It might be becoming a mission impossible to create a fresh, new animated comedy in the modern television world, but the creators of Archer have done just that. For those of you who are yet to discover FX Network‘s animated secret agent, Archer first hit American screens briefly in a pilot episode in late 2009, with a ten episode first series airing in January 2010. The show returned for an extended second season last month in the US, but at the time of writing this I can’t find any firm details as to when it’ll show in the UK.
I discovered the show early last year when it was being shown on the digital channel Fiver, and think it’s the funniest new show I’ve seen in a long time. The fast paced dialogue, stylish animation, and amusing plots grabbed me straightaway, and the episodes are very rewatchable. The writing is of a very high quality, and imbues everything with real character, giving a feeling that you’re watching real characters that are animated, rather than cartoon characters, as such. The setting seems to work well also, mixing old style ‘007’ gadgetry in a world that is a mix of the modern, but set against a backdrop where the world is still in a grip of the cold war with Russia and the KGB.
I strongly recommend you search this show out, wherever you can, or look out for the dvd release of Season 1 which rather bizarrely doesn’t reach these shores until later this year in May. The first few episodes of Season 2 that I’ve seen so far are all of a similarly strong pedigree, building well on the established characters, whilst also introducing a few new ones. There’s a brief YouTube clip from the show below this, and following on from that is a little character synopsis I’ve put together. I hope it’ll give you an intriguing glimpse into the wonderful world of Archer, and help you appreciate what really is a character driven comedy.
Sterling Archer – Secret Agent and son of ISIS CEO, Malory Archer. Given the codename “Duchess”, apparently at random by the Isis computer, although it just happens to be the name of his mother’s deceased dog. Previously in a relationship with top field agent, Lana Kane, Archer loves to live the high life, quite often creatively using his expense account to pay for “call girls”, champagne and casinos. Has an intense dislike of dogs (unless he’s drunk and it’s accompanied by a sexy babe), seems to enjoy bullying his long serving valet, Woodhouse, and has what can only be described as “mother issues”. Solves cases and saves the day more by luck than judgement. Voiced by H. Jon Benjamin.
Lana Kane – Top field agent at ISIS, Lana is smart, sassy, sexy, and ex-girlfriend of Archer. Now dating ISIS “Comptroller”, Cyril Figgis, their relationship shows many signs of trust issues, such as her inability to leave Cyril alone in her apartment, or maybe the tracking device she secretly injected him with. Although claiming to be completely over Archer, their constant bickering in the field on assignments suggests otherwise. Has a fiery temper, large hands, and a penchant for inter-racial porn. Voiced by Aisha Tyler.
Malory Archer – Former ‘Black Ops’ field agent, CEO of ISIS, and mother of Sterling Archer. Developed what most would consider an unhealthy love for her deceased dog, Duchess, and currently has what appears to be a conflict of interest by secretly having a long distance relationship with her opposite number at the KGB, Nicolai Jackov, participating in phone sex together. Never appears to have shown a very strong mother instinct, instead leaving family valet, Woodhouse, to look after the young Sterling Archer. Voiced by Jessica Walter.
Cyril Figgis – Cyril is the “Comptroller” at ISIS, and unlike Archer, does everything by the book. Currently dating field agent, Lana Kane, they love eating stir fry together on what has now been dubbed “Stir Friday”. Lana’s reasons for dating him sometimes seem unclear, being the complete opposite of Archer, but they may have something to do with the fact his mother died in a fire, and for the “12 reasons” that make the eyes light up of the female gossips in the office. Still worries that Lana may still be attracted to her former lover though. Voiced by Chris Parnell.
Cheryl/Carol – Cheryl works at ISIS as Malory’s secretary, but did have a brief fling with Archer in the past. Archer never remembers her name correctly though, always calling her “Carol”, which prompts her to change it legally to just that. Encouraged by this, she continually changes her name after this, to various other names beginning with “C”. Despite her clean appearance, has an obsession with violent sex acts. Could be called the office bitch, with regards to all the other female employees. Voiced by Judy Greer.
Pam – Pam is head of HR at ISIS, which naturally also makes her the head of gossip. This makes her very unpopular, and adds to her sexual frustration and loneliness. As such, she tends to take anything that might come her way, although (not so) secretly desires special agent Lana Kane. Uses hand puppets to mediate office problems and disputes, and isn’t allowed to use the ladies toilets. Voiced by Amber Nash.
Woodhouse – Has been the long serving and long suffering butler to Sterling Archer since Sterling’s childhood, when Malory was an absent mother and top field agent for ISIS. Constantly bullied and insulted by Archer and under strict orders to never let dogs in to the appartment, he has also become an expert in sorting Archer’s beloved collection of turtleneck jumpers into different shades of black. Voiced by George Coe.
Dr. Krieger – Top scientist at ISIS and professional genius, with very questionable ethics when it comes to advances and progress in scientific experiments. When he’s not testing out mind-altering drugs, seems to find his ISIS duties something of a chore, and might just as easily be found creating genetic clones of himself on company time. Voiced by Lucky Yates.
There are many other great characters to find in the show, but I really don’t have time to mention them all here. Hopefully you’ll discover them all for youself.