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 4 delves even deeper into Archer’s mommy issues.
Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, “Family Guy”) is the highly skilled but self-involved playboy-alcoholic secret agent working for ISIS–the International Secret Intelligence Service, a private spy organization. Much of the humor revolves around the office, and yes, you’ll be reminded of Steve Carrell’s bunch—though this group is considerably bawdier. When they insult each other, political correctness goes out the window. And when a character opens a door to witness an “oops” moment, it’s more likely someone naked from the waist down bent over a desk while another character is zipping his pants up.
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 this season gets even more in-your-face, 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. Archer was responsible for putting one of the agents in a wheelchair, and this season the bad-taste jokes continue.
Bond had a certain class, even as he bedded enemy agents, and Archer will do anything for the cause—his impulses! He’s a fast worker, too. At the beginning of this season we find that he’s been flipping burgers as Bob at Bob’s Burger’s for the past two months that he disappeared, and despite having amnesia he’s married and acting as a stepfather—ironic, considering this season he has a stepfather he’s trying to adjust to.
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. Even cough medicine, if it has alcohol in it. And while Bond was fearless, Archer screams like a girl when he’s bitten by a snake . . . until he gets some alcohol in him. Yet, it’s hard not to like a guy who says things like “taking a dump in Turkmenistan is on my bucket list.”
This season the office underlings get a taste of field action, as Archer and the ISIS gang blunder their way through another bloody, sex-filled 13 episodes.
Here’s a rundown on the episodes, which are contained on two single-sided dual-layer discs and housed in a standard-size keep case and slid into a slip case that has a cut-out of Archer that you’ll have to tuck in every time you put it on the shelf:
“Fugue and Riffs”—In the kick-ass opener, Archer, living with amnesia as a burger-flipper named Bob, decides he needs a spa day to clear his head after he instinctively takes out four KGB agents who come looking for a man named Archer.
“The Wind Cries Mary”—Archer tries to prove that his friend, who turned rogue and turned up dead, is really alive and was framed by a mole.
“Legs”—Ray gets a bionic upgrade so he can walk (and get an erection) again, just in time for a mission to Rome.
“Midnight Ron”—Stranded in Canada, Archer bonds with his new father-in-law as they make it back to New York City together.
“Viscous Coupling”—Archer feels left out when everyone in the office has a date except him . . . until a mission sets off his love sensors.
“Once Bitten”—In Turkmenistan Archer is bitten by a venomous snake and it’s up to Ray and Cyril to get him the help he needs. Yeah. Good luck.
“Live and Let Dine”—The whole ISIS team goes undercover to provide security for a state dinner involving Albanian diplomats . . . except the chef they’re working under cover for is being filmed for the series “Bastard Chef,” so it’s kind of hard to be secret.
“Coyote Lovely”—Archer compromises a mission to neutralize smugglers when he’s smitten by a young Senorita Moreno.
“The Honeymooners”—Archer and Lana pose as honeymooners on a mission that gets quickly complicated and puts each person in a position to question how much he/she can trust the other.
“Un Chien Tangerine”—Archer and Lana go on a mission to fetch a dog—a special dog.
“The Papal Chase”—ISIS is hired to protect the Pope, who turns out to be a spitting image of Woodhouse.
“Sea Tunt,” Pts. 1 and 2—In a take-off on “Thunderball” the ISIS gang tries to retrieve a hydrogen bomb from a B-52 that had crashed off the coast of Bermuda . . . before it can fall into enemy hands.
All of the episodes are fast-paced and quick-witted, with a level of decorum best suited for basements or bedrooms. Commando. That’s the way Archer and his ISIS cohorts roll.
“Archer” has always looked strong visually, with slightly subdued colors, sharply defined edges, and solid black levels. Photorealistic backgrounds are especially pleasingly. “Archer” is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen.
The audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 that spreads the sound nicely across the speakers, with enough bass to give it heft, but not enough to give it rumble. Still, when the bullets fly, it sounds a lot more real than Archer seems to think it is.
Two brief in-character bonus features are included: “Fisherman’s Daughter” and “Archer Live!”
Also Read: ARCHER: SEASON 5 – Blu-ray review
A comic-book, spy-spoof, office humor parody, and “Arrested Development”-style sitcom in one 22-minute package? Yes, and it’s very funny. But “Archer” is adults-only. If it were rated, the series would merit an R for cartoon nudity, sexual situations, vulgar language, blood, graphic violence, and just plain gross stuff. If it’s politically incorrect, you’ll find it in “Archer.”