||January 27, 2011||April 21, 2011|
|3||13||September 15, 2011||March 22, 2012|
|4||13||January 17, 2013||April 11, 2013|
|5||13||January 13, 2014||April 21, 2014|
|6||13||January 8, 2015||April 2, 2015|
|7||10||March 31, 2016||June 2, 2016|
|8||8||April 5, 2017||May 24, 2017||FXX|
Cast and characters
- Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is considered the world's most dangerous secret agent, comparable to James Bond, Don Draper, and Charlie Sheen. He is extremely egotistical and self-involved, and usually doesn't take any situation seriously. Though he shows proficiency in stereotypical spy skills, such as weapons, driving, and martial arts, his primary interest in the job is the opportunity to enjoy a jet-setting lifestyle full of sex, alcohol, thrills, lacrosse, fast cars, designer clothing, and spy gadgets. His obsessions include Burt Reynolds, Kenny Loggins, and big cats such as tigers and ocelots. Archer's favorite catch-phrases include the exclamation "Phrasing!" (in response to inadvertent sexual innuendo), "Do you not?" (when questioned about unusual interests or habits, such as having his shoes custom-made), "I had something for this" (when he is searching his mind for a pun or an insulting nickname), and "Danger Zone", said in expected situations. Despite his gross negligence, incompetence, and willful ignorance, Archer is usually successful to some degree in most of his endeavors, though sometimes due to blind luck. He possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and literature, and peppers his speech with esoteric references, helping to drive the show's motif of comedic anachronism. His biggest fears are, in order of severity: alligators, crocodiles, brain aneurysms, the Bermuda Triangle, cyborgs and Predator.
- Cheryl Tunt (voiced by Judy Greer), also known as Carol and various other similar first names, is Malory's secretary. In the pilot episode, she was portrayed as a lovesick, ditzy secretary frequently taken advantage of by Sterling, but that side of her character was gradually phased out as her behavior became more and more unhinged; she has pyromaniacal and masochistic tendencies, eats an office plant (which closely resembles aloe vera, which she may be eating for herbal medicinal reasons), and is often sniffing or swallowing rubber cement. Despite her insanity, she sometimes demonstrates surprising insight into the other characters' motivations and personal feelings. She is also revealed to be an heiress with a fortune of half a billion dollars. During Season 5, Cheryl allowed Archer and the others to use her mansion as their main headquarters after the dismantling of ISIS, during which time, Cheryl began a country music career, adopting the name "Cherlene". Her singing voice during Archer Vice was provided by Jessy Lynn Martens.
- Pam Poovey (voiced by Amber Nash) is ISIS's human resources director. A gossipy, crude, impulsive hedonist raised on a dairy farm, she is subject to many jokes regarding her weight and 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 skilled drift car racer and bare-knuckle fighter, with over a dozen kills under her belt (represented on her back, along with the third stanza of Lord Byron's poem "The Destruction of Sennacherib" in tattoo form). Among her other interests and talents are graffiti, directing amateur tentacle porn, putting billiard balls in her mouth, and cockfighting with Siamese fighting fish. Archer and Pam have sex several times and Archer claims it's the best sex he's ever had. Pam has also had sexual encounters with Lana and Malory, and frequently makes highly sexual comments about both men and women. Originally ISIS's HR representative, she eventually convinced Malory to approve her for field work. During season 5, Archer Vice, she developed an ever-present cocaine addiction, ingesting the drug in both conventional and highly creative ways. As a result, her weight during the season is significantly lower, although it returns to normal in the following seasons, suggesting that she has overcome her addiction.
- Cyril Figgis (voiced by 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 Sterling (and her later discovering Cyril was frequently cheating on her), she refused to call Cyril her boyfriend or say she loved him. Later seasons see him struggling with alleged sex addiction and becoming an active field agent, with generally (though not consistently) disastrous results. Cyril has an abnormally large penis, a debilitating inferiority complex with Sterling, and has had sex with most of the main female characters. In season 5, episode 1 Archer Vice: White Elephant, Cyril reveals that aside from being comptroller to ISIS, he is also a defense attorney. As of Season 7, Cyril officially owns and operates "The Figgis Agency", and allows Archer and the others to work under him as private investigators after they were fired and blacklisted by the CIA at the conclusion of Season 6.
- Lana Kane (voiced by Aisha Tyler) is the top female agent at ISIS. She is a competent and deadly agent but is constantly frustrated that she is treated as the number two ISIS field agent behind Sterling, as his mother runs the agency. She has dated Archer in the past and they have had an on again-off again relationship before dating Cyril. The fact that she is 6 ft (1.8 m) 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 Sterling is his daughter, conceived through in-vitro fertilization after she used one of Sterling's sperm samples without his knowledge or consent. Lana almost always wears one-piece, cowl-neck dresses, thigh-high stiletto boots, and a shoulder holster which carries her twin TEC-9 guns. Due to various circumstances, Lana is often forced into desperate situations wearing only her underwear.
- Malory Archer (voiced by Jessica Walter) is Sterling Archer's mother and the head of ISIS. A self-centered, greedy alcoholic and former black-ops agent, she regularly hatches half-baked, frequently disastrous schemes to use the agency's resources and personnel for her own personal gain. While often cunning and usually worldly, she is also a compulsive micromanager, blatantly manipulative, and constantly belittles her employees and anyone she sees as her inferior (almost everyone). Malory was an absentee mother to Archer, due in part to her career in espionage, leaving him to be raised by his valet, Woodhouse, or in the care of various boarding schools. Malory sheds brief light on her introduction to black ops through cultural reference in season 2, episode 7, Movie Star. Here, Malory states that she once was a burgeoning actress who was recruited by William (“Wild Bill”) J. Donovan. “Wild Bill” is credited with being the “Father of American Intelligence,” as chief to the Office of Strategic Services. This government faction is considered as the precursor to Central Intelligence Agency. What little parenting she did do typically involved some form of psychological manipulation or strange punishment such as spanking Sterling with a ping pong paddle, taking all of his Halloween candy as his bet in a drunken game of Blackjack, and stealing his brand new bike (and later a new car) and selling it to someone else to "teach him a lesson." Despite her highly abrasive nature, Malory does show genuine concern for Sterling and sometimes Lana whenever presented with the likelihood of one of them being killed or seriously harmed, though she immediately reverts to her normal self-centered personality after they are confirmed to be alive. Malory is also obsessed with staying thin, and when her infant grandchild, Abbiejean, is left in her care in Season 6, she also attempts make the baby thin—constantly making fat jokes at the baby's expense and only feeding her ice cubes. She also has had and currently has sexual/romantic encounters and relationships with important characters such as Burt Reynolds; bounty hunter Rip Riley; head of the KGB, Nikolai Jakov (see below); the (fictional) Italian Prime Minister; a high-ranking Catholic Cardinal; and Len Trexler, head of rival spy agency ODIN (see below.)
- Algernop Krieger (voiced by Lucky Yates) is the head of the ISIS applied research department. He spends most of his time and money working on projects to facilitate his kinky sexual fantasies or on bizarre, Dr. Moreau-esque experiments. He has had at least two iterations of a holographic, anime-style girlfriend/fiancé named Mitsuko Miyazumi, and has developed the technology to turn human beings into cyborgs. It is discovered that he is possibly a clone of Adolf Hitler, being one of the "Boys from Brazil", but there is some ambiguity to his status as a Hitler clone, as he points out in the season 6 finale that he doesn't actually resemble Adolf Hitler. Krieger's credentials are often called into question, and he admits that he's not really a doctor. However, he is often as competent as the show needs him to be, alternating between being ingenious and horribly inept. It is furthermore suggested that the character to emerge at the end of season 5 and going forward into season 6 is not season 1-4 Krieger, but that one of the clones with whom he [fatally] tangles in the season finale has substituted him. A recurring gag is the appearance of different Rush album art on his van in each episode where it is seen.
Adam Reed is the creator of Archer. The inspiration for the series 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". Reed conceived the show's concept while walking along the Vía de la Plata in 2008. He pitched his idea to FX, which accepted it and ordered six episodes, along with an additional four scripts. Originally, FX wanted to pair Archer with another FX comedy series, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in September 2009. However, during the starting phases of the series, producing one episode of Archer took "almost a whole month", meaning that it became "impossible" to air all of Archer's episodes at the time. FX decided to delay the official premiere of the series, but opted to air the pilot episode as a special sneak peek in September after an episode of Sunny, set up as a "programming stunt ... purely for the numbers and aimed at seeing who sticks around to watch". The series made its official debut on January 14, 2010.
While developing the sixth season, the show's producers decided to end the use of the term "ISIS" (which, in the series, was an acronym for "International Secret Intelligence Service", the fictional spy agency the characters worked for in seasons 1-4) due to its growing association with the Islamist terrorist organization of the same initials. Archer merchandise with the ISIS initials was also withdrawn from sale.
While developing the seventh season, the creative team took inspiration from Magnum, P.I. while developing the stories, and they also used the series' location switch from New York City to Los Angeles to change the series from the 1960s-aesthetic of prior seasons forward to 1970s-style, which included new clothing for the main characters. The seventh season also marked the first time the show had a composer, J. G. Thirlwell, scoring the soundtrack for the season, a notable difference from previous seasons, in which only the opening and ending music themes were made by composers (Scott Sims and Mel Young, respectively), and the episodes used stock library music.
The seventh season was originally announced to contain 13 episodes, but creator Adam Reed later stated in an interview that the season would be a "10-episode story". Before season seven premiered, the show was announced to be moved to sister network FXX to be paired with a new action-buddy comedy series, Cassius and Clay. However, when Cassius and Clay was cancelled before it started airing, Archer stayed on FX for season seven. The move to FXX occurred for the series' eighth season, which premiered on April 5, 2017.
in September 2016, Reed stated that he intends to end the series after its tenth season, saying, "The plan is to end Archer after season 10... I was gonna end it after 8, but then I had sort of a brain explosion of a way that I could do three more seasons and really keep my interest up. So the three seasons that are coming up are gonna be pretty different from what has come before, and they’re gonna be different from each other."
In an interview before season five, show producer and art director Neil Holman stated that "An average episode takes about eleven weeks from the moment we get a script to the moment we turn it in. We generally have four episodes in production at a time in staggered phases, so we end up doing 13 episodes in 10 months." In an interview before season 6, show creator and main writer Adam Reed stated that each episode takes five weeks to make, from start to finish.
The show is mostly animated by Reed's Floyd County Productions in Atlanta, Georgia, while 3D background models are made by Trinity Animation in Kansas City, Missouri. 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 and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
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. The character drawings are based on Atlanta-area models; they coincidentally resemble some of the voice actors in the series. As Chad Hurd, the lead character designer for the series, noted, the end result resembles "a 1960s comic book come to life." Television critics have also compared the show's overall visual style to that of the drama series Mad Men, and noted that lead character Sterling Archer bears a substantial resemblance to Mad Men protagonist Don Draper. Characters in the show have made references to this resemblance on several occasions. The artwork is also similar to the original Jonny Quest cartoon series penned by artist Doug Wildey in the 1960s.
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". 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, and can be compared to Reed's former shows for Adult Swim, Frisky Dingo and Sealab 2021. Driven by rapid-fire dialogue and interaction-based drama, the series is "stuff[ed]...with pop-culture references" and features an anachronistic style, using fashion from the early 1960s, cars and vans from the 1970s, a mix of 1980s-era and modern technology, and a political status quo in which "the Cold War never ended".
Relation to other media
Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross, and Judy Greer previously starred in the critically acclaimed Fox sitcom 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". 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", Walter is the wealth-wielding alcoholic 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). 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." In a more limited role, Gary Cole portrays a CIA agent in both series.
Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo
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.
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). In "Midnight Ron", the 4th episode in Season 4, Archer's exclamation "Aw, Fat Mike, too?" upon hearing that Fat Mike had been arrested, is a line uttered by Xander Crews on hearing he had just killed Fat Mike, an Xtacle in the show Frisky Dingo. The look of the character of Xander Crews was in many ways a prototype for Archer. "The Double Deuce", episode 5 from Season 2 of Archer includes another nod to Frisky Dingo where Cody 2 appears in the tontine bracket under Lana. Luckily for the staff at ISIS, Cody 2 died shortly after his birth in Frisky Dingo. "Reignition Sequence", episode 10 from Season 6 of Archer includes another nod to Frisky Dingo where Cheryl says "In the immortal words of Wendell Stamps: that's going in the slideshow!" Wendell Stamps being a character that would reference his slideshow that is never seen by the viewer.
The season 4 finale "Sea Tunt: Part II" includes a nod to Sealab 2021, featuring an underwater research laboratory with an insane commander named Captain Murphy. Sealab 2021 was also set in an underwater research laboratory with an insane commander named Captain Murphy. The Archer character bore a significant resemblance to the Sealab 2021 character both in appearance and mannerisms. He is later killed by an off-brand soda machine, an event that also occurred on Sealab 2021. As a tribute to Harry Goz, the actor who played Captain Murphy in Sealab 2021 and who died in 2003, the soda machine dispenses "Goz" soda in the Archer episode.
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. 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. 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. Mirman reprises his role in season 8.
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Archer has received critical acclaim. It has been called "jaw-droppingly funny and brilliantly voice-acted", with a "wonderful, perverted world, rich with running gags and meta comedy", and that it "succeeds where so many of the snarky animated series tend to fail".
|1||92% (13 reviews)||78/100 (20 reviews)|
|2||100% (9 reviews)||88/100 (12 reviews)|
|3||100% (6 reviews)||75/100 (6 reviews)|
|4||93% (15 reviews)||79/100 (6 reviews)|
|5||100% (10 reviews)||No score|
|6||100% (8 reviews)||78/100 (5 reviews)|
|7||100% (5 reviews)||78/100 (6 reviews)|
|8||88% (8 reviews)||72/100 (6 reviews)|
|Season||Region 1 release date||Region 2 release date||Region 4 release date||Episode count||Discs||Additional content|
|1||DVD: December 28, 2010
Blu-ray: December 27, 2011
|May 2, 2011||March 2, 2011||10||2||"Unaired Pilot"
Unaired Network Promo
Six-part "Making of Archer"
Pilot episodes of The League and Louie
|2||December 27, 2011||May 7, 2012||February 29, 2012||13||2||Archersaurus - Self Extinction
L'espion Mal Fait
ISIS infiltrates Comic-con
|3||January 8, 2013||July 1, 2013||March 13, 2013||13||2||Commentaries on episodes El Contador, Drift Problem, and Lo Scandalo
Extended version of episode Heart of Archness
Answering Machine Messages
Cooking with Archer
Gator 2 trailer
|4||January 7, 2014||February 5, 2014||13||2||Fisherman's Daughter
|5||January 6, 2015||February 2, 2015 ||13||2||Midnight Blues Music Video by Cheryl Tunt
Cherlene Tunt Interview on Wake Up Country
Old MacDonald Pam Poovey Had a Farm, The Musical
|6||March 29, 2016||February 17, 2016 ||13||2||Conan & Archer Battle Russian Mobsters
Cooking with Milton
Each season of the series, except for season 1, has received a DVD and Blu-ray release on the same date, in region 1. Season 1 was originally released only on DVD, but the Blu-ray was released later, on the same date as season 2's DVD and Blu-ray.
How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written (ISBN 9780062066312), a book with information on how to get a life like Sterling Archer, the series' main character, was released on January 17, 2012.
A second book, The Art of Archer, was released on December 6, 2016, and features "240 pages of concept art, exclusive interviews, script excerpts and the never-before-released original pitch for the series".
Cherlene (Songs from the Series Archer)
In 2014, after season 5 was finished, an album filled with country songs recorded by Cheryl Tunt (as Cherlene, with singing voiced by Jessy Lynn Martens) was recorded and released, including many of the songs featured throughout season 5 (including a cover of "Danger Zone", featuring Kenny Loggins).
Awards and honors
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Creator Adam Reed and his collaborators stuff every half-hour with pop-culture references that zip by as quickly as Archer’s snow-mobile did this evening.
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