As I watch more and more of Archer, I increasingly wonder how the show records its voices. Most animated products record the voices separately, but a very few of them - including much of the run of The Simpsons - record the voices with the entire cast gathered in the same room, old-time radio style. Since Archer's cast is full of pretty big names, I was certain that the show did everything in separate voice recording sessions, but the more I watch it, the way the actors play off of each other seems as if they're working off of the real performances live and on the spot. Particularly in the scenes between Jessica Walter and H. Jon Benjamin, the two actors are able to attain such a great speed of repartee that it sure seems as though the actors are right there with each other.
I think about this because tonight's episode of Archer - "Honeypot" - spoke once again to how strong the ensemble is growing. Neither of the plots was particularly interesting outside of a few points, but the episode played up the burgeoning relationships between the characters and brought in a couple of great guest players in Ron Perlman and Thomas Lennon. (Lennon, in particular, was great fun as part of a gay hit squad, while Perlman nicely played against type as a Cuban spy, who was also, not so coincidentally, gay.) The central plot of "Honeypot" didn't develop much beyond its central idea - Archer has to seduce that gay Cuban spy for vague reasons - but it was a funny enough premise that the episode itself was good fun.
Now, granted, the spy plots in Archer are always and will always be perfunctory, the vehicle the show uses to get at the character dynamics it's more interested in. But the last few episodes have featured spy plots that at least didn't end in a fairly played out shootout. Indeed, the ending of the main plot in "Honeypot" is probably the worst thing about the episode, as it just devolves into fairly generic action beats with some weak jokes tossed in there for good measure. It's not so bad that it ruins the episode or anything, but it is a rather disappointing way for everything to go out. (Though the final scene between Archer and his new friend, Ramone, is quite funny, particularly the discussion of the Spanish words for "Hulk" and "gay.")
But, that said, the rest of Archer's adventure in Miami is very funny. I particularly liked Archer in short shorts, roller skates and a tight T-shirt reading "Got Dick" as he first attempted to seduce Ramone. (OK, I didn't like him in THAT sense, but ... well, you know what I mean.) I liked the way he fell in with the other gay guys (whose names, sadly, I don't have written down and can't remember) and the way the guys just loved Woodhouse (who's rapidly turning into my favorite incidental character). I'm also loving the way the show is using cutaway gags to great effect, like Archer berating both Woodhouse and Cheryl/Carol by throwing their clothes off his roof or the quick look at Gillette, the one gay employee at ISIS.
But, yeah, the vast majority of what makes Archer work is everything that's taking place around the edges. Look, for example, at Krieger inventing a drug that will make someone gay for a short period of time, then chasing his intern Danny around the office after both took the drug. Or look at all of the insults Archer and Malory toss at each other every time they're in vague proximity of each other. When Ramone and Archer bond over just how much they both hate their mothers, it could be kind of a bland plot device (hell, The Big Bang Theory, of all things, did something very similar earlier this season), but it just feels goofy and freeing here. The two characters, finally bonding, now that all of their secrets are out, makes for a fun little scene.
Now, as mentioned, all of this is helped immeasurably by the fact that the voice cast here is aces. Benjamin's blowhard shtick could get old but, somehow, it doesn't, just as Walters' work as Malory could feel like yet another twist on the overbearing mother but somehow doesn't. Hell, that entire plot where the people in the office were playing Fuck, Marry, Kill (or its basic cable safe equivalent, Bang Marry Kill) is completely saved by the fact that it's Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell and the other voice actors doing the work here. There's some truly, truly weird stuff in what should probably just be a little running gag, and it's the fact that the cast doesn't seem too worried to just be completely out there that makes everything here work. (Greer's delivery of Cheryl/Carol's ultimate fantasy was just pitch perfect in its completely horrifying fashion.)
This was actually the third episode of Archer that was produced, and the show moved it out of sequence, perhaps because all involved thought it was one of the show's weaker efforts. And, yeah, some of the story developments here are a little too easy. But the overall effect of the episode is giving the sense that this show had a confident voice right from the first. I'm hopeful that the series will come up with a better overarching world for ISIS to live in, and that the show will come up with some sort of mythology of these characters and how they all came to be together. I don't know that these things are necessary to the show being funny or anything (though it may be necessary for the show to be as good as it could be and for me to be able to write about it without saying variations on the same thing every week), but they could help push it over the top.
- "I'm afraid the lemur got into the pudding cups."
- "She says she can't go to hospital because she's, quote, 'tripping balls.'"
- "Seriously. That's, like, eggs 101, Woodhouse."
- "I've got my top man on it. Or, possibly, bottom."
- "Ohmigod. You, like, sneeze glitter."
- "No, no, no don't ... don't be nice to him."
- "Danny. Danny, stop running. We gotta keep that heart rate down!"
- "I think that's hot. Like, somebody murdering me? It's so ... intimate."
- "I wanna dress you up like a little gnome and just have you live in my garden." "I would like some new clothes."
- "Way the Christ out in the Everglades burying some Dominican guy's rooster!" "Fun! ... Oh, you mean literally."
- "How hard could it be to talk a gay man into having anonymous sex?"
- "Mine always said, 'Sterling come in here and check me for lumps.'"
- "Like, a big sweaty fireman carries you out of a burning building, lays you on the sidewalk, and you think, yeah, he's gonna give me mouth to mouth. But instead, he just starts choking the shit out of you, and the last sensation you feel before you die is he is squeezing your throat so hard that a big, wet blob of drool drips off his teeth and just, flirp, falls right onto your popped out eyeball."
- "How do you say the Hulk in Spanish?" "El Hulk?"