Fox // 2011 // 286 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // January 8th, 2012
The spy who loved himself.
Not having been a frequent viewer of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, it didn't register with me when Adam Reed moved over to FX to create a secret agent cartoon. Finally, after many attempts by people to get me to watch Archer, I gave it a go and found one of the funniest new series on television. Its mix of spy spoof and workplace antics were excellent and its voice acting nearly perfect. Well, the folks from the ISIS Agency are back for a second season, but without the element of surprise and with the added element of expectation. Does Archer have the chops to maintain its cloak-and-dagger allure?
It's a tough year for Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin, Home Movies). From the continued search for his real father and a breast cancer scare to the tragedy of his one true love, the most dangerous secret agent in the world has a ton to deal with. Luckily, he has a dubious support system of misfits, murderers, and a diabolical mother to see him through...as if they're any help.
I'm not sure there was any way the second season of Archer could match the first. It was such an out of the blue success, playing perfectly to my sense of humor, the hype it built couldn't possibly be realized. But that's my problem; it often happens with things I like. In truth, the show is remarkably consistent. Its unique brand of bawdy jokes and outrageous situations is the bread and butter of the series.
This year, the question surrounding the identity of Sterling Archer's father is taken to even greater extremes, as he travels to Russia to question KGB head Nikolai Jakov (Jeffery Tambor, The Hangover) about his history with Sterling's mother, Malory (Jessica Walter, Play Misty for Me). We learn more about Sterling's servant Woodhouse (George Coe, The Entity), Cheryl (Judy Greer, Love and Other Drugs) the office secretary and her pet ocelot. Ray (Reed) gets a more prominent role, while accountant Cyril (Chris Parnell, Hot Rod) -- a big player in the first season -- takes a back seat. So while the characters don't get much more development and the show lacks heart, it's still ridiculously funny.
And it's the voice acting that makes the show; it's even better here than in the Season One. There's a snappy chemistry among the cast that really is top notch. H. Jon Benjamin is perfect as Sterling Archer, a complete jag who knows it and doesn't care. As Lana Kane, Aisha Tyler (Balls of Fury) is a fantastic foil and the only sane person in the office. All the old Arrested Development folks are in great form and everybody is brilliant. Fans of the first season shouldn't be disappointed, as this season is just as good.
Archer: Season Two's thirteen episodes arrive on two standard definition DVDs from Fox in a package that is decent, but not exceptional. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks good, with vibrant colors and a solidly sharp transfer. It's what you expect from new television programming; no better, no worse. The Dolby 5.1 surround is a strong mix, with full dialogue and fair use of the rear channels, though not quite as much as it could have.
The extras are all found on the second disc and, while not numerous, are mostly amusing. Four short animated featurettes include "Archersaurus: Self-Extinction," a True Hollywood Stories style extension of the "top secret" pilot episode from Season One, as well as a question and answer session with Archer, which is one of the funniest aspects of the entire set. A short piece showing the cast at last year's Comic-Con isn't nearly as funny, but that's what you get from nerds asking questions, so I'm not surprised. I would have loved some commentaries or more substantial behind-the-scenes information, but what's here is pretty solid.
Archer: Season Two follows the same path as Season One, with a few stellar episodes and almost complete success. This season didn't blow me away like the first one did, but my expectations were a lot higher, so it isn't really the show's fault. With a third, slightly expanded season coming to FX, this is the perfect time to catch up on Archer, one of the funniest programs on television today.
I can't wait for Season Three. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 286 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site