‘Archer’ returns to former glory with wit, grit

Show creator Adam Reed (who also plays Ray Gillette) is returning to the tried-and-true formula of "Archer's" previous seasons, with Jessica Walter (Mallory Archer) and H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer) delivering razor sharp wit. Edward Liu via Flickr Creative Commons

“Archer,” (2009-present) FX’s animated satirical comedy, has returned to its roots with its Jan. 8 premiere of season six. After one year of using the “Vice” plotline, the show has the gang back to work at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS).

Well, actually the main characters are now working as contractors for the CIA due to the real-world ISIS — a terrorist organization that has gained prominence and attention in the news during the show’s offseason. But, the workplace name change is neither here nor there for the show; what’s important is that “Archer” is back to its standard and glorious format.

The show follows the secret-agent life of main character Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), a world-class spy and narcissist. His numerous personal problems seem to stem mostly from his mother (and boss): the cold Malory Archer (Jessica Walter).

Archer’s colorful array of co-workers also include his no-nonsense ex-girlfriend, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler); the extremely vulgar head of HR, Pam Poovey (Amber Nash); the mad scientist who shares the DNA of Hitler, Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates) and several others.

Archer and his associates travel around the world on top-secret missions and attempt to save the day. The best way that the show can be described for newcomers is Charlie Sheen as “007: Dr. No” (1962).

The show’s humor is driven by lightning quick banter and Archer’s egotistical actions during high stakes situations. All of the characters are constantly yelling at each other, drinking heavily and muddling up their situation before miraculously saving the day. The show creates fantastic comedic harmony by mixing its extreme vulgarity and crudeness with its sharp, witty dialogue.

After mixed reviews of its fifth season, “Archer: Vice” (2014) — which veered away from the spy aspect of the show — season six has re-established the standard “Archer” formula and has already produced several stellar episodes. The first two episodes were extremely well written, and “Archer” seems to be back to the top form of its former seasons.

While many things on the show have reverted to their normal states — such as Pam gaining back weight after she stopped eating pounds of cocaine, and the return of Barry (Dave Willis), Archer’s cyborg nemesis —  this season looks to stay fresh by introducing the new character of Abbiejean Kane-Archer, or Baby A.J. for short. Baby A.J. is Lana’s infant daughter, who was revealed to also be Archer’s child at the end of season five. So far, the underlying story of the impulsive and immature Archer learning to become a father has been compounded in complexity by Archer’s increasingly complicated relationship with Lana. This has provided the show with excellent material and given it a platform to show growth for Archer’s character.

While the show generally appears to be returning to its previously fine form, the third episode of the season was a bit lackluster, and seemed to be slipping back into “Vice” territory. Some of the dialogue in this episode sounded as if they were parodying the show itself, cramming in slightly rehashed jokes with a minutely different context.

This delivery is not terrible for new viewers, but for people who have followed the show from the beginning, it could become repetitive. “Archer” has given viewers innumerable excellent catch phrases, but even the classics get old after hearing them quoted a hundred times.

While this season could crumble if creator Adam Reed tries too hard to solely return to the old “Archer” of seasons past, the show’s failure doesn’t seem likely. Given the strength of the first several episodes, the sixth season should be a return to the show’s former glory, satisfying the viewers’ needs for both classic formula and new innovation.


Given the strength of the first several episodes, “Archer”'s sixth season should be a return the show to its former glory, satisfying the viewers’ needs for both classic formula and new innovation.

4.5 stars