His name is Sterling Archer. Unless you're a woman he's trying to seduce, you wouldn't know the suave, handsome young man is a secret agent, codenamed Duchess, working for the spy agency ISIS, aka the International Secret Intelligence Service. He always gets his man, though he prefers to get their women, and has a mother syndrome the likes of which would make any psychologist squeal in delight at the cash cow that fell in their lap. Of course, since his mother runs ISIS, his mommy issues aren't going to get better any time soon...
With its simple animation, fun voice cast, borderline perverse themes, uproarious writing, and insane characters, FX's 'Archer' has become a hit, already renewed for a third set of episodes. The time bending comedy series is a mixture of cold war and modern day technologies, aesthetics, and ideals, creating some very bizarre scenarios that bend the genre in the crudest of fashions, making James Bond look wholesome. With a wildly assorted cast, mostly the supporting crew in the spy branch, 'Archer' runs through hilarious episode after hilarious episode, with superb dialogue that gets better the more characters are involved.
Whether dealing with his undying feelings for his ex, co-worker, and fellow secret agent Lana, or going deep undercover in the most crude honeypot scheme ever hatched, Sterling Archer and his selfish, egocentric, and borderline psychotic tendencies are always worth a great laugh. In this ten episode first season, Archer and company find themselves protecting a zeppelin from a bomb threat, lobbying for government contracts against rival agency ODIN, disposing of dead hooker bodies, and much more. There's nothing sacred, nothing safe or off limits, as the most inane secret agents ever created blunder their way through scheme after scheme, plot after plot, often oblivious to what happens around them.
'Archer' isn't just about bizarre fetishes, sabotage, or guns, though, as the assisting crew of ISIS and the monotony of a day to day job also enter the picture. It's hard to believe the episodes focusing on diversity for tax incentives, health plans, or expense accounts could be so damned funny, but with the constant barrage of inappropriate behavior, there's no such thing as mundane here. Most of the humor comes from the very-well realized cast that is so black and white in terms of their beliefs that there's constant tension and awkwardness.
It's hard not to laugh when the dim-witted secretary who constantly changes her name tries to find a pregnancy test online, a rare occasion in which she knows how to operate her computer. It's amazing how the Human Resources department head comes back time after time for abuse from nearly everyone around her, trying to manage the eclectic mix of lunatics in her midst while struggling with her own sexual urges. The random cutaways and flashbacks are always gems, not functioning as non-sequitor humor like in 'Family Guy' but as actual relevant, yet utterly impossible or improbable situations where time and time again Archer proves why he's the world's top secret agent...even if he blows nearly every operative's secret cover in the process. At the end of the day, he's still there, and they're not, who are they to say otherwise?
The first run of 'Archer' is a splendidly foul concoction, full of hilarious conversations and scenarios that the characters get themselves into, taking no prisoners as it goes off the deep end at every turn. Amazingly, this formula doesn't grow tiresome, as the situations get better and better, making for one of the funnier, best put together seasons of a comedy show that I can recall. If you like your humor dark, and by dark I mean twisted and somewhat sadistic, then 'Archer' may be the show for you!
The Disc: Vital Stats
While the DVD release of 'Archer: The Complete Season One' bowed in the last week of 2010, there was never any sign of a Blu-ray release, until Best Buy announced a store exclusive release in recent weeks. The disc itself is a Region A marked BD50, with a single pre-menu trailer, and a system that remembers where playback left off. While the sticker price for this season is high, the retailer has run it on sale for as low as $14.99 recently, making it one of the better bargains on the format.
'Archer: The Complete Season One' is given a stunning 1080p transfer on this one disc set, pushing the limit of how much content can be put on a single disc without sacrificing any video quality. The show, which is animation simplicity, has a unique aesthetic that really comes to life on Blu-ray, although its minor issues are also brought to the forefront.
For such a sharp, colorful show, there isn't a single moment of banding to be seen, with great brightness spikes from explosions or sparks that light up articles but naturally fade them back down without the weird gradient. The picture has great depth, extremely lifelike textures on backgrounds and non-animated objects, and superb minor details like blood splatters that don't hover awkwardly. The thick lines surrounding characters and objects are a beautifully inky black, and detail is so good that on a few occasions you can spot a tiny error here and there in the animation where the surrounded object has a faint outline outside the black, as though it wasn't placed properly Distance shots reveal absolutely perfect lines, and the occasional stutter is an obvious issue from animation, so it's hard to count that against the merits of this disc.
There is the occasional exaggerated edge, an effect often seen in anime, and the thick black lines sometimes have jaggies on either border, but they seem to be the product of the animation itself, as they increase in more close-up type moments. I saw a few minor artifacts in the second episode around some of the windshield bullet holes, but for 211 minutes, this show is phenomenal.
The first season of 'Archer' is an audio disappointment on Blu-ray, failing to provide anything memorable, anything capable of testing even a television's speakers, let alone a high end sound system. It's a shame, too. The dialogue sounds solid, although not superb, with some minor distortion sprinkled in. Gunfire has just a tiny pop, localizing to a single speaker, usually in the front channels with no movement to speak of. Bass levels are borderline non-existent, save for the title sequence every episode. There is a massive lack of rear activity or power. Considering how awesome the disc looks, this is just a shame.
FX's 'Archer' is utterly filthy, beyond crude, and borderline reprehensible at times. This is not a show for the weak of stomach or the easily offended, as almost nothing is off-limits in this ten episode arc that does a wonderful job introducing a large cast of highly "unique" characters and settings. This is the kind of show that will get your attention, one way or another, and boy is it addicting. The Blu-ray release is a Best Buy exclusive for an undisclosed period, but it's definitely worth picking up, as it boasts some of the best picture quality of any animated television show yet to arrive on Blu-ray. It's just a shame the audio is so pathetic.