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Adam Reed’s (adult swim’s Sealab 2021, Frisky Dingo) Archer seamlessly blends a number of spy tropes, sampling liberally from the James Bond catalogue, with weird family issues and a workplace setting, all while actually providing a good deal of action. It’s tricky but Archer’s first season pulls it off while neither being neither too flat, too ridiculous nor lacking genuine character.

Reed makes excellent use of his talented cast, featuring the voice of H. Jon Benjamin as the eponymous Archer, a spy, misogynistic frat boy, mama’s boy, emotional cripple and general asshole. His mother, Malory (Jessica Walter essentially reprising Lucille from Arrested Development) runs ISIS, the spy agency that employs Archer and she still runs his life. In fact, on several occasions he attempts to “run away from home” only to have his mother drag him back. The creepy dynamic of mother and son bleeds into a number of plots but stays interesting partially due to the nature of the dialogue.

The series real signature is a rapid-fire rhythm to the dialogue, with the characters generally speaking faster than they can think, leading to a number of confusing, though hilarious, exchanges. Awkward lines like “Why don’t you try shutting up?” end equally awkward conversations by cutting off any further response. There’s just nowhere to go from there. Banter during suppression gunfire is common, as well, trapping two characters who would otherwise not wish to stay together. Archer’s wordplay confusing ex-lover Lana (Aisha Tyler) to keep her from shooting him come off perfectly between the balance of writing and the voice acting.

Archer’s style recalls the heyday of the spy film, the 60s and its Cold War sensibilities, including a paternal Russian counterpart to his mother, appropriately voiced by her television husband Jeffery Tambor. His surrounding staff, including HR exec Pam, suicidally sexed up receptionist Carol (or Cheryl… or Cristal, depending on the day and who she’s sleeping with- Judy Greer!) and Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) generally either get in the way or provide side plots about cheating on partners or workplace issues such as sexual harassment and pay raises, or just weirdness. All of this comes together in an incredibly absurd and funny mix of seemingly incompatible elements bolstering each other, though, and when Archer is on it is really on. 4 ½ stars


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