Archer (TV series)
|Created by||Adam Reed|
|Theme music composer||Scott Sims
|Opening theme||Archer Theme Song|
|Ending theme||The Killer|
|Composer(s)||J. G. Thirlwell
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||85 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Adam Reed
Casey Willis (co-executive producer)
|Running time||19–21 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Floyd County Productions
FX Productions (2009–15)
|Original network||FX (Seasons 1–7)
FXX (Season 8)
|Picture format||16:9 HDTV|
|Original release||Pilot sneak peek:
September 17, 2009
January 14, 2010 – present
Archer is an American adult animated spy comedy television series, created by Adam Reed for the FX network. The pilot episode of the series aired as a sneak peek on September 17, 2009, before the show made its official debut on January 14, 2010. On June 21, 2016, FX renewed the series for an eighth, ninth, and tenth season, each to consist of eight episodes. It was announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 that Season 8 will premiere in January 2017, but the series is moving to FX’s sister network, FXX.
Originally 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 Dr. Algernop Krieger.
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.
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 Macintosh XL, 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.
Archer officially premiered on FX on January 14, 2010. The show's seventh season, which premiered on March 31, 2016, 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 7 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 7. The move to FXX will again be attempted for the series' 8th season, slated to premiere in January 2017.
Cast and characters
- Sterling Malory Archer (referred to as simply "Archer" by most other characters but not his mother who calls him Sterling) (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), is considered the world's most dangerous secret agent, comparable to James Bond. 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!" (which he utters when someone inadvertently says something that can be construed as sexual), "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.
- Lana Anthony Kane (voiced by Aisha Tyler) is the top female agent at ISIS. 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 Sterling, as his mother runs the agency. 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. 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 alcoholic, she regularly hatches half-baked and invariably disastrous schemes to use the agency's resources to her own personal advantage. She is a compulsive micromanager, and constantly belittles all of the employees at the agency. Malory was an absentee mother for Archer much of the time, leaving him to be raised by his valet, Woodhouse, or in the care of various boarding schools. What little parenting she did typically resulted in some form of negative reinforcement such as spanking Sterling with a wooden spoon, taking all of his Halloween candy as his bet for a 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, Mallory does show genuine remorse for Sterling whenever she is presented with the likelihood of him being killed, though she immediately reverts to her normal self-centered personality after he is confirmed to be alive.
- 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 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. Cyril has an abnormally large penis, a debilitating inferiority complex with Sterling, and has had sex with all the main female characters. 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.
- Cheryl Tunt (voiced by Judy Greer, speaking; Jessy Lynn Martens, singing, Archer Vice) 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, and is often sniffing or swallowing rubber cement. 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".
- Pamela "Pam" Poovey (voiced by Amber Nash) is ISIS's human resources director. A gossipy, impulsive hedonist and subject 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, 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 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 creative ways. As a result, her weight during the season is significantly lower, although it returns to normal in season 6.
- Doctor Algernop Krieger (voiced by 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 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 clone, as he points out in the season 6 finale that he doesn't actually look like 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.
- Raymond Q. "Ray" Gillette (voiced by Adam Reed) is an openly gay intelligence analyst/field agent and one of the few competent members of ISIS. Along with Lana, he often serves as the voice of reason on the show. Ray appeared only three times in season 1, becoming a regular character in season 2. Raised in a trailer park in Ferlin, West Virginia, he was once an ordained minister, as well as an Olympic bronze medalist in the giant slalom. Malory frequently emasculates him, often calling him "Ms. Gillette". The show has made a running gag of Ray sustaining serious injuries including being shot in the abdomen, twice injuring one of his eyes, being repeatedly crippled and wheelchair-bound, and losing his right hand. Krieger equips Ray with bionic legs, feet, and a (dark skinned) right hand as a result of his various injuries, turning him into a cyborg.
- Woodhouse (voiced by George Coe [2009–2015]; 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 Sterling, in part due to Sterling's resemblance to a pilot friend of his from World War I upon whom Woodhouse had an unrequited crush. He is an old acquaintance of Malory and one of the few people she (generally) treats respectfully. As of Season 6, Woodhouse has mysteriously gone missing, which is acknowledged by the other characters.
- Maj. Nikolai Jakov (voiced by Peter Newman) is the head of the KGB and one of Malory Archer's (numerous) lovers. He is killed by Barry Dylan in season 3 after Barry usurps him as head of the KGB. Like most of Malory's lovers, he is possibly Sterling Archer's biological father.
- Barry Dylan (voiced by Dave Willis) is initially a top agent at ISIS's rival agency, ODIN. Like Sterling Archer, he is a highly adept field agent, though while ODIN is portrayed as the competent and professional agency, Barry, himself, is constantly the hapless victim of Sterling's chicanery. Sterling twice allows Barry to fall from considerable heights, the first time causing Barry to have pins inserted into his leg, the second time resulting in Barry being turned into a Terminator-like cyborg by the KGB. Barry has a peculiar habit of carrying on conversations with himself, referring to himself in the third person as both "Barry" and "Other Barry". After being turned into a cyborg at the end of season 2, Barry becomes obsessed with killing Sterling, though his efforts are always thwarted due to unforeseen circumstances. He eventually ends up married to Sterling's former fiance, Katya Kazanova. In season 6, Barry is incinerated in an explosion, and while his cybernetic skeleton survives, his ultimate fate is unknown. He returns in season 7, having kidnapped Malory in order to force Sterling and the rest of the group to help him in finding his birth mother.
- Katya Kazanova (voiced by Ona Grauer) is a former KGB agent who defected to ISIS after seeing a picture of Sterling and instantly falling in love with him. Upon meeting her, Sterling reciprocates her amorous feelings, and the two quickly decide to marry with Katya set to become an agent for ISIS. Barry Dylan crashes the wedding and Katya is killed when she falls from the terrace in an effort to save Sterling. Krieger later turns Katya into a cyborg and she enters into a relationship with Barry. She eventually dumps Barry and supplants him as head of the KGB.
- Ron Cadillac (voiced by Ron Leibman) is Malory's husband as of season 4. He is the owner of six Cadillac dealerships on the East Coast. In contrast to the antics of the staff at the spy agency, Ron is a relatively straight-laced and competent businessman who leads a life of leisure, trusting his managers and sales associates to run his dealerships. This is in contrast to Malory, who insists she can't trust anyone at ISIS to do anything, thus justifying her compulsive tendency to micromanage.
- Slater (voiced by Christian Slater) is a fictionalized version of the actor himself, a CIA operative who frequently calls on the services of ISIS to perform secret operations that the CIA deems too politically sensitive to do themselves. Such operations are usually in foreign countries controlled by dictatorial regimes.
- Len Trexler (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor) is the head of ODIN, the rival spy agency that constantly one-ups ISIS. He is a former lover of Malory's, and wishes to resume his relationship with her until Sterling and Krieger subject him to a series of shock treatments (in the style of A Clockwork Orange) designed to make him hate and fear Malory.
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.
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 1970's-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.
In an interview before season 5, 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. 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."
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).
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), 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.
In "Midnight Ron", the 4th episode in Season 4, Archer's exclamation "Aw, Fat Mike, too?" upon hearing 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 character of Xander Crews was in many ways a prototype for Archer
The character "Mr. Ford" from Frisky Dingo makes a few appearances, most notably "Legs" in episode 3 of season 4 and "Drift Problem" in episode 7, season 3. Ford even says his catchphrase "my ass is everywhere".
"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.
The character "Simone" appears in "Nellis" in episode 7, season 6 telling Archer that he doesn't have "kick pants" (a reference to Xander Crews wearing the bottom half of an Xtacles suit).
"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.
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. 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.
|One||92% (13 reviews)||78/100 (20 reviews)|
|Two||100% (9 reviews)||88/100 (12 reviews)|
|Three||100% (6 reviews)||75/100 (6 reviews)|
|Four||94% (16 reviews)||79/100 (6 reviews)|
|Five||100% (10 reviews)||No score|
|Six||100% (8 reviews)||78/100 (5 reviews)|
|Seven||100% (5 reviews)||78/100 (6 reviews)|
|Season||Region 1 release date||Region 2 release date||Region 4 release date||Episode count||Discs||Additional content|
|Season 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
|Season 2||December 27, 2011||May 7, 2012||February 29, 2012||13||2||Archersaurus - Self Extinction
L'espion Mal Fait
ISIS infiltrates Comic-con
|Season 3||January 8, 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
|Season 4||January 7, 2014||February 5, 2014||13||2||Fisherman's Daughter
|Season 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
|Season 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.
Awards and nominations
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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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