When “Archer” debuted back in 2010… I wasn’t plugged in enough to be watching. But when I discovered it on Netflix a couple years later, it felt like the comedy I’d been waiting for. Imaginative, raunchy, sick, twisted, and smart, “Archer” has always been above all else extremely funny. It also served as a great way to get over “Arrested Development,” one of television fans’ great “ones that got away” (fellow “Firefly” enthusiasts, I don’t know what to tell you… maybe you could try watching “Star Trek” and a John Ford film at the same time).
“Archer” is an animated sitcom which manages to mine new comedic material from what had previously seemed to be tapped out genre: the spy spoof. It was laugh-out-loud hilarious from the pilot all through seasons one, two, and three. Then around came season four and it was… good.
Now in the middle of season 5 I will continue to praise the show with faint damnation by saying that it is still good. Though obviously all television is subjective, for me comedy is an especially thorny problem because at the end of the day, there is only one thing that really decides whether or not I keep watching: is it funny? This property of funniness is illusive and I can’t pinpoint what it’s tied too. The aggressively stupid “Robot Chicken” makes me laugh out loud whereas the clever and inventive “30 Rock” has yet to illicit a chuckle from me. But just as often, I find myself unmoved by silliness but almost literally rolling on the floor over a Monty Python philosophy-related gag (preferably involving Australians named Bruce). “Archer” has always been a perfect mix of absurd, filthy, and highbrow, but for some reason it just isn’t as funny anymore. Recently the creator has admitted that he’s become bored with the show and, to guard against creative stagnation, gave this most recent season a makeover. The show is now called “Archer Vice” and the characters have lost their spy agency and are making inept attempts at forming a drug cartel. But despite this alleged retooling, everything feels the same. Maybe it just needs a more sweeping kind of change, though what that would be I couldn’t say, or maybe (circling back to “Arrested Development”) this kind of comedic brilliance can only stay strong for about three seasons.