NPF: ARCHERY

I suppose Archer on FX is popular enough to make for decent posting material. Given that I don't usually do much in the way of talking about movies or TV, I might be somewhat rusty here.

When Archer was announced I was beyond excited, but at the same time I understood that I would be disappointed by it. The previous show from this production crew, Frisky Dingo, remains my favorite show of all time and possibly the best thing that has been on TV since Fawlty Towers. What Frisky Dingo was not, however, was popular. It limped through two seasons on Cartoon Network and then suffered the fate of all things that are too bizarre to attract a wide, mainstream audience. So when Archer was announced, I realized that creator Adam Reed (the voice of Agent Ray Gillette in the new series) would not want to end up being cancelled again. The show would aim for a wider audience. Meaning it would probably be a little dumbed down. More importantly, even if it was great it would probably fail to live up to my expectations. So I knew part of me would be disappointed no matter what.

Overall I enjoy the show. It's funny. For the first few episodes I said "This is no Frisky Dingo" quite a bit. Eventually I made peace with that. Something about it has always nagged me, though, as I've kept up with these first three seasons. It wasn't until the last few episodes that I finally put my finger on it (snicker). It's the writing. And the writing isn't bad, per se. It's just lazy. Really lazy.

Two things have stood out throughout the series. One, it's full of anachronisms. The setting, particularly the time period, of this universe are never adequately explained or established. The creators wanted a Cold War era Bond-like spy story. Then they realized that it would be way easier to write the storyboards with things like the internet, cell phones, and other modern technology/plot devices that promote narrative efficiency. So we're constantly made to realize how awkward this universe is, with plots about billionaire Videotex magnates, Soviet generals, and characters using cell phones. Maybe you don't notice it, but your brain does. Even if it doesn't bother you explicitly, it makes everything feel slightly off and unbelievable.

Second, the humor is overwhelmingly lowbrow. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good dick or fart joke. Crude is funny. There's very little other than crude humor, though, except for the occasional and brief reference to some piece of historical arcana. The laziness is also apparent in the frequency with which "shit" is uttered in every episode. The viewer can almost picture the writers saying, "Hey, we can say 'shit' on this network! Let's say it as much as possible so it's really edgy!" In some episodes the humor is derived almost entirely from the use of language that isn't permitted on other networks. Yes, hearing Pam say "I'm like a Chupacabra, but for dicks" is funny. But is that all you've got?

The lazy writing is evident in other places as well. In the two part finale to Season 3, the action takes place on a space station that has gravity. Why? Because they probably realized it would be easier to write and animate if they didn't have to incorporate weightless physics. Is the presence of gravity in space a big deal? Of course not. It only bugs me because it's so apparent why they wrote it that way. Furthermore, the series' most glaring weakness and biggest single difference from Frisky Dingo is the lack of a villain. Archer, like Xander Crews before him, needs someone with whom he can banter and develop a rivalry. Instead the protagonists just go on random adventures every week with a different "antagonist" who barely qualifies as such. Archer is pitted against characters about whom we know nothing and thus care little. Why? Again, it's easier than writing a plot with continuity across episodes. As it is, the writers have a cheap way to put the characters in ridiculous, random, and interesting settings (Monaco! Pirate island! Space!) without having to write them into the storyline. There is no storyline.

It's a funny show. I watch it and I intend to continue watching it. Regardless, I won't stop feeling that kind of disappointment that comes from seeing something that's OK and knowing that with a little effort it could be great.

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52 Responses to “NPF: ARCHERY”

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