One of the most disappointing things that I’ve read recently is that Archer, FX’s new Adult Swim-esque show might get canceled. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of AS comedies in general, I sometimes don’t find the humor funny and I’m not a fan of deliberately awkward pacing, but I really think the Arrested Development comparison that people are making is a valid one.
Archer is a hybrid parody of both workplace comedies and secret agent tropes. This workplace is I.S.I.S., a governmental agency akin to U.N.C.L.E. and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Sterling Archer is their best agent, albeit with significant liabilities associated with his weird (read: incest) relationship with his mother (head of the agency, Mallory Archer (played by Jessica Walter)), perpetual intoxication, complicated love life, and a sociopathic inability to care about the feelings of others. The center of the show is the fiercely competitive and deeply weird relationship between the Archers, and the cast is filled out by parodies of familiar characters: the weapons/gadget guy (in this show, a weirdo in the basement who manufactures his own recreational drugs and builds sex robots on company time [“The best part? He’s learning…”]) rival agent/token minority, pencil pusher/boyfriend of Archer’s ex, Moneypenny (think Joan Holloway if she liked rape fantasies and being choked, and the director of human resources (a serial sexual harasser who’s orientation is wide open). The plot is usually just a structure to hang sight gags, one liners, and complicated jokes that sometimes take a couple episodes to pay off.
This is why I think that the comparison between Archer and Arrested Development goes beyond Jessica Walter, although Mallory is an unleashed version of Lucille. They’re both feature a dense web of jokes that are purely visual, purely dialogue, and both. It also takes the outrageous, dry, caustic wit of AD and turns it to 11. Interestingly, I think that Modern Family also shares some of this lineage. It’s taken some of the structures and techniques of AD (including subtle sight gags and callbacks/callforwards) while moving the comedy to a more mainstream place.
The first two episodes of the show are available to stream on, so if you’re interested, or are already hooked and want to save the show, you should check those out.

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