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‘Archer’ Returns on a New Network and in a New Decade
April 5, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Sterling Archer meets Humphrey Bogart this season, and it’s about time.

Archer, the title character in television’s finest animated detective dramedy, ended last season in a coma. As the eighth season of Archer, titled Archer: Dreamland, begins Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET – moving over to FXX from sister network FX – he’s waking up. Sort of.

The first episode, and thus very likely all or most of the whole season, goes inside Archer’s motionless head and finds he has transported himself back to the 1940s.

There he’s a private investigator – with the same name, which makes it easy to remember – who discovers his partner has been killed.

Now he must find out who did it and why, so he can take revenge.

If this sounds vaguely like the setup in Bogart’s 1941 noir classic The Maltese Falcon, it is.

It’s also probably worth remembering that Bogart’s partner in The Maltese Falcon was named Miles Archer.

Adam Reed, creator and mastermind of the FXX Archer, wisely doesn’t turn Sterling Archer (still voiced brilliantly by H. Jon Benjamin) into a caricature of Bogey, which would be fun and could risk getting gimmicky.

Instead, he puts Archer into a vaguely Bogart-esque situation, handling it Archer’s way and meeting Archer’s people, all in slightly different incarnations from the models we’ve known all along. 

Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) becomes a seductive nightclub singer who purrs “Fever” into a microphone and turns Archer’s bones to jelly.

Cheryl (Judy Greer) becomes a mysteriously dissatisfied heiress who launches the new season’s first big storyline by hiring Archer for an unconventional job.

Figgis (Chris Parnell) has quite a different role in this setting, and it may surprise some fans. Archer’s mother Malory (Jessica Walters), on the other hand, becomes herself, only more so.

The show has some fun with the time and setting, though that’s muted because it has always mixed-and-matched its time period references.

More significantly, Archer himself becomes a decorated World War II veteran with a puzzling military backstory that we see only in brief, disconnected flashbacks.

There are fewer pop culture references, presumably because a 2017 audience might not necessarily pick up right away on Esther Williams or Louis Jordan jokes.

There’s still plenty of humor, always bending toward the absurd, and Archer’s time travel has not stripped him of his signature phrases, attitude or fondness for bourbon and wordplay.

The whole idea of sending Archer back to a golden age of noir detective films feels like something Reed couldn’t resist trying and figured he might as well do now. The network has renewed Archer for three more years, through Season 10, at which point Reed says he’s going to terminate the show with extreme prejudice.

That’s sad for us, and it makes sense for him. Reed has kept Archer at the top of its game for seven seasons, with every indication it will remain there in its eighth. That’s remarkable, and assuming it continues, it’s never a bad idea to go out on top.

So this year the tour takes Archer and his pals into the 1940s, a decade that at season’s end will presumably be scratching its head and saying, “What was that?”

In the best way possible.

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