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Animated 'Archer' Gets Away With Just About Everything
January 26, 2011  | By Ed Bark

The cartoon teen in Archer's Season 2 opener Thursday night can do what none of MTV's can -- get naked and be sexually explicit without raising concerns that these might be violations of federal pornography statutes.

Perhaps you've heard about the semi-uproar over Skins, MTV's explicit adaptation of a hit British series about an oft-time teenage wasteland. Some of the actors in the cast are under the age of 18, which has put the network on the defensive after the Parents Television Council attacked Skins as a "dangerous" dramatization that includes possibly illegal sexual content involving minors. Since the show's Jan. 17 premiere, several major sponsors have dropped out, including Taco Bell and Subway. Audiences also dropped, from 3.3 million for the opening episode to 1.6 million for last Monday's second hour.

Both Skins and FX's Archer are rated TV MA, the strongest viewer advisory available. But Archer, which returns for a new 13-episode run on Thursday (10 p.m. ET), is strictly a sendup of the well-worn spy genre. And in that guise, it's both jaw-droppingly funny and brilliantly voice-acted by a cast that includes Jessica Walter, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell and H. Jon Benjamin in the lead role of vain and awkwardly adept master spy Sterling Archer.


Now back to the teen scheme of things, during a provocative season premiere subtitled "Swiss Miss." Archer's demanding, tough-love mother, Malory (Walter), who runs the ISIS agency, takes her operatives to a snow-covered European resort for the purpose of protecting a Swiss billionaire's 16-year-old daughter, Anka, from a kidnapping threat.

Fellow agent Lana Kane (Tyler) isn't quite over Archer. So she gets a little miffed at him for eyeing Anka a little too closely after she clandestinely squeezes his tush.

"I saw you totally eye-bang a teenager," Lana carps before stalking off.

Anka turns out to be a sex-craving Lolita who doesn't at all mind Archer dubbing her "Countess Von Fingerbang." She's further aroused by the sight of his chiseled bod in a bath towel. Which is inadvertently dropped when Anka jumps into his arms after he saves her from a would-be abductor.

In her native state of Germany, the age of consent is 14, Anka has informed him. An incredulous Archer wonders whether her homeland is "the Alabama of Europe."

"In many ways, yes," she purrs. "But we can talk about that in bed."

Anka's father then barges in to see his daughter straddling her flustered, naked and still upright protector. And perhaps at this point it should be noted that the actress voicing Anka is 33-year-old Kari Wahlgren, a veteran of numerous animated outings on big screen and small. FX and Archer might be in big trouble if it instead were one of the underage actors from Modern Family. That indeed would be going too far.


The episode ends with a prolonged and splendidly animated snowmobile chase in which Anka is topless throughout after initially asking Archer, "Do you think I need a boob job?" He keeps a hands-off attitude until the bitterly cold end, when Anka begs Archer to put his "big mitten-y gloves" on her freezing chest. "Only because this is a medical emergency," he says, finally relenting before Lana drives up to again draw the wrong conclusion.

Adult animation hasn't yet reached the point -- at least on an advertiser-supported cable network -- where female endowments or male tools can be shown with abandon. But side views of ample breasts (including Anka's) and fully bared bottoms again are part of Archer's landscape, as they were in Season 1. The S-word also is used with regularity, as when plus-sized ISIS Human Resources director Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) exclaims "Holy shitcakes!" in next week's outing.

Archer in short can get away with just about everything Skins can't. And it does so in ways that are often laugh-out-loud funny. In every way imaginable, Archer is about as far removed from The Flintstones as Guy Fieri is from a vegetarian diet.

Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block or Comedy Central would kill for a show like this. Instead, it's FX scoring again with another out-of-the-box, in-your-face series that most assuredly isn't for everyone -- but most definitely knows what it's doing.


Read more by Ed Bark at unclebarky.com



Tausif Khan said:

You gave this show a rave review and yet graded it only a B+. Why is it only a B+?

Comment posted on January 27, 2011 3:27 PM

Mac said:

I would have figured that the audience for "Skins" would have grown after all of the hoopla during a slow week in January. I bailed on MTV somewhere during the Bush 41 administration (Mariah Carey was the final straw). I passed on Archer first time around, but your description sounds so sleazy, in an anti-MTV way, that maybe I'll tune in. I'll tell my wife that Uncle Barky (heh,heh) likes it. Any show that has a female character named after an ointment used for skin pain (including, yes, there) must be pretty diabolical, and deserves our attention during a slow week in January.

Comment posted on January 29, 2011 10:33 AM

Randy said:

Archer is a breath like a breath of helium in an otherwise stale TV world. Great writing and brilliant voice acting make Archer a joy to watch and it tickles your mental funny bone all while being the bad boy of animation, pushing the limits and moving the bar.
If you miss Archer you are denying yourself a special treat.

Comment posted on February 4, 2011 1:07 PM

EricG said:

OMG, Mac...I just realized; Lana Kane = Lanacane. Oy vey. Sad trombone. --EG

Comment posted on April 15, 2011 8:53 AM
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