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Featured TV on DVD Review: Archer: Season One

December 26th, 2010

Archer: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Archer is a secret agent spoof created by Adam Reed, who previously made Sealab 2021, and stars the voice talent of H. Jon Benjamin, who previously provided the voice for the coach in Home Movies. Just based on that, there are some who will already have pretty strong opinions on the show. So do these initial expectations match the actual show? And is this a good thing?

The Show

H. Jon Benjamin stars as Sterling Archer, the head spy at ISIS, a private spy agency, and son of Malory Archer, who just happens to be the boss at ISIS. Sterling Archer is a complicated guy whose relationship with his mother is strained, to say the least. Malory Archer was also a spy in her day, and was very absent from Sterling's life. (She left him at a boarding school from kindergarten untill graduation.) The number two spy at the agency is Lana Kane, who is clearly the better spy, but is frustrated that Sterling gets the better missions because he is the son of the boss. She also dislikes Sterling because they used to be dating, but now she is dating Cyril Figgis, who is the comptroller at ISIS and in many ways the diametric opposite of Sterling. The other main cast members from ISIS are Pam, the HR director and office gossip; Cheryl (or Carol or Cristal) Malory's dimwitted secretary; and later on Dr. Krieger, who is in most episodes, but doesn't get a line of dialogue till about halfway through the first season.

ISIS has a rivalry with ODIN, another private spy agency, which is headquartered in Paris. ODIN is run by Len Drexler, who may or may not be Sterling's father. The other main candidate is Nikolai Jackov, the head of the KGB, who still maintains a romantic relationship with Malory, although their respective governments would obviously frown on such a pairing. I believe they would both be executed should it ever come out.

I should point out at this time that the show takes place in this weird alternate timeline that is a combination of the 1960s, 1980s, and today. The cars, the cloths, and the Cold War politics come out of the 1960s. Some of the computer technology appears to be from the 1980s, especially the really low resolution green-on-black screens. On the other hand, the GPS, cell phones, etc. are all modern day. It does set up a rather surreal experience at times.

Much of the humor is very similar to Sealab 2021, with many of the jokes and dialogue dealing with the strange interpersonal interactions that come a every workplace, even though ISIS is far from a normal office. The delivery is rather rapid fire and in a deadpan way, but that only serves to highlight the absurdity of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. And there are many absurd situations from simple embezzlement, to assassination attempts, to double-agents and double-crosses. All the great spy stories are dealt with here, and skewered efficiently.

The Extras

Extras on this two-disc set start with what they call the unaired pilot. It's not. In fact, it's a one-note joke that takes some endurance to deal with. Disc two has an unaired promo that is funny, but short. There are several short segments grouped together as a "Making of Featurette", but many are reliant on text when they should have used an interview instead. Finally, there are several deleted / extended scenes.

There is also the pilot episode of Louie with Louis C.K.. It's funny, but my policy on bonus episodes is simple. If it is not a related show (backdoor pilot, crossover episode, etc.) then it is not a bonus feature, but an ad.

The Verdict

Fans of James Bond style secret agent spoofs should definitely get a kick out of this show, as well fans of Sealab 2021 and to a lesser extent Home Movies. Archer: Season One is a little light on extras, but has plenty of laughs and it is worth picking up for fans, who will likely watch it more than once.

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