Archer is FX’s hilarious animated series about the employees of ISIS. Part James Bond spoof, part workplace comedy, it follows the zany adventures of some moronic people who, somehow, always seem to get the job done, despite being constantly sidetracked by their inane and selfish whims. It’s fantastic.
Season Four, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, begins with “Fugue and Riffs.” Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) ran away on his mother’s wedding day, months ago, and hasn’t been seen since. Lana (Aisha Tyler) finally finds him living with a wife and kids and running a burger joint.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Benjamin also is the titular character on the FOX series Bob’s Burgers, and “Fugue and Riffs” seems to be a demented, ultra-meta crossover, with Archer having become Bob (albeit with the children being his step kids) and John Roberts reprising his role as Linda, Bob’s wife. The fact that Archer would do something like this should tell you just about everything you need to know about the tone of the series.
“Fugue and Riffs” isn’t the only great installment in this two-disc set, which comprises 13 episodes. “Once Bitten” has Archer dying in the desert as Cyril (Chris Parnell) and Ray (Adam Reed) ineptly try to save him. “Live and Let Dine” features the spies undercover at a restaurant working for a mean chef, Lance Casteau (voiced by real celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain). And in the two-part season finale, “Sea Tunt,” the gang goes with Cheryl’s brother and his girlfriend (Bob’s Burgers stars Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal) to Sealab to stop the crazy Captain Murphy (Jon Hamm, Mad Men, playing the character from the Adult Swim series Sealab 2021).
This stuff is outrageous and will make you laugh out loud, but honestly, my favorite parts of Archer usually just involve the cast hanging around together. Malory’s (Jessica Walter) alcoholism, Pam’s (Amber Nash) crazy sex and danger obsessions, Cheryl’s (Judy Greer) twisted fantasies, Krieger’s (Lucky Yates) creepy experiments, and the rest blend together for a very pleasing batch of witty dialogue and humorous conflicts.
Archer is great because it knows what it is and wants to be and allows the characters to develop. It is a goofy animated sitcom, to be sure, but the players are much better fleshed out and dynamic than on, say, Family Guy. There are serial arcs and many recurring actors who pop up from time to time. What happens in one episode may have consequences down the road. It’s a show that should be watched in order, not just a random episode here and there, which is a rare thing for a cartoon.
There are, sadly, only two special features in this set. “Fisherman’s Daughter” is a movie that Krieger and Pam are making. Don’t worry, it isn’t tentacle porn, though it probably would be if we got to see all of it (only three minutes or so are present), and it does come awfully close to that line. “Archer Live” features twenty-minutes edited out of a live stage show, which includes scene readings and goofing off with the audience.
Both of these extras are great. My complaint isn’t with the content itself, just that there isn’t enough of it. It seems there’s been a trend recently to slim down the bonuses on DVD sets, as I’ve commented on many being sparse this year, and while not every fan wants this stuff, it is valuable to some who could just digitally download a set if the draw for the physical media isn’t there.
Oh, and Archer has a mustache on the cover that you can take on and off, which sounds simple, but is much more fun than you’d expect.
Overall, this is a good release because the episodes are fantastic and the featurettes are enjoyable. Archer The Complete Season Four is available now.