Friday, May 30, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Archer, "Sea Tunt: Part II" (from April 17, 2013)

'Put that thing away,' says Jon Hamm. 'What I'm packing is way bigger, dude.'
The producers forced Jon Hamm to wear underwear during this role as well.
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. Beginning this week, "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week" is in reruns. A different older show (from either earlier this year or before) will be revisited each week. "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week" will return in July with all-new reviews. Because this week marks both the end of Mad Men until 2015 and the release of Maleficent, it's time to flash back to an episode that featured both one of Jon Hamm's countless comedic guest shots and Maleficent-esque Malory Archer being her usual Maleficent-esque self. Plus Aisha Tyler mentioned this same episode in a lengthy Q&A Esquire posted this week.

Damn. So Lana Kane is pregnant, via an unspecified sperm donor. Unlike Ray Gillette ending up confined to a wheelchair once again (by the way, a bunch of Sterling/Ray shippers somewhere must be having a field day over the tickling scene that causes Ray's re-crippling), I didn't see that one coming. However, thanks to all that time I spent in TV Clichés 101, when Lana started puking while heading off with the other agents to stop eco-terrorist Captain Murphy in the second half of "Sea Tunt," Archer's fourth-season finale, I knew right there she was with child. It explains her irritability and largely unspoken concern about settling down and having a life outside of ISIS in recent episodes. I appreciate how Archer creator Adam Reed didn't resort to having Lana spell out her concern in dialogue and chose to have her constantly interrupted before she could spell it out during those episodes. It shows how much Reed respects the audience's intelligence, unlike some other animated series showrunners (*cough*Ultimate Spider-Man writers*cough*).

Archer, Lana, Cecil and Ray discover that Murphy was faking his possession of nerve gas missiles, which makes him, along with Malory and Eugene Mirman's Cecil Tunt, one of several characters this season who concocted lies to get more money because they're broke. Killing off Murphy with a soda machine emblazoned with the last name of the late Harry Goz, the actor who voiced Murphy on Reed and Matt Thompson's Sealab 2021, is Reed and Thompson's twisted and oddly affecting way of both paying tribute to Goz and saying that not even Jon Hamm in the role of Murphy can compare to Goz.

The other revelation about Murphy--he doesn't have any personnel with him at Sealab--is Reed's clever way of working around the fact that Cartoon Network's legal department really did a number on Reed and prevented him from using all the other characters from Sealab. The absence of lewd and frequently nude Debbie DuPree, Sealab's precursor to Cheryl/Carol and Pam, is particularly glaring because she would have fit right in with the Archer universe. Maybe Reed should have emulated Murphy, Malory and Cecil and lied to trick Cartoon Network into giving him the rights to the other characters.

Despite the lack of those characters and the rather minimal screen time given to Mirman and Kristen Schaal in the second half, "Sea Tunt" is a satisfying season finale, thanks to the show's always terrific dialogue (especially when the agents argue over undercover personas and when Cyril frequently snipes at Lana because he's pissed that he's not her baby's father) and great character moments like Archer setting aside his usual asshole self for a second to let Lana know that he wants her to be a better mom than Malory was. Another thing I like about "Sea Tunt" is that it's given me an excuse to revisit one of the greatest--but way too short--TV themes of all time, performed by the indie pop band Calamine.

Memorable quotes:
* Murphy, as he dies: "Forgive my candor. I just felt my spleen slip out of what was my anus."

* Murphy's last words: "Crushed by an off-brand drink machine. Oh my God, just like that old gypsy woman sa--"

* Lana, as Archer lets himself drown Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio style to save her and her baby: "Okay, here it comes! You just gotta relax and let it go in your mouth!" Archer: "Phrasing!"

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