on 16 May 2011
Before I cover the show itself, a note about the actual discs: Even though the original product description here said the discs in this set are Region 2 PAL, they are, in fact, Region 2 NTSC. (Odd format, I know. This labelling error has now been corrected.) I discovered this when I popped one of them onto my PS2 to watch, and everything came up monochrome and striated. Confused because I saw an episode in full colour on TV, I checked the packaging, and yep: Region 2 NTSC. When I watched the discs on my XBox, however, everything was in glorious, flawless colour. Still wanting the advertised PAL version, I asked Amazon for a replacement, got a profuse apology and a promise to send out a new PAL set as a replacement . . . and got another NTSC set a couple of days later. So unless I'm extremely unlucky (and in my experience, there's no such thing as luck), it looks like ALL these discs are NTSC, but if you have an XBox or similar set-up that can play Region 0 / Region 2 NTSC discs, you should be okay. Otherwise, expect black-and-white. As for the show . . . .
Adam Reed, who brought us the tedious admin details, uncomfortable interpersonal relationships, and frequent hilarious foul-ups that can plague the day of the average supervillain / superhero in "Frisky Dingo" does the same to the superspy genre in "Archer" to great effect, except with greatly improved animation and cool 1960s Spy Film-style jazzy theme music.
Suave(ish), handsome, and deadly, Sterling Archer is the world's most dangerous spy. It also helps that his alcoholic, man-hungry harpy of a mummy runs the ISIS espionage agency where he works. Because although he's the world's most dangerous spy, he isn't the world's most EFFECTIVE spy. That title is more deserved by the unbearably sexy and competent Agent Lana Kane, who also works for ISIS . . . and is Sterling Archer's embittered ex. Archer himself, if he completes a mission, it's more as a result of sheer coincidence than anything else, because although he's highly trained and dangerous, he's as much a danger to himself and his allies as he is to his enemies. And the rest of the ISIS crew are even worse.
Malory Archer runs the agency, but only when it can fit into her busy schedule of binge-drinking, seducing men, and one-upping her neighbours. Malory's PA, Cheryl (Or is it Carol? Or Cristal? Or Carine? Whatever.) has an unhealthy fixation on Archer, as well as an unhealthy attitude towards love in general. The Head of Human Resources, Pam, takes a deep interest in the staff of ISIS and listens to all their problems, which then become workplace gossip within seconds. Cyril, the nerdy comptroller for ISIS, drives the other characters crazy with his neuroses and interpersonal relationships. Dr. Krieger, the gadget-man, is Just Plain WEIRD. And the guys in the Ops Center are uninterested and distracted at best, downright snarky at worst, which is kind of a drawback when you're in the middle of a firefight and need extraction. Whether they're fighting bad guys, competing agents, or each other, the ISIS crew will get the job done. Eventually. With lots of collateral damage and injuries.
Ten episodes (spread over two discs) filled with high-risk missions, sex, office politics, sex, explosions, weird sex, shocking secrets and awkward moments, the laughs come at you at a fast and furious pace. Bonus features include an unaired promo, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes Making Of featurette, and the "Original Unaired Pilot" episode, starring one of the best animated cartoon dinosaurs I have ever seen. (I recommend watching that one last.) While it's true that repeated viewings may lessen the shock value of some of the laughs, you may catch things you missed the first time around. Unless you have an eidetic memory, and give plenty of time between repeated viewings, you should still get very good laugh value from this set.
Espionage. Murder. Sex. Comedy. Stuff blowing up. And a dinosaur. Can it get any better than this? Probably . . . but not by much.