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'Archer' season premiere review: Is this the best (adult) cartoon on TV?

After seeing the second-season premiere of Archer, I think the primary question to be asked is: Is this the best adult-aimed cartoon on television right now? You can have your Bob’s Burgers and your Family Guy (please, and please); South Park is very hit-or-miss. But Archer, taking full advantage of FX’s mature-content flexibility, isn’t just funny – it boasts solid plotting, vividly distinct characters, and some of the most unexpected punchlines and sight-gags in prime time.

The new season found the debonair-but-dumb Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) facing cut-backs at the spy agency ISIS, run by his mother, Malory Archer (Jessica Walter, who is required to utter many of the show’s most wildly inappropriate lines, so hats off to her). On the look-out for new clients, Malory was hired by a German billionaire to protect his 16 year-old daughter from terrorist kidnappers in Switzerland.

The daughter, Anka, turned out to be a nymphomaniac, of course, eager to doff her clothes leap upon (a fully clothed) Archer without removing the lollypop from her mouth. When Archer tried to pry her off, nervous about being accused of sex with a minor, she protested that “in Germany, the age of consent is 14.” “What is it, the Alabama of Europe?” drawled Archer.

Creator Adam Reed and his collaborators stuff every half-hour with pop-culture references that zip by as quickly as Archer’s snow-mobile did this evening. From a blink-and-you-missed-it Patty Hearst bank-robbery photo reference to a nice (if suddenly out-dated) reference to “Johnny Storm, the Human Torch,” Archer succeeds on the strength of its engagement with the world, not a cartooned reality. The smart thing the show does is portray Archer as thick-headed but redeemable because he is good at his job: This week, he

snapped the necks of the kidnappers and shot them with their own weapons. You come to the show for its double entendres, and stay to see how Archer is going to grapple with having to work for his mother and put up with the competition from his smarter colleague, Lana (Aisha Taylor, who delivers lines with a sarcasm that has about 38 variations of tone).

Speaking of delivering lines, H. Jon Benjamin as the voice of Archer gets more out of a honking, nasal monotone than most actors do with a more dulcet vocal instrument. It help, of course, that he’s got great dialogue – that’s what distinguishes Benjamin’s work here from his voicing for the mostly-rancid Bob’s Burgers.

Archer is the best nighttime animation series since Frisky Dingo… which was co-created by Adam Reed.

What do you think of Archer?

Twitter: @kentucker

Originally posted January 27 2011 — 10:38 PM EST

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