Ladies, gentlemen and all other AV Club readers: You have spoken, and we have listened. For here is your brand new Archer section! Marvel at its shininess, as we begin dissecting one of the funniest new comedies to debut so far in this calendar year! Throw your favorite quotes from the episodes back and forth at each other. Witness my attempts to say, "This was really funny, and it made me laugh!" in new, increasingly verbose ways every week. Yes, folks, with your readership and the very good ratings numbers from last week, Archer is here to stay on both FX and TV Club. So let's dive right into tonight's episode, shall we?
Every modern workplace sitcom has done its diversity in the office episode, despite the fact that more and more offices in our great US of A are just becoming naturally more diverse as the United States' citizenry does. This is primarily a comment on a.) how white most television shows are, b.) how white most television shows' writers rooms are and c.) how TV writers (because of a.) and b.) ) think that the workplace is a constant stream of meetings on how to bring about more diversity, instead of a few dingy posters hanging up in the break room about how we need to respect each other's differences. That said, making fun of people who find diversity frightening and also tweaking subtle fun at our cultural differences? That's often a comedy gold mine, and it's that gold mine Archer heads for tonight.
Archer, see, has gotten a Latino agent killed (by calling him up while he's deep undercover and loudly yelling at him over his cell phone to get him to tell some girls that, yeah, they're real ISIS agents - Archer isn't very smart, but ISIS obviously isn't either). So that means that it's time for the office to hire a new minority, someone who can bring diversity to the office. (Why doesn't Lana count? Why, she's only "black-ish," and thus not really what ISIS is looking for.) Enter Conway Stern, black Jew, all-around excellent spy and thorn in Archer's side - particularly once he comes to believe that Conway has been sleeping with his mother.
Most TV shows repeat their pilot for the first five or six episodes, just to make sure that the viewers at home have all caught up. This can often leave the first few episodes of a promising series seeming like they're getting too repetitious, making adroit TV fans wonder why they came to love the show in the first place. And while "Diversity Hire" hits a few too many of the "Hey, they're spies, but their workplace is just like yours!" beats a little too hard again, the episode mostly gets away with it because it's really, really, really funny. I think I've said here before that I'm not a laugher, by my nature, but I guffawed at least a dozen times at tonight's episode and chuckled even more times. This is just a great piece of goofy TV satire, bringing down workplace sitcoms and spy movies with equal verve.
What's great about the episode is how everyone reacts to the arrival of Conway to ISIS. Malory and Cristal (formerly Cheryl, formerly Carol, formerly ...) are both erupting with lust. Archer's suspicious for no real good reason. Lana just doesn't like him for any number of reasons, and Cyril, well, Cyril tries to stay out of the way. For a while, I thought Conway might join the show, becoming a part of the supporting cast that pops up in the background every so often, but from the way the episode was wholly built around him, it was obvious that Archer's suspicions would eventually prove to be right. The show mostly salvaged this by having Conway reveal that he was working for the Chinese to steal a whisper drive and having Archer only care about whether or not the guy had slept with his mom, but it still felt a little too easy.
That said, Archer's suspicions of Conway were really hilarious, particularly when the two got into a fight while wearing towels and ended up touching penises (something that Archer kept bringing up apropos of nothing throughout the episode, as though he were weirdly proud of it or wanted other people to know about it or something). I also liked his inability to concentrate on anything other than the thought of Conway sleeping with his mom, the way his getting the agent killed wasn't just a one-time thing and the way that he kept turning serious talks with Lana about what was up in the world of espionage into arguments about their dead relationship. Blowhards who don't know how big of jackasses they are are an old, old comedy type, but Archer is playing its title character just right.
That said, the highlight of the show for me is rapidly becoming Judy Greer's performance as Cheryl/Carol/Cristal. Greer's voice has always been one of the things that's best about her uniquely comic sensibilities, and it's put to great effect here as the woman everyone overlooks at the office, even though she's quite possibly the most messed-up one of them all. Her attempts to get into Conway's pants, her luxuriating after she did so and her weird hope that she was pregnant (leading to her trying to find a pregnancy test she could take online) all made for great jokes, and Greer's portrayal of the character as ever so slightly unhinged is good fun.
Or maybe I'm most taken with Jessica Walters' work as Malory, the way she's taking the same character she's always cast to play and finds a way to turn it up just a few more notches, creating some sort of weird hybrid of a Bond villain and her character from Arrested Development. I really like Lana, too, even if having the sexy woman be the one who gets everything done is kind of a tired way to go in shows like this. And I like Cyril a lot as well, but he didn't really get much of anything to do in this episode (except press a steak to his eye when offered one by Conway).
What's best about Archer, though, is the way that it's slowly building up the mundane, day-to-day world of ISIS and occasionally punctuating it with quick bursts of action and violence. It strikes me as what it might be like to actually work at the CIA (though, actually, I know it's nothing like that) or what it might be like to have an interesting job and yet still find it so, so boring. Archer hasn't yet hit the point where all of its relationships and plots are meshing so well that it hits comedy nirvana, but it's being so funny without doing that that I'm almost not sure I mind.
- "You freaked out when I said quadroon."
- "Your entire job could be done by a bulletin board."
- "This one actually seems kinda gay." "Maybe that's because our penises are touching."
- "see that? HE was putting on his pants and I stopped him."
- "What the hell smells like shrimp?" "Just my sensual womanhood."
- "Me! Your secret Jew Santa!"
- "Are you deaf AND racist?" "What?! I'm black!" "Put it back in the deck."
- "Seriously, Lana, call Kenny Loggins cuz you're in the danger zone. From Top Gun?"
- "That kinda racism right there is why I can't wait to see tiny little Chinese boots on your white-ass necks."
- "You haven't seen the last of Conway Stern! Which is not my real name!"
- "This is just a detergent pen. I just put a little blue sticker on it."