In the first season of FX's irreverent and imaginative new series Archer, the Cold War is back, it's contemporary and it's a cartoon.
Revolving around the show's titular secret agent man whose suave appearance can't hide the fact that he's a buffoon, most episodes center on the daring (and frequently disastrous) missions undertaken by its cast of characters who all work for a hush-hush agency called ISIS.
And although we fear the naughty novelty evidenced during the one-note pilot dreamed up by creator Adam Reed will overstay its welcome -- given its SNL sketch style presentation that blends the style of Mad Men with the raunchiness of Austin Powers-- once Archer finds its rhythm, we can't help but laugh along during its ten episode campaign of shock and awe.
Set in an indeterminate time period that relishes in the look of '60s jet-setting spy adventures, the technology of today and a passion for over the top action movie sequences straight out of the '80s, Archer boasts a great vocal cast including Emmy nominee H. Jon Benjamin, Friends's Aisha Tyler, and Arrested Development's Jessica Walter, Judy Greer and Jeffrey Tambor.
Essentially, the bastard son of fictitious characters including 007 and George Bluth, Archer's existence seems stemmed from a wild night wherein James Bond had had a few too many shaken-not-stirred martinis, bypassed Moneypenny, and wound up shagging the ensemble cast of characters from TV's Arrested Development.
Likewise, part of the reason it works so well is because Reed understands that spoof shows grow just as old as family sitcoms so he's concocted a perfect “blendship” of the two. Specifically, Archer is at its best in its premiere season when it unfolds as though it's a dysfunctional family comedy coincidentally set in the world of international espionage, after learning that the agency head that Archer (Benjamin) takes orders from each and every day also happens to be his mother (Walter).
Using the distinct character types they embodied on Development as a jumping off point for exaggeration, Archer learns that his wildly promiscuous mother hasn't been completely honest with him about who his father may be with suspects ranging from a jazz drummer to a rival spy head (Tambor) to the head of the KGB.
With more on-the-job couplings than an average season of Grey's Anatomy, which makes sexual harassment filings with the HR department the ISIS version of a water cooler break from spy life, at times Reed's off-the-wall series is kinky enough to make Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall blush.
While it's obviously not for all tastes, honestly Archer is much more ingenious when Reed opts for fresher material instead of settling for one-liners that sound like they were found dumpster diving for discarded jokes outside the offices of Judd Apatow.
Moreover, Archer's fast-paced acerbic wit and willingness to venture far beyond the traditional genre lines to give us the unexpected is sure to keep daring viewers consistently entertained from episodes one to ten.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.