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When Subeditors Go Wild: Archer

Cover of 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die.
Book Cover of 1001 TV Series.
So, many years ago my friend Paul (may he rest in peace) asked me to contribute some pieces for a book he was asked to edit called 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die. I picked the series I wanted to do and submitted my… er… submissions. One got canned as the publishers decided they didn’t want too many children’s shows but the rest got through relatively unscathed.

Apart from one. A review of “Archer” – a brilliant animated series I urge you to watch the first four series of – got published in the book under my name. But it bore no resemblance to what I actually wrote. Some subeditor took it upon themselves to write their own thing and change the “classic episode” to something else. And yet still publish it under my name. (And, yes, I am still bitter about it.)

Here is what I actually wrote.

(And to hell with them. They can have the paltry money back if they want it.)

Archer (Comedy, United States, 2010 – Present)

Animated comedy set in the world’s most dysfunctional spy agency.

Cast: H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Aisha Tyler, Amber Nash
Original Broadcaster: US, FX
Awards: Best Animated Series, Critics Choice Awards 2014
For fans of: Arrested Development, The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park

Described by his mother as a “vain, selfish, lying, and quite possibly alcoholic man-whore,” Sterling Archer is also one of the world’s greatest secret agents. Unfortunately for him Malory is not only his hard-as-nails mother, but also his boss, and his fellow-agent Lana has dumped him in favor of the office accountant. Together they and a misfit group of colleagues – formed of depraved HR officers, mad scientists and self-harming secretaries – lurch from one entertainingly debauched adventure to the next.

Amid the gorgeous and slick animation, Archer is an intentionally anachronistic series: while it looks like Mad Men, the technology and references are decidedly modern, but the Cold War is apparently still well under way. This mixed backdrop allows the show to mine several decade’s-worth of spy tropes with extreme precision and cram in pop-culture references a-plenty. But it’s also very strongly plotted, something particularly in evidence in the fifth series, Archer Vice, where only in its last episodes do you realize there has been an intricate game played out through the whole run.

One of the series’ delights, however, is how the characters develop. At first Sterling seems to be nothing but a self-involved asshole, but we soon realize he has been deeply damaged by his childhood, and over time all the cast are revealed to have dark secrets, drives or obsessions. Ultimately though, what really stands out is the dialogue: the show is eminently quotable, with each script strewn with deliciously phrased lines; many of them breathtakingly savage and politically incorrect.

Like the suave master-spy the show is named after, Archer is a series that takes no prisoners – and yet never proves to be anything less than captivating.

Classic Episode: Lo Scandalo | Series 3 Episode 8
An elaborate plot leaves the Prime Minister of Italy dead in Malory’s apartment wearing bondage gear and with a marital aid inserted into his behind. The agency must dispose of his body before the police arrive, but all is not as it seems and there are twists and turns to come.