Archer (TV series)
|Created by||Adam Reed|
|Theme music composer||Scott Sims|
|Opening theme||Archer Theme Song|
|Ending theme||The Killer|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||75 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Adam Reed
Casey Willis (co-executive producer)
|Running time||19–21 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Floyd County Productions
|Original channel||FX (2010–2015)
|Picture format||16:9 HDTV|
|Original release||Pilot sneak peek:
September 17, 2009
January 14, 2010 – present
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. The first season premiered on January 14, 2010. The show completed airing its sixth season on April 2, 2015, and has been renewed for a seventh season, to consist of 13 episodes. 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". 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.
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 now ex-girlfriend (and fellow ISIS operative), Lana Kane; and his other ISIS co-workers (including fellow operative 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).
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will not see the organization and the term edited out, though Archer merchandise with the ISIS initials will be withdrawn from sale.
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. 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.
By the end of the season, the characters returned to their previous careers in espionage, no longer operating under the ISIS banner, but as operatives for the CIA.
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 January 14, 2010. As of the sixth season finale, aired April 2, 2015, there have been 75 episodes. A seventh season is expected to air in 2016.
- 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. Archer frequently quotes lines such as, "I swear, I had something for this," (when failing to come up with a sarcastic riposte or interjection) "Danger Zone," and "That is classic her." (referencing Malory's often selfish behavior)
- Lana Anthony Kane (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 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) 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 pyromaniacal 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").
- 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, putting billiard balls in her mouth, and cock-fighting with Siamese fighting fish. She eventually convinced Malory to approve her for field work. During the Archer Vice season, she developed an everpresent cocaine addiction, ingesting the drug not just through insufflation but in the form of whipped cream, body casts, and more. As a result, her weight during the season is significantly lower, although it returns to normal in the subsequent Season 6.
- Doctor Algernop 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". There is some ambiguity to his status as a clone, as he points out in the season six finale that he doesn't actually look like Adolf Hitler. 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. Malory frequently emasculates him, often calling him Ms. Gillette. 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 (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 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.
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, 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.
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 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". 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 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.
"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.
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.
The show has seen generally positive reviews, scoring a 78/100 on Metacritic for its first season, 88/100 for its second, 75/100 for its third, and 80/100 for its fourth. Entertainment Weekly called it a wittily raunchy spy spoof, 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." In 2010, Benjamin was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance. In 2012, the show was nominated for an Annie Award. In 2014, the show was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.
|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||May 2, 2011||March 2, 2011||December 27, 2011||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||May 7, 2012||February 29, 2012||December 27, 2011||13||2||Archersaurus - Self Extinction; Ask Archer; Semper Fi; L'espion Mal Fait; ISIS infiltrates Comic-con.|
|Season 3||January 8, 2013||March 13, 2013||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||February 5, 2014||January 7, 2014||13||2||Fisherman's Daughter; and Archer Live!|
|Season 5||January 6, 2015||January 6, 2015||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|
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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