Preview: Archer 1×1

James Bond - if he were an American trust fund douchebag

In the US: Thursdays, 10pm, FX. Starts January 14th, 2010

Who doesn’t want to be a spy? Imagine the glamour, the excitement, the women/men you’d meet.

Of course, reality is going to be a whole lot different. It’s all going to be screwed-up people stuck in relatively normal workplaces, quibbling about expense accounts – at gunpoint.

That, at least, is the premise of FX’s new half-hour animated comedy Archer, which features the daring exploits of Sterling Archer, ace superspy for top secret organisation ISIS.

What kind of man is Sterling Archer? Well, imagine James Bond. Imagine his lifestyle, all the glamour, the excitement, the women – then imagine that instead of James Bond, you have an American, trust fund-holding, egotistical, self-centred, empty-headed, misogynistic jock douchebag with mummy issues.

It’s brilliant.

Plot
Archer is an animated, half-hour comedy set at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), a spy agency where espionage and global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine, betray and royally screw each other. The series features the voices of H. Jon Benjamin as suave master spy "Sterling Archer," whose less-than-masculine code name is "Duchess"; Jessica Walter as his domineering mother and boss, "Malory"; Aisha Tyler as his ex-girlfriend, "Agent Lana Kane"; George Coe as his aging-but-loyal butler, "Woodhouse"; Chris Parnell as ISIS comptroller and Lana’s new love interest, "Cyril Figgis"; and Judy Greer as Malory’s lovesick secretary, "Cheryl."

Is it any good?
Well, I watched the first episode on the Tube this morning and I spent most of that time giggling – and trying not to attract too much attention from passengers – so yes, it is.

The brilliance of Archer lies mainly in its central character, Sterling Archer, super-spy, who is simply one of the least pleasant people you could hope to meet. He may be suave and sophisticated, but he treats people like dirt, is entitled, amoral, insensitive and stupid, and his relationship with his equally mental mother is deeply twisted.

He’s the kind of guy who tries to claim everything on expenses, then when he realises the game is up, tries to get everyone else to help him cover up his mistake – whether that involves killing people or not – then eventually tries to break in to the office after work and pin the fraud on someone else.

So, he’s a douchebag who you’ll love to hate, but unlike Kenny Powers of Eastbound and Down, say, he’s interesting. He’ll knock plates out of people’s hands and say "Ha! That’s how you get ants!" He’ll crank up that expense accounts buying 10 $700 turtlenecks in varying different shades of black. He’ll mess up relationships in really quit extraordinary ways.

He’s a cock, but he’s funny.

Other attractions
Despite the show’s title, there are other draws however. The script is sharp and politically incorrect (in a good way). All the performances are good, particularly Chris Parnell’s (Dr Spacemen from 30 Rock) but surprisingly so is Aisha Tyler’s (24 and Friends, where she was Joey/Ross’s girlfriend). The animation is clever and provides an era-less setting of 60s style and politics, 80s computers and 00s cell phones. And the plots somehow manage to integrate office politics, petty relationship bickering and super-spy intrigue.

It’s just really, really funny. So far. Third-episode verdict to be sure though.