Friday, January 17, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Archer, "White Elephant"

Looking forward to the ballet version of The Ipcress File.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Adam Reed was just plain bored.

I love how that's the simple reason why Reed peaces out Archer's ISIS spy agency backdrop with FBI explosives and gunfire in "White Elephant," the ballsy and unsurprisingly hilarious fifth-season premiere of the animated show that's currently topping all other animated shows in terms of funny dialogue and cold opens (that balletic "White Elephant" cold open with no dialogue may be the show's best one yet). Reed is writing ISIS out of the show--tired of letting Malory Archer get away with murder as the corrupt head of ISIS, the government shuts down ISIS and sends special guest star Gary Cole and his Feds to arrest Malory and her agents--so beginning with "White Elephant," Sterling Archer, expectant mother Lana and Malory are no longer spies.

"I think probably all writers have the fear of repeating themselves over and over," explained Reed to the A.V. Club about why he's getting rid of ISIS this season. "It's sort of a way to hopefully make sure I'm not doing that. And also to keep people watching, so it didn't slowly turn into mission-of-the-week."

Last season was as consistently funny as previous seasons, but the spy storylines were beginning to feel a little rote to me, especially the feud between ISIS and Bionic Barry. I'm not surprised that Reed recently revealed he was starting to feel the same way too. We don't tune in to Archer because of the missions of the week. We tune in mainly for Reed's deranged characters and to see what sort of hilarity arises from hearing them ping-pong back and forth. Archer always worked better as a workplace comedy than a comedic spy show, so I'm not at all sorry to see the ISIS premise go because having Sterling, Lana and the rest stop pretending to be good guys and pursue criminal activity full-time to sell off Malory's secret stash of cocaine may end up being the best thing that's ever happened to this show.

Or it may not. Look what happened to Weeds when Jenji Kohan similarly took a flamethrower to her show's original premise after Nancy Botwin burnt Agrestic to the ground and took her family on the run across the continent or when the Conners won the lottery on Roseanne. Neither show was able to handle quite so well the changes in setting and concept. But I have faith in Archer's new season because all those clips of mayhem in the season 5 trailer that's badly disguised as Sterling's fantasy sequence about his new life in the drug game look very promising. Cheryl/Carol pursuing a country music career that's presumably funded by Sterling's new cartel? The sight of Lana in action as her baby bump expands? Pam getting high on her own supply and having to be taken down with dozens of tranquilizer darts like a grizzly bear? Plus Smokey and the Bandit car jumps too? Sign me up.

Memorable quotes:
* "Well, he died doing what he loved. Getting shot."

* Krieger, who's finally been added to the opening credits: "I'll be your doctor." Lana: "Well, if I want Hitler's DNA spliced into him, I'll give you a call." "Yeah, I'm around."

* Sterling, coming up with a Scrubs Med-esque name for the new cartel: "Archer Vice." Lana: "What?" Sterling: "Nothing. Shut up."

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