by Bryan Scheidler
This past week was the “Big Game” for Nerds: San Diego Comic Con. By all rights, everyone who attended should be dead. Each day, attendees are faced with an endless onslaught of things that could incapacitate even the biggest nerd. Exhaustion, dehydration, stampede, or the dreaded “Con Crud” easily wipes out the less committed. It is because of this daily onslaught that getting a few precious hours of sleep each night is invaluable. After day 2 at comic con, there was not a single thing on this planet that could keep me awake once I got back to my hotel – or so I thought. While setting up my army of devices to charge for the next day’s battle, I pulled up Netflix and threw on something I have seen a thousand times just to have something on in the background. My choice, FX’s Archer, would be my undoing. I am laying on the drama pretty thick here, but it’s for good reason. I have never once been able to turn off an episode of Archer part way through the episode. It doesn’t matter how many times I have seen that specific episode, if Archer is on, all productivity and rational thought escapes me.
If you haven’t seen this show, let me give you a quick introduction. Archer is an animated show from genius creator Adam Reed. Adam’s other writing credits include some of the greatest animated shows I have ever seen such as Frisky Dingo and Sea Lab 2021. In Archer, Adam brings us the world of Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), the World’s Most Dangerous Secret Agent.
As impressive as that sounds on its own, Archer is, in fact, insane. And everyone around him is insane. In addition to Archer you have Lana his partner and on again off again love interest (voiced by Aisha Tyler),
Cyril the bumbling accountant (voiced by Chris Parnell),
Cheryl Tunt the receptionist (voiced by Judy Greer),
Malory Archer the boss (voiced by Jessica Walter),
Ray Gillete the off and on again field agent (voiced by Adam Reed),
Doctor Krieger a mad scientist (voiced by Lucky Yates)
and my personal favorite Pam Poovey the HR department (voiced by Amber Nash).
It’s these amazing comic actors that make Archer one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. It’s for this reason and more, it is my Netflix drug of choice.
The perfect casting is a prime example of how important selecting the right actors is to a show. It doesn’t matter how good or funny the writing is, if the execution is off, the entire show will fall flat. Of course, it helps that the cast is basically playing exaggerated (sometimes much exaggerated) versions of themselves. While I have always been a fan of H. Jon Benjamin (ever since his days on the show Doctor Katz), it is Amber Nash who steals the show. To give you an idea of the range Amber masters in Archer, her character (Pam) is a gentle-yet-sarcastic HR manager who, on her off time, participates in Yakuza street drift racing, bare knuckle fights, cock-fighting with Siamese fighting fish, and more. And Pam is the lens through which the audience views the show. When the rest of the cast finds themselves embroiled in absurd situations, she is most often the one who points out the insanity.
Beyond the talented cast, what makes this show so amazing is that Adam Reed and the other creators are inventive and willing to take risks. The first four seasons were very much a spy vs. spy world poking fun at all the common spy tropes. If it happened to James Bond, you can bet that it was lampooned on Archer. Season 5 took a drastic turn and we saw our crazy heroes hunted by the government and resort to becoming drug dealers. While some were concerned by this move, I think season 5 was, by far, some of the best writing the show had ever seen. Season 6 brought the team back to the spy game; this time though, they were working for the number one government spy – Christian Slater. Christian Slater was a repeat guest on the show as himself (more or less) along with other actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves including Burt Reynolds, Kenny Loggins, and Anthony Bourdain. The guest stars are yet another reason why this show has been the best thing on TV for the last six years. Archer is currently in production for their next season and it can’t get here soon enough. When asked about it at the Archer Comic Con Panel, Adam Reed said, “We are a little behind schedule because we are refreshing Archer for season 7.” The season premiere will most likely hit in early 2016 but at the moment that feels so far away. The only comfort I have is that I can watch seasons 1-5 (and soon 6) on Netflix anytime I want.