'Archer' season premiere review: Is this the best (adult) cartoon on TV?

After seeing the second-season premiere of Archer, I think the primary question to be asked is: Is this the best adult-aimed cartoon on television right now? You can have your Bob’s Burgers and your Family Guy (please, and please); South Park is very hit-or-miss. But Archer, taking full advantage of FX’s mature-content flexibility, isn’t just funny — it boasts solid plotting, vividly distinct characters, and some of the most unexpected punchlines and sight-gags in prime time.

The new season found the debonair-but-dumb Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) facing cut-backs at the spy agency ISIS, run by his mother, Malory Archer (Jessica Walter, who is required to utter many of the show’s most wildly inappropriate lines, so hats off to her). On the look-out for new clients, Malory was hired by a German billionaire to protect his 16 year-old daughter from terrorist kidnappers in Switzerland.

The daughter, Anka, turned out to be a nymphomaniac, of course, eager to doff her clothes leap upon (a fully clothed) Archer without removing the lollypop from her mouth. When Archer tried to pry her off, nervous about being accused of sex with a minor, she protested that “in Germany, the age of consent is 14.” “What is it, the Alabama of Europe?” drawled Archer.

Creator Adam Reed and his collaborators stuff every half-hour with pop-culture references that zip by as quickly as Archer’s snow-mobile did this evening. From a blink-and-you-missed-it Patty Hearst bank-robbery photo reference to a nice (if suddenly out-dated) reference to “Johnny Storm, the Human Torch,” Archer succeeds on the strength of its engagement with the world, not a cartooned reality. The smart thing the show does is portray Archer as thick-headed but redeemable because he is good at his job: This week, he snapped the necks of the kidnappers and shot them with their own weapons. You come to the show for its double entendres, and stay to see how Archer is going to grapple with having to work for his mother and put up with the competition from his smarter colleague, Lana (Aisha Taylor, who delivers lines with a sarcasm that has about 38 variations of tone).

Speaking of delivering lines, H. Jon Benjamin as the voice of Archer gets more out of a honking, nasal monotone than most actors do with a more dulcet vocal instrument. It help, of course, that he’s got great dialogue — that’s what distinguishes Benjamin’s work here from his voicing for the mostly-rancid Bob’s Burgers.

Archer is the best nighttime animation series since Frisky Dingo… which was co-created by Adam Reed.

What do you think of Archer?

Twitter: @kentucker


Comments (68 total) Add your comment
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  • Sherman

    Archer is sick. Love the new season

    • blarg

      Has anyone noticed how Tucker abuses the word “vivid”. It’s vivid this, vivid that. Something’s not quite right there.

      • harry

        Quiet you Tucker is King!!!

      • twitchy

        If by king, you mean queen, and of melodrama and pointless bitching, then yes, you have a point.

    • Rush

      Two words: Venture Bros.

      • chris

        Amen

      • rey

        i like archer. but venture bros is straight up ridiculous.

      • The Torrid Zone

        Go Team Venture! Also: Metalocalypse.

      • Gdub

        Venture Brothers is most definitely at least a tie for funniest adult cartoon

      • Lisa

        yes yes yes

      • Johnny B

        Yeah I’m pretty suprised Tucker didn’t at least give a nod to Venture being one of the best adult cartoons (I say THE best) on TV

      • Orac

        Word. Venture Bros. is better than Archer, although both are good. And I miss Frisky Dingo.

    • Rush

      Also: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, for surreal humor.

      • Jonny_quest

        you know whats funny about this article and the cartoons that are mentioned is that H jon Benjamin has done voice work in almost all these shows.

      • Patrick

        Best show period.

  • Mark

    Funniest show on television.

    • Tarc

      It’s only of the few ‘comedies’ that is actually funny. Archer probably IS the best on right now.

      • Jerry’s iPod

        Venture Brothers has it beat.

    • Eric

      Yeah, forget that it’s a cartoon. It’s one of the best shows on TV.

  • stevie g

    Very funny show…but I’m sorry, you say south park is hit or miss, and I’ll give that to you, however when it hits it’s still not only the best animated show on TV, but one of the best shows on TV period

    • Kevin

      Very true. And i’d argue that it hits far more than it misses.

  • Brian

    I don’t quite understand the love for ARCHER combined with the hate for BOB’S BURGERS. They’re two of the funniest shows on TV (animated or not) and your dismissal of the latter makes me question your appreciation of the former.

    • The Dude

      I, too, wonder why Ken has a distaste for “Bob’s Burgers” (which, in it’s short run, has already catapulted itself to the best-of-FOX’s-animation-Sunday line-up). But I’m glad “Archer” is getting the recognition it deserves…too seldom does animation get its proper due, and I’m glad it’s premiere got it’s own post on EW.

    • murley

      i know. while i agree with his assessment of benjamin’s ability (best voice actor out there, i am such a super fan of his) i disagree that he is not also showcasing that ability on bob’s burgers. he is hilarious on both and has a fantastic supporting voice cast on both as well.

  • Jose

    keep coming up with it’s own post. after Sunny, this is the best thing right now for comedy.

  • jonny_quest

    this just makes me miss Frisky Dingo even more…such a creative take on the superhero genre…Piping hot hell in a handbasket!

    • Jessica

      I miss Frisky Dingo! Love Archer.

  • Woot

    The premiere was hilarious! I love the tone of the show. The show is so well done.

  • Jacob

    Archer is awesome, but screw you, Tucker. Screw you for taking a shot at South Park you pretentious snob.

    • Yeah

      Even as a fan of South Park, I can admit it can be inconsistent.

    • Dave

      I know Ken Tucker is, or at least used to be, a fan of South Park. He’s written a lot of recaps for the show and it’s evident he enjoys it. But let’s be real, the past few seasons have been very uneven. And seriously, pull the stick out of your a$$. He said he thinks the show is hit or miss. There’s no reason for you to be so nasty. Get over yourself.

  • Jamaaliver

    Ken, I feel like you just made a similar argument a few months ago in favor of ‘The Boondocks’ as the best (adult) cartoon on TV.

    Has Archer surpassed that show already?

    • Brett

      Yes.

    • Sam

      I was going to say that the Boondocks was the best. It is the smartest.

  • Lana

    Love love love Archer!!!

  • Souvien

    Archer is certainly funny, and Reed’s animation style is captivating as hell…but too many of the characters are a bit one-note. Gotta go with the sustained meta-weirdness covered with awesome sauce that is The Venture Bros!!!

  • Tee

    They have the best running gags like the wooden spoons, “Danger Zone” and shooting co-workers!

  • darclyte

    The best part of the season premiere is that we won’t have to see any more ads on webpages. Seriously, how much money did FX spend? I went to one webpage and there was a banner on top, and then the same video ad 4 times on the page. That said, I LOVE Archer. It isn’t necessarily LOL funny, but it’s just all kinds of wrong funny. And what little I’ve seen of Bob’s Burgers, it actually seemed fairly out of left field funny, and I get a kick out of that kind of stuff. I’ll have to try to watch a whole episode.

  • Bedc01

    Er…. Venture Brothers anyone?

    • chris

      Yes. FTW

  • George

    Archer is the best animated show on Tv and seriously deserves an Emmy!

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