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October 13, 2015

Archer: Mole Hunt (series premiere)

by Jonathan Toomey, posted Sep 18th 2009 8:38AM
Sterling Archer, as voiced by Jon Benjamin.(S01E01) "Oh god, with the curry again. This shirt smells likes Indira Gandhi's thong." - Archer

I should preface this review with something basic - I am in no way whatsoever an animation buff. I didn't watch a lot of cartoons as a kid and now that I'm a big boy, my Adult Swim knowledge stretches about as far as Aqua Teen Hunger Force with the occasional episode of Sealab 2021 tossed in. So... I guess I know a little. Enough to say that Sealab's mastermind Adam Reed definitely has a hit on his hands with his first stab at a half-hour show in FX's Archer.

So if you're looking for a treatise one why Archer's flash animation or cell-shaded stop motion freeze-frame whatever-it's-called is superior vs. parochial and clunky, then this is not the review for you. I'm basing my review on content alone and seeing as how Archer won't be back for its official premiere until January, we were very fortunately given more than enough to whet our appetites.

Since this was a last-minute schedule change for FX, they wisely overlapped the run-time of It's Always Sunny's premiere and slapped Archer right smack in the middle of the Sunny credits - whether you watched Sunny on your DVR or caught it live, there was no way you missed this comic gem.

Set in the world of spies and espionage, Archer has very little to do with spies and espionage and instead focuses on the relationships between the folks in the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) and their various neuroses. It's a wonder any of them could potentially have a hand in saving the world.

With an all-star voice cast led by Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, and Jessica Walter, we got a taste of what all these characters are about. Sterling Archer (Benjamin), codename Duchess and lead spy at ISIS, often reminded me of Don Draper - assuming Don was a spy and an even bigger womanizing a-hole than he already is. However, his seriously screwed up Oedipal complex seems to get in the way of just about everything. So much that so when confronted with the possibility of losing his overbearing mother Mallory, and ISIS top dog (voiced by Jessica Walter), his only response is to get half an erection.

The amount of characters fleshed out was fairly impressive. We know Cyril Figgis (Parnell) is nothing more than an accounting nerd and serves as merely the "right now guy" for Tyler's Lana Kane as she so obviously still pines after Archer. And we know that Archer's butler Woodhouse is probably about one more foolish request away from trying to kill Archer. And we know that Cheryl (Greer) will continue to put up with Archer calling her Carol even though sex with him (and ice cream apparently) makes her cry.

However, most importantly, the dialogue is funny. I found myself closing my eyes a few times during the show, in an attempt to ignore the animation, and just listen. It worked. The back and forth between Archer and Figgis and Archer and Lana were laugh out loud funny (stir-fry-day!) and I'm already thinking of ways to incorporate the phrase "baby town frolics" into a conversation.

So the dialogue is funny, the characters are enjoyable... any problems? I did find the plotting a bit of a stretch. The revelation of Krenshaw/Kremenski as an actual Russian spy came out of nowhere and at first, was a bit confusing. As Archer prepares for a return in January, the show wold be better-served to realize that people will stick with it not for its non-jaw-dropping twists but more for the snappy humor and quick one-liners. Oh and more scenes of naked flight attendants with ping-pong paddle shaped red marks on their buttocks.

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This show is so funny in its own odd way. I absolutely loved the first season and didn’t miss a single episode. For the second season I couldn’t watch is at it aired so I recorded them. Makes me glad that I’m an employee/subscriber of DISH Network because with the TV everywhere service I can stream my programming (both live and DVR) anywhere onto a variety of mobile devices (I usually use my Laptop or iPad). This has allowed me to start catching up on Archer on my lunch breaks. I love it and definitely recommend it to anyone who travels or lives an on-the-go lifestyle.

April 14 2011 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i loved frisky dingo and was sad when it was done after only 2 seasons, but the fact that they created this and it is 30 min instead of the typical adult swim 15 thrills me! The pilot was hilarious! Very dingo...very witty, sarcastic and funny. LOVE IT! Can't wait for more!

September 20 2009 at 2:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so I missed it.

September 18 2009 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The animation is not worth criticizing since this show is not about that. It's about dialogue and only needs to be compared to Frisky Dingo. If you didn't see, or don't get Dingo, than it might take a minute for you to catch on what these geniuses are doing. Many of the jokes are inside jokes between the creators. You might not be on the inside yet, but, like Dingo, stay tuned and the payoff will be glorious.

September 18 2009 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for info, missed this. Been watching for Archer after earlier teasers looked good..
"as far as Aqua Teen Hunger Force with the occasional episode of Sealab 2021 tossed in."
Throw in Squidbillies and the mentioned Venture Bros.

September 18 2009 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only thing I found funny was the erection joke, the dialogue was kind of grating to me. Most of the time Archer says something quickly the other character responds with "what?" then archer says "what?". That's probably going to happen a lot in the season.

To me it looked like a mix of Venture Bros. and Mad Men, but nowhere near as good as either.

But other than the stupid ass animation(it takes a month to do that? Really?), I like the look of the show.

September 18 2009 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know why, but just about anything with H. Jon Benjamin in it always seems hilarious. His presence implies the witty banter that was present in this show. Definitely check out "Home Movies" for two of the funniest characters he's ever done.

September 18 2009 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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