Television Recap: "ARCHER – SEASON TWO" on Blu-ray

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Here’s a tip for all you “Arrested Development” fans: start watching “Archer.” I don’t care what Mitch Hurwitz says, “Arrested Development” 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?  I mean, have you seen any of Hurwitz’s post-“AD” stuff?  Shows like “Sit Down, Shut Up” and “Running Wilde” 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.  If nothing else, it provides sharp reminders of what made “Arrested Development” so memorable.  Imagine Hurwitz’s show reconfigured as a spy spoof and starring Gob and Lucille (besides hearing Jessica Walter’s voice as Lucille doppelgänger 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)—the…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.  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 (“Saturday Night Live’s” Chris Parnell, with trust issues and a huge…sexual hang-up).

Toss in Judy Greer doing an even more twisted variation on her “Kitty” secretary as well as frequent guest appearances from George Sr. himself—the great Jeffrey Tambor (a recurring “Archer” in-joke/“Arrested Development” nod finds all of the different people Tambor voices hopelessly in love with Walter)—and you don’t have to close your eyes and squint in order to confuse the two programs.

Were “Archer” interested in filling that “AD” 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.  The first season is enjoyable, but it’s “Arrested Development” with “Venture Bros” pop shadings; two-thirds of the season riffed on one joke, that handsome-yet-sociopathic ISIS agent Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, of “Dr. Katz,” “Home Movies,” and “Bob’s Burgers” fame) kept torpedoing secret missions because of his own self-absorption and vanity—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.  This gag worked, but you could sense the premise wearing thin.

And then, right around episode eight, the tone shifted.  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).  We began to see Archer’s competent side, which makes his snafus so much more ridiculous—he could be a James Bond-level operative if not for his rampant arrogance and whoring around.  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.  Archer’s infamous love of prostitutes comes back to haunt him with the arrival of “Wee Baby Seamus,” an infant already sporting some of Archer’s peccadilloes.  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.  The contrivances and plot twists fly at the giddy pace of something like the wonderful soap opera deconstruction “Soap,” and the season ends with a cliffhanger that’s equal parts exciting and funny.

We may never see “Arrested Development” again, and for many, that’s a small death.  But its limited run was near-perfect, and I maintain we can endure its absence with “Archer,” which honors all that made “AD” great while lighting off for new territories of its own.  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 “Archer” Blu-ray looks phenomenal.  Thirteen episodes cover two discs, and this is a true HD encode; you won’t find any of the upconverting issues that plague “The Simpsons” Blu-ray sets.  Detail is clean, with the stylized textures faithfully represented.  The show also gets a strong 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.

Only the features disappoint somewhat.  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
  • “Semper Fi” short clip
  • “Archersaurus – Self Extinction” mini-episode
  • Ask Archer feature

I get the scant supply—it is a cult show—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 “Archer.”  Highly recommended.

“Archer: Season 2” is now available on Blu-ray.  Click HERE for Amazon’s page listing.

Bonus link!  For some exclusive season three clips, head HERE.  You won’t regret it.

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