Archer: Mole Hunt (series premiere)
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.