Here’s a tip for all you â€œArrested Developmentâ€ fans: start watching â€œArcher.â€ I don’t care what Mitch Hurwitz says, â€œArrested Developmentâ€ is not coming back, and no amount of vaguely defined Netflix resurgence plans can change that fact (plus, even if the show returned, what guarantee do we have that it would still work?Â I mean, have you seen any of Hurwitz’s post-â€œADâ€ stuff?Â Shows like â€œSit Down, Shut Upâ€ and â€œRunning Wildeâ€ offer a masterclass in the perils of great talent gone to seed).
Creator Adam Reed’s beyond-twisted animated series is alive and kicking, however.Â If nothing else, it provides sharp reminders of what made â€œArrested Developmentâ€ so memorable.Â Imagine Hurwitz’s show reconfigured as a spy spoof and starring Gob and Lucille (besides hearing Jessica Walter’s voice as Lucille doppelgÃ¤nger Malory Archer, the show’s animators have illustrated the character as a note-perfect representation of the Bluth matriarch, right down to the disgusting winks)â€”theâ€¦unique mixture of loathing and pathological need still powers their relationship, except now, their petty mind games play out on a global scale with bloody consequences.Â Moral conscience Michael is now Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler), an over-six-foot African-American female assassin, while Michael’s nebbish, overly sensitive son has become the nebbish, overly sensitive chartered accountant Cyril Figgis (â€œSaturday Night Live’sâ€ Chris Parnell, with trust issues and a hugeâ€¦sexual hang-up).
Toss in Judy Greer doing an even more twisted variation on her â€œKittyâ€ secretary as well as frequent guest appearances from George Sr. himselfâ€”the great Jeffrey Tambor (a recurring â€œArcherâ€ in-joke/â€œArrested Developmentâ€ nod finds all of the different people Tambor voices hopelessly in love with Walter)â€”and you don’t have to close your eyes and squint in order to confuse the two programs.
Were â€œArcherâ€ interested in filling that â€œADâ€ hole (there’s got to be a better way to say that), I’d be satisfied, but over the last season, the show has carved out enough personality to elevate it above mere homage.Â The first season is enjoyable, but it’s â€œArrested Developmentâ€ with â€œVenture Brosâ€ pop shadings; two-thirds of the season riffed on one joke, that handsome-yet-sociopathic ISIS agent Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, of â€œDr. Katz,â€ â€œHome Movies,â€ and â€œBob’s Burgersâ€ fame) kept torpedoing secret missions because of his own self-absorption and vanityâ€”Archer, you see, is the kind of spy who’d blow his cover by loudly announcing his hidden agenda as a means to seduce women.Â This gag worked, but you could sense the premise wearing thin.
And then, right around episode eight, the tone shifted.Â Adam Reed started better employing his supporting cast; this episode has the ISIS workplace drones striking for a better benefits package, and their absence puts Archer’s top-secret mission in jeopardy (you can’t call in a helicopter EVAC when the helicopter pilot is picketing the home office).Â We began to see Archer’s competent side, which makes his snafus so much more ridiculousâ€”he could be a James Bond-level operative if not for his rampant arrogance and whoring around.Â His relationship with his mother got weirder (and funnier), the action got more violent, the jokes came out at a more rapid clip, and the result is season two, a near-perfect slice of comedy television.
Season two is just as profane and depraved as season one, but the gross-outs connect because they service character detail.Â Archer’s infamous love of prostitutes comes back to haunt him with the arrival of â€œWee Baby Seamus,â€ an infant already sporting some of Archer’s peccadilloes.Â Following Lana and Cyril’s breakup at the end of season one, we find Lana in good spirits and Cyril in a dark, sexually deviant place, and somehow that dynamic just feels right. We get backstory for Greer’s insane secretary that explains everything and nothing about her mania. A Boys from Brazil joke tossed off in season one reveals itself as preparation for season two’s second most inspired gag, the first being Archer’s hilarious (and surprisingly emotional) battle with breast cancer.Â The contrivances and plot twists fly at the giddy pace of something like the wonderful soap opera deconstruction â€œSoap,â€ and the season ends with a cliffhanger that’s equal parts exciting and funny.
We may never see â€œArrested Developmentâ€ again, and for many, that’s a small death.Â But its limited run was near-perfect, and I maintain we can endure its absence with â€œArcher,â€ which honors all that made â€œADâ€ great while lighting off for new territories of its own.Â It isn’t often that we get a sociopathic protagonist whose love/fear of his mother is equaled by his passion for Burt Reynolds, and for that alone, attention must be paid.
Fox’s season two â€œArcherâ€ Blu-ray looks phenomenal.Â Thirteen episodes cover two discs, and this is a true HD encode; you won’t find any of the upconverting issues that plague â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ Blu-ray sets.Â Detail is clean, with the stylized textures faithfully represented.Â The show also gets a strong 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.
Only the features disappoint somewhat.Â What we’ve got is entertaining; we just don’t have a lot of it (under thirty minutes total).
- ISIS Infiltrates Comic-Con featurette: Q&A with the show’s stars
- â€œSemper Fiâ€ short clip
- â€œArchersaurus – Self Extinctionâ€ mini-episode
- Ask Archer feature
I get the scant supplyâ€”it is a cult showâ€”but considering I’m in the cult, I would have appreciated greater volume.
Still, as television comedy goes, you can’t do much better than â€œArcher.â€Â Highly recommended.
â€œArcher: Season 2â€ is now available on Blu-ray.Â Click HERE for Amazon’s page listing.
Bonus link!Â For some exclusive season three clips, head HERE.Â You won’t regret it.