As a young bachelor, I can say with confidence that my favorite past time after a hard day’s work is to lay down on my bed with a cold beer and watch Netflix. I’m not the best at exploring new entertainment, however, which leads me to watch and rewatch the same four shows over and over. I’m at the point where people refuse to watch shows like Bob’s Burgers and Archer with me, because I can’t stop myself from quoting each line verbatim. Archer, in particular, is one of my favorite shows of all time, but it also holds a very unique place in my heart. If it were up to me, Archer would only have four seasons. The release of Archer’s fifth season, also known as Archer Vice, heralded the death of my love for the show. I find it very difficult to enjoy Archer Vice, despite not much changing from season four to season five, at least in terms of the show’s tendency towards inside jokes and obscure references. Let’s take a look at what makes Archer tick and why Archer Vice is not only incredibly derivative, but also a great example of an inevitable decline in quality.
Archer’s charm is also its greatest downfall. Each character has a very specific personality, so much so that the jokes almost seem to write themselves. The problem is when the writers decided to try and switch things up, putting the characters in new environments and writing self referential jokes that made fun of previous seasons. Non sequiturs abound in modern American adult cartoons, but Archer succeeds instead by relying on running jokes that last from season to season and literary references that leave Sterling shouting “read a book, people!” Archer Vice decided to take the running jokes to the nth degree, in what seems to be an attempt at taking the piss out of the show’s own writing process. “Something, something, Danger Zone,” is exactly where Archer jumped the shark, taking an already weak running joke and removing all of the effort needed to make it stand on its own. Archer has some stupid jokes, but making jokes about how dumb some of the jokes are only succeeds in making even worse jokes.
Archer Vice’s second biggest sin is taking most of the already established characters and trying to revamp them. Pam became a twelve year old’s interpretation of a coke-head, Cheyrl became an incredibly stupid plot point and Sterling became a watered down, almost fanfiction-esque, shadow of his former infamy. Even the office, which almost became a character in and of itself, was abandoned. Normally, switching things up wouldn’t be a bad thing, but Archer stands on the shoulders of its characters and their jokes. Without Pam being made fun of for shitting bricks or Cheyrl being ridiculously rich, the show loses a lot of its luster. Archer relies on its situational comedy, as each character is thrust into a different environment and hilarity ensues, but when the writers decided that the plot is more important than the jokes, the show crashed and burned. The plot that destroyed my love for Archer wasn’t even interesting! The writers took a joke with potential (that I.S.I.S. turns into a drug cartel), which would have worked as the plot of an episode, and, instead, stretched it into irrelevance over an entire season. Out of all of Vice’s failures, everything could be excused if it wasn’t for the absolutely shit writing. Bad premises can be saved with great jokes, but Season 5 made sure that even the good jokes were badly executed. Bad jokes can be ignored, but Pam’s cocaine obsession was just fucking obnoxious.
I’ve yet to see Season 6 of Archer, but I’m already very wary after suffering and sleeping through Archer Vice. Hopefully, the writers had the sense to put their trademark characters back into the cycle of whacky environments to further explore their established personalities. For a show that seems so ‘on-rails’, it’s baffling just how off the rails one season could take Archer. This is one of those moments that I thank my lucky stars that God hates Joss Whedon, because otherwise Firefly’s potential second season could have ruined an otherwise perfect show. Sometimes it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but in Archer’s case, I kind of wish it had died before my interest in it did.