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Last winter, I ended up getting really sick with the flu; I stayed home from work for almost a week and barely even left my bed, let alone my apartment. This was not exactly what you’d call fun, but one good thing came from this. In the few hours I was awake, I’d spend time watching things on Netflix’s Instant Streaming. I caught up with a few things I’d wanted to see but didn’t have time before — David Cross and H. Jon Benjamin’s Freak Show for one (which was OK, but not as good as I hoped it’d be) and a show I’d heard quite a bit about but never seen, Archer.
I think it took me all of two days to watch the entire series, and that’s between sleeping about 18 hours a day at that time. It was brilliant — well written and acted, and the editing was great. My timing was pretty good, too — Season 2 would start a couple months later, so I’m able to catch the new episodes as they air. In fact, last week’s episode, “El Secuestro”, was one of the best of the series, and prompted me to write this one.
If you’re a fan of Sealab 2021, you’ll enjoy Archer, as it’s a perfection of the form Adam Reed and Matt Thompson started on that show. Sealab (particularly the Harry Goz-era episodes) was great, but sometimes could feel not quite as full as they could be, even at 11 minutes long. Archer on the other hand, uses its 22 minutes to the fullest, and in some cases could even stand to be a little longer.
Part of the brilliance of Reed’s writing is in his deft combination of the mundane and fantastic; Sealab was, to some extent, an office-comedy set miles under the sea, and Archer’s somewhat similar, but set in the International Secret Intelligence Service, a spy agency. Many of the best scenes are set in the ISIS offices, where the characters bicker over most everything. This isn’t to say the scenes in the field aren’t great — they are. The writing is buoyed by the excellent voice acting from the entire cast, but notably H. Jon Benjamin in the title role and Aisha Tyler as his usual foil, Lana.
The DVD of season one is pretty cool, too — though it’s light on bonuses. There are lots of how-it’s-made type features which are interesting, though a little slow moving and dry, but the main bonus is a bit of a let-down. It’s an “unaired pilot”, but it’s actually just the aired pilot, only re-edited slightly. I would have loved to have seen more deleted scenes or something like that, but bonuses are relatively minor — after all, you typically buy the DVD for the main program, and in this case, the main program is a must-see. The only thing that trumps it is the consistently amazing season two. But until that comes out on DVD, season one will hold you over… as can watching the rest of the season (as of this writing, it airs on FX, Thursdays at 10:00PM).