When I reviewed Season 1 of “Archer,” the animated spy spoof that airs on FX, I called it a curious blend of office humor and James Bond parody, with a little “Arrested Development” thrown in for good measure. That description still holds, and Season 3 is as laugh-out-loud funny as the first two. The half-hour comedy remains as irreverent as “The Simpsons,” and twice as sexist.
Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, “Family Guy”) is the highly skilled but self-involved playaholic secret agent working for ISIS--the International Secret Intelligence Service. Much of the humor revolves around the office, and yes, you’ll be reminded of Steve Carrell’s bunch--though this group is considerably edgier. After all, half of them are agents, while the rest are support staff who clearly know too much. Even when they’re in the field, there’s still that office banter.
The lead female agent is Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler, “The Boondocks,” “24”), Archer’s ex-girlfriend who has a habit of dressing and acting like she’s a Bond Girl with weapons, even if she’s just hanging around the water cooler. Then there’s Pam (Amber Nash), the full-figured HR director who uses a dolphin puppet to make a point, and Cheryl (Judy Greer), the secretary to the big boss at ISIS, Malory Archer--who just happens to be Archer’s domineering mother. Fans of “Arrested Development” will delight in the fact that Jessica Walter, who played the matriarch of the Bluth clan, is the mother here, and is readily recognizable in her character’s poses and sarcastic comments. Her son, really, is a combination of the savvy Michael, the momma’s boy Buster, and the screw-up Job from “Arrested Development”--but with the savoir faire, devil-may-care and self-absorbed attitude of that French spy, OSS 117.
Like OSS 117, Archer says whatever comes into his mind, even (especially?) if it’s politically incorrect. But so do the others, and his mother can be especially brutal. When Archer is responsible for one of the agents getting paralyzed and wheelchair bound, Malory tells them she’s retiring him from the field. When he protests, she adds, “Unless we need someone to go undercover as a shopping cart.”
Bond had a certain class, even as he bedded enemy agents, but Archer? He’s not above seducing and sleeping with a woman who’s on her honeymoon! Bond drank martinis that were shaken, not stirred, but Archer is no snob when it comes to liquor. Give him a bottle of anything and he’ll slog it down. And while Bond was fearless, put Archer in a car with Burt Reynolds driving, and he’s a basket case. But he can be deadly when you least expect it. Just don’t stand too close.
Season 3 begins with a three-part episode that finds Malory impatient with her intelligence unit and their inability to locate her son. So she engages a former fling, a mercenary named Rip Riley, to locate him . . . something he does in short order. But when Archer balks at returning and his attempt to sabotage the effort to bring him back results in their crashing and being lost at sea, a new adventure begins. Soon they’re captured by pirates, who are demanding a ransom . . . yet somehow Archer manages to become Pirate King for a brief while. And only Archer manages to return to ISIS unscathed, while all the rest who’ve come to rescue him pay a price.
Here’s a rundown on the 13 episodes, which are contained on two single-sided dual-layer discs and housed in a standard-size keep case:
“Heart of Archness,” Pts. 1, 2, and 3—Pirates kidnap Archer and his would-be rescuers, leaving them with few options, especially after Malory decides to let Archer get himself out of his own jam, for a change.
“The Man from Jupiter”—Burt Reynolds turns up at a bar next to Archer, but what begins as a case of hero worship (with Archer rattling off his favorite Burt Reynolds’ films) heads quickly south when Archer learns that Reynolds is dating his mother.
“El Contador”—Malory makes bookish Cyril a field agent, and he accompanies Lana and Archer deep into the jungle to try to take out a drug lord.
“The Limited”—Suddenly in the bounty-hunting business, Malory and Archer, Lana, and Cyril get paid to escort a fugitive back to Canada. But, of course, something happens to derail them.
“Drift Problem”—Archer gets a fancy new spy car from his mom for his birthday, but ends up losing it and tries like heck to recover it before Mom finds out.
“Lo Scandalo”—Malory needs the gang to help her solve a murder mystery involving an influential politician . . . and her.
“Bloody Ferlin”—Ray has a double life that Archer and Lana discover, and the agents head south to help Ray’s brother fight a corrupt sheriff.
“Crossing Over”—Archer’s nemesis, Bionic Barry, is promoted to the head of the KGB and launches a purge that prompts one former agent to defect. Meanwhile, Archer can’t remember a thing after a night of wild drinking.
“Skin Game”—Krieger, the ISIS gadget man, as rebuilt Archer’s dead fiancée as a cyborg, and it causes a certain amount of emotional confusion.
“Space Race,” Pts. 1 and 2—The ISIS gang heads to a space station to try to prevent a disaster, but run into mutineers who are looking for more hostages to colonize Mars.
All of the episodes are fast-paced and quick-witted, with a level of decorum best suited for basements. But that’s the way Archer and his ISIS cohorts roll.
“Archer” looks good for a DVD presentation, with a picture that upconverts nicely on my Blu-ray player. There’s only the slightest bit of grain--texture, really--and “Archer” is pleasingly presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The color palette and visual design reminds me a bit of the old “Jonny Quest” series, but with much more detailed backgrounds. Colors have plenty of pop, and for a DVD there’s a nice level of detail.
The audio is a functional English Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH, Spanish and French. Since some of the exteriors take place in Europe, and given the OSS 117 similarities, I’d guess that “Archer” would find a wide audience across “the pond.”
Included here is a 59-minute “enhanced” “Heart of Archness” trilogy, along with three brief in-character features: “Book-on-Tape Fail (2 min.), “Cooking with Archer” (3 min.), a “Gator 2” trailer presentation at the ISIS headquarters (2 min.), and an “Archer: Season 3” Comic-Con teaser (2.5 min.). The box listed “commentary on select episodes” as well, but it takes a secret agent to find them.
A comic-book, spy-spoof, office humor, “Arrested Development”-style sitcom in one 20-minute package? Yes, and it’s very funny. But “Archer” isn’t for kids. If it was rated, it’d get an R rating for cartoon nudity, vulgar language, blood, and just plain gross stuff.