Even Weak Episodes of "Archer" are Funnier Than Many Other Shows at Their Best Review

The third season of FX’s Archer got off to an irregular start, airing a standalone 3-part story in September that would link the traumatic events of the second season’s closing with the rest of the third season, which wouldn’t air until mid-January and would otherwise begin with things back to their normal, dysfunctional ways. The September episodes were, quite simply, hilarious and a definite high-point for the series with a number of running gags throughout it (like the use of idioms) that gave it lots of re-watch potential—which was good, because fans would have to do so for the next three months. By the time January came around fans were more than ready for some new hilarity, but the third season wasn’t always up to the challenge.

Still reeling from the loss of his fiancée and the events of the 3-part story, things at ISIS get back to normal in a hurry with Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) being his typical asshole self and screwing up missions; Lana (Aisha Tyler) swinging between rage and pity for his antics and those of her on-again off-again, sex-addicted accountant boyfriend Cyril (Chris Parnell); Ray’s (Adam Reed) suffering for the rest of the team’s incompetence; and Malory Archer (Jessica Walter) treating ISIS business like a personal piggybank and errand service while bedding men (like Burt Reynolds) in a fashion that makes Archer uncomfortable. All the while, Pam (Amber Nash), Cheryl (Judy Greer), and Doctor Krieger (Lucky Yates) causing all sorts of havoc in the office.

The third season has as many hilarious episodes in its mix as it does so-so ones that kind of fizzle out thanks to relying too heavily on one gag that might not work for everyone in the show’s fanbase. The perfect example of that might be the third season episode “The Man From Jupiter” whose primary comic premise derives from just how much you share Archer’s love for Burt Reynolds. As a character quality, it’s a nice little detail the writers gave Burt Reynolds way back when, but it’s not one that really carries too many jokes one on top of the other, and especially not for an entire episode’s duration. The happy medium for long-standing jokes like that come into play in episodes like “The Limited”, when ISIS is tasked to help the Canadian Mounted Police escort a captured terrorist, and they do so by taking Cheryl’s family’s train across the border. It’s the kind of episode that has throwbacks to great jokes while still having all the insanity and funny one-liners you’d expect from the series. The third season is a little uneven because of all this, but it’s still, at the very least, amusing even in its worst moments.

If you watch the show, you know that only half of the show’s appeal is its hilarious send-up of spy organizations as incompetent businesses with all the same squabbles of your typical poorly run business, the other half is the dialogue delivered by one of the funniest casts on television. In fact, most of the time it’s that latter portion that sustains an entire episode. When the show does play up the more spy-ish aspects of its premise, like those where an actual mission is featured, it’s almost entirely a crap shoot as to whether or not the episode will stand among the strongest in the series. It almost seems like Archer is at its best when it keeps things within the confines of the office as much as possible (like with the pirate-virus or Cheryl’s non-kidnapping). Maybe that’s because it means we get more of the supporting cast (who really do make the show a lot better) and that means the collective on-screen shenanigans are going to be all the wilder thanks to the inclusion of a mad, “Boys from Brazil” Nazi scientist, a masochistic nymphomaniac, and a crude, hedonistic HR rep into that week’s adventure. Whatever the case, the third season has enough of these HQ-centric episodes to keep it afloat.

DVD Bonus Features

The extras on Archer DVD and Blu-ray sets have always had a few really funny bits included, and this time around it’s no different. For one, there’s a rant by Archer as he stands in a sound booth to record a book-on-tape which ends with a hilarious loop back to the series-long joke of Tinnitus, a "greeting" from Archer to the nerds of Comic-Con, and a similar bit called “Cooking with Archer”, which is like the book-on-tape bit but in a kitchen. Watch them both. After that, we swing back to the series’ Burt Reynolds fascination with a makeshift trailer for the hypothetical Gator 2. Finally the set includes commentary on three episodes and a version of the 3-part episode "Heart of Archness" cut together into one long 50-some minute mini-movie (ie the credits sequences for the second and third parts are cut out).

"Archer: The Complete Season Three" is on sale January 8, 2013 and is not rated. Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy. Written and directed by Adam Reed. Starring Aisha Tyler, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, H Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Judy Greer.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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