September 2, 2014

TV Review: “Archer” is No Dope for Tropes

 

Rebooting the show’s premise could give Sterling Archer a longer and more celebrated life.

Generally when a show jumps the shark it means it’s time to change the channel. However, if you jump two sharks…that’s a different story.

Rebooting is never easy or necessary and it usually only hastens the inevitable cancellation, just ask “Mike & Molly.”

So it’s only commendable that a top-flight show like “Archer” went under the knife when it didn’t necessarily have to.

Regardless, “Archer” has made the right decision to make a few minor facelifts now instead of a useless overhaul later. The show’s premise was always a deconstructionist take on the Cold War-era spy genre that was not only the root of Archer’s humor but also for its wonderfully satirical/Meta bent.

As spy films and cop procedural dramas changed their attitude and aesthetic from the paranoid ‘70s into the new wave ‘80s, it only makes sense that a show dedicated to its lampooning does the same. In the Season Five premiere, Sterling Archer is enjoying his day at ISIS headquarters (International Secret Intelligence Service) as he prepares to give a dozen roses to his mother, Mallory, (who runs the agency) on her birthday.

An FBI bust proves otherwise as the agency is charged with myriad counts of espionage considering ISIS never had an operating license to begin with.

After Mallory brokers a deal with the FBI by calling in a favor, the ISIS crew mulls what to do now that their agency is shut down…that and the ton of cocaine that is left in their headquarters.

Series creator Adam Reed’s decision to double down on the storyline is already beginning to pay dividends.

For a show that is as razor sharp as “Archer” is, reinvigorating the premise gets rid of the few nits critics had to pick at. Watching previous seasons of the show, you could expect rapid-fire dialogue, esoteric spy references and, oddly enough, a connection to character—all within 22 minutes.

While this type of predictability would be much sought after much of the time it leads to staleness (e.g. “Parks and Recreation”).

Watching “Archer” was an exercise in comfort because you knew what to expect. Truth be told it’s considerably more fun watching and not knowing where the show is going even if the creators and writers may not necessarily know the endgame as well.

And that’s okay.

ISIS and Co. may not be the same but if the last-minute montage serves as a declaration of things to come, “Archer” could end up not only to be a bigger hit than it already is but it could make a realistic stake as the funniest and smartest show on television.