Issues with Archer: Why I Don’t Get a Show That Everyone Loves

When I sat down to watch the first episode of the new season of Archer with a group of friends this past week, one of my friends said “I thought you didn’t like Archer”. And while I don’t outright hate the show I tend to stay silent while the rest of the room is laughing up a storm. The claim that I don’t like the show or maybe even hate it got me thinking, what is it about Archer that makes it difficult for me to warm up to and is that my fault or is something wrong with the show?

Archer, for those of you who haven’t watched, is an animated series set in the world of a sort of CIA type spy agency called ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service). The show revolves around an agent named Sterling Archer and the spy team that works around him which happens to be headed by his mother, Malory. The show is like Arrested Development if you switched out family for spies, and made everyone a jerk.

It’s not that I don’t like animated series’, so let’s get that out-of-the-way right off the bat. I have laughed and cried (and sobbed, thanks The Iron Giant) at animated shows and movies in equal measure to live action shows. Animation might have a more difficult job in that they do not have the luxury of a real person’s face to show emotion but if the story and characters are doing their jobs then this really shouldn’t matter. And it’s certainly not that I find the show offensive despite its constant off-color humor. I think if Archer exceeds at anything it is tight-roping that line between shock for shock’s sake and being legitimately funny.

In the first episode of the new season, we are ushered back into the world of ISIS in a rather odd way. Archer, with a bad case of amnesia, is working at Bob’s Burgers and, as any good television viewer knows, H. Jon Benjamin voices the titular character on both shows. Archer thinks he is Bob and has a wife named Linda and has kids named – well, that’s not important (which is unfortunate – Louise, Gene and Tina would have been welcome additions to the crossover). What was odd about this crossover and what actually made it less of a joy than it should have been, was that the world of Bob’s Burgers and the world of Archer could (and, clearly should) never, ever exist on the same plane. They are fundamentally at odds with each other. Bob’s Burgers is an irreverent, silly, loving look at the life of a family where the worst thing that happens in any given episode is a visit from the health inspector. Archer is a show where people get killed every other minute like it’s no big deal. Instead of being overjoyed that characters I adore were on a show that I sometimes like, I was dismayed. It made everything worse. I don’t want those worlds to collide. But why?

And that’s where the contrasts of the two shows helped illuminate for me what has been bugging me about Archer for some time now: it has no humanity. On Bob’s Burgers the characters are nasty and sometimes outright mean to each other but they are capable of love and compassion. On Archer, compassion is sorely lacking. Which, in some ways, makes sense. The employees of ISIS are hired to be cold, calculated and capable of killing on a moments notice.  The two-dimensionality of the characters on Archer is so apparent, so important that it is difficult to be in any position to understand them. What the Bob’s Burgers opening makes you realize is that, despite being in many ways more realistic and less outlandish than Bob’s Burgers, the characters on Archer are less immediately compelling. And that brings me to another point.

Archer is essentially about one thing and one thing only: jokes. The plot and character are almost inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But that means that the jokes all have to be grand slams in order for the show to be worth watching and I’m not really sure they are. The problem with the jokes on Archer is they can’t really be character driven if the characters are so flimsy. Most of the time the jokes are the reason to put the characters in a situation rather than vice versa. Flimsy characters and character development result in flimsy jokes. Jokes can be funny without interesting characters to back them up, sure, but they are funnier with them.

The other issue that I have with Archer is that there really aren’t many stakes even though it is a show that should be full of them. Even when (in season 2) Archer finds out that he has breast cancer we never really feel that the possibility of his death exists. Bad things happen all around ISIS but because a.) Characters are loathsome and b.) The show runs on a combination of cartoon and real logic, things are not as important as they should be. Compare this to a moment from the latest episode of Bob’s Burgers: Bespectacled, hormone-charged Tina has been investigating the crime of the “Mad Pooper” who keeps pooping all over her school. Her investigation leads her to the school auditorium, where she finds the culprit high up on the catwalk. When Tina climbs up to the catwalk it gives way and she almost falls off. At this moment, I let out an audible gasp knowing full well that Tina is a cartoon character and it is impossible for her to be injured. But, I was involved and was, momentarily at least, worried.

On Archer, everyone is so flippant that whatever emotional turn the show might take, it always seems to respond with a simple, “so what?”. When the apparent love of Archer’s life is killed and he spirals into a depressed funk, it’s difficult to relate to him on any kind of realistic level. Archer doesn’t change, he isn’t altered by what goes on around him – he is a dick and (now 3 seasons in) seemingly always will be, no matter if his world is turned upside down. That’s not to say that I think the character should become a better person, or stop saying inappropriate and hilarious things because of the events that the show presents, but if he and really all of the ISIS agents had the ability to grow, I would be more interested. Because, isn’t that what serialized television is all about? Seeing characters grow and change over relatively long periods time is probably the largest advantage that television has over films. I want that from the shows I watch and Archer doesn’t give that to me.

What I find truly unfortunate is the creators are clearly smart enough to make a show that is both funny and full of interesting character bits because they manage to make the some of the less important characters more nuanced than the ones we see week in and week out. In the first episode of the new season, a character named Cadillac shows up at the tail-end and, we find out, is dating Malory. He is fascinating because he is a departure from the main group and everyone in ISIS loves him. He seems genuinely interesting. He has shades of humanity and a full life that we only hear about (and one that I’m hoping the show will, at some point delve into). Not everyone can always be good – but everyone on Archer is so consistently horrible and they seem incapable of change. And that’s a problem. When my favorite character on the show is essentially peripheral (and probably won’t be seen ever again), there is an issue connecting with the audience.

Which, isn’t true. Because Archer has a large, passionate fan base. People love the show for reasons that I can’t quite understand. I get it. It’s crude, it’s disturbing, it’s sometimes wildly funny but it’s not the show for me.

88 thoughts on “Issues with Archer: Why I Don’t Get a Show That Everyone Loves

      • How old are you? I’m not being an ass but I do find it strange that u reference an episode of bobs burgers that features the “Mad Pooper,” and expect us to think that that show is in any way mature. It reminds me of family guy and South Park, which I, like you, can’t understand why people like.

      • I’m old enough (or young enough) to appreciate a well executed poop joke, I guess. To be more specific, thirty-something.

        In other news, I haven’t watched Archer in quite a while and I haven’t missed it. And, because I haven’t watched it in such a long time, I don’t feel qualified to talk about it beyond the few seasons that I watched. There are so many other shows that I’m currently enjoying. Some of them include poop jokes, some of them don’t.

  1. Completely agree with this. People told me to watch it/ saw its high ratings and watched the first six episodes and laughed rarely if any at all during each episode. just not for me I guess and I can def enjoy raunchy stuff so who knows.

  2. Archer does have humanity. Although not much, he is most clearly in love with Lana, despite not being able to show it, and throughout the seasons has laid down his life for her multiple times (I.E. – most recent episode when he found out she was preggo and decided to be the one who died at the deep sea lab… only to be brought back to life as much of a dick as ever). Just saying, your hypothesis isn’t quite on. I get what you’re saying…. but wrong. Best show on tv. That’s science.

    • Thanks for your response. I think you’re right. The show wants to use Lana as the character that brings out Archer’s humanity but that’s never exactly worked for me. The Archer/Lana relationship is like one little boys have with little girls in kindergarten where they pull the girls’ pigtails because they like them so much. I get all of that but I don’t care about it.

      In the episode you reference above (which I loved), Archer is all too willing to take the oxygen tank for himself UNTIL he finds out that Lana is pregnant. At first he’d be fine with Lana swimming to the next station without the aid of oxygen. So, I’m not sure if it has to do with Lana, or her child or the possibility of Lana as a mom (which I find fascinating). I will say, that the moment when Archer decides to die and let Lana and her baby live was incredibly touching. I also laughed hysterically when Captain Murphy (the character voiced by John Hamm) got crushed to death by the drink machine. I guess I’m warming up to the show as the show is warming up.

  3. The whole point of Archer is to exaggerate his deep psychological and physical problems, some following the series wide jokes such as his tenitus from people constantly firing guns near to his ears, and his remarking of how much it hurts when he does it to Lana and Barry, to his deep seated psychological problems that possibly started from his childhood when his mother was never there for him, being raised by woodhouse and not knowing who his father is, he also hints at other mental problems such as autism, this is shown in his ability to talk to animals such as Cheryl/carol’s ocelot: babou and kazak the dog, it is also highlighted in a long running gag of his ability to count bullets that have been fired.
    In my opinion I believe that the characters in archer are not as flimsy or weak as you make them out to be, as in certain episodes the characters’ backgrounds and histories are revealed, often with hilarious outcomes.
    The show relies on long running gags and history related jokes to make it as funny as it is, such as Bloodmobile Bret, a person who despite gaining the title bloodmobile for constantly being shot and pummeled does not leave ISIS, the tenitis joke among Lana and Sterling, and the sex tape gag among Malory and archer, and constant film references, such as Malory refers to Krieger as one of the Brazil boys, referring to the film the boys from brazil, inferring that Krieger is one of hitlers clones, Archers obsession with burt Reynolds who appears in a couple of episodes but dates archers mother, one of my favourite lines throughout the series is the ‘shouting’ gag, where archer says, ‘lana?’, ‘lana?’ ‘LANAAAAAAA?’ annoying her as much as possible by when she finally answers saying something stupid or just laughing.
    one of the most played gags is the answerphone messages, some of which are hilarious, some others which are well played include, archers constant reference to the movie Gator,Cyril’s sex obsession, Pam’s underground fights, which eventually she starts to do for fun when Krieger gives her a pair of ‘Bum Zappers’ or electrified gloves, and Cheryl/carol’s obsessions with glue and gummy bears infused with LSD.
    should you have watched a few more episodes or possibly the whole thing I think you will start to appreciate the well positioned comedy and well constructed episodes from which you watched, from what I have gathered, not a varied enough view of how far the characters have come to give a valid conclusion.
    in my opinion I cannot wait to see where the relationship between archer and Lana goes in season 5, and I will hope before then you will come to your senses and start enjoying an underrated, in depth psychology based comedy, and its got spies…..

    • This is a fantastic assessment of Archer, Jordan, thanks for posting. I can assure you I have seen every episode of the show and still watch it despite my qualms. I did love the season finale but still have issues with the show. I agree with you on your last point though, I’m more excited now than I’ve ever been to see where the story goes, especially in regards to the relationship with Archer and Lana!

      • I appreciate this well written reply by Acheron. That helps a lot. I try to watch it, but like the article, keep failing to appreciate it. And I agree with the main author that I tend to not care what happens to the characters. The stakes are very little–and it SEEMS to be about opportunities to smart ass or be mean-funny to each other. I think my friends who work in a job that is similar to that (major assertion, I know) tend to enjoy this show. Whereas, Bob’s has the family/school mainstream dynamic. Anyway, some of the posters saying inane/insulting things about people who are openly wondering about Archer are truly not helping the case for Archer. But some of these comments that are more insightful are valuable–and make me want to give it another shot. Thanks especially to the original author–I feel the same way. And I did love Seinfeld, Community, and many other shows popular and not.

  4. Let me guess, you didn’t like Seinfeld either? Seinfeld had 0 character growth. It never cared to make moral stances. It avoided emotions like the plague. And it’s been critically acclaimed and one of the most successful sitcoms (if not the most) of all time. Character growth is what ruins a lot of comedies. What’s wrong in seeing a show that just tries to make you laugh the whole time without trying to pull on your heart strings or trying to get preachy?

    That being said, I think Archer was emotional in “Placebo Effect” when Ruth, his friend, died of breast cancer because of the counterfeit chemotherapy medications that the main villain of the episode was giving out to make $. Before dying, she tells him that she watches Regis every morning because she loves his smile. The main villain of the episode is in a wheelchair and Archer can’t shoot him despite the villain saying repeatedly that he’s had sex with Archer’s mom, humiliating him. Then, Archer asks him if he watched Regis this morning, to which he says yes. And that finally gets Archer the anger to kill him. Even though the ending was a complete parody of Magnum PI, it definitely had heart.

    Not that good comedies need heart!

    • Thanks, Archer Defender. I did/do like Seinfeld. I think the difference with Seinfeld was I could appreciate the relationships that the characters had with each other (I never liked Curb Your Enthusiasm for this very reason, I think).

      As a general rule I don’t like comedies that pull at my heartstrings or get preachy so I should be a prime candidate to like shows like Archer (your description of the episode above even made me laugh – thanks for that!). And I completely agree with you – characters don’t need to grow/change to make a good show. I watch lots of shows with characters that are truly terrible people and they don’t change (and sometimes they get worse/more terrible!).

      I’ll mention again how much I really liked the season finale. Hopefully I’ll continue enjoying the show this upcoming season.

  5. I tried liking Archer, I really tried, but I can’t. Something about the whole dynamic of the show is kind of off to me. The only person who can kind of make me laugh in the show is Malory. The Archer and Lana relationship gets cringe-y most of the times; it’s the most annoying aspect of the show for me.

    • Thanks for the comment, Qusai. I think it’s interesting that you like Malory the most of the characters on the show. I admit, I haven’t considered her much but she certainly has her funny moments on the show. I think I understand what you are saying about the “off dynamic”, too.

  6. I know that I may be a few months late to this discussion but I just have to throw in my 2 cents as Archer is my all-time favorite TV show. Firstly, your blog post was excellent and I can’t really disagree with any one point. I think what sets Archer apart from other comedies is the depth of the humor. The stories in each episode are there merely to provide a canvas for the jokes, which really aren’t “jokes” in the traditional sense. Each “joke” is really a commentary on a much more complex theme, and what makes Archer so unique, and frankly quite brilliant, is the way in which these themes are woven together in each episode to create the “fabric” of the series. That said, with respect the question of why people tend to “love it or leave it”, I think it has to do with the way a person is wired. Without getting into a discussion about the various ways different people perceive the world, and the depth of their understanding and analysis, I think that it’s safe to say that Archer is NOT an acquired taste. It’s not something that one will grow to love given enough time. For those of us who are wired a certain way, Archer is pure genius, and for those who are wired differently it will simply never strike the right chords.

    • Thanks so much, Jack, for your comment and for reading. That’s a really interesting assessment and one that I had never thought of before. Maybe I will never grow to love Archer because I’m just not wired that way. Fascinating!

    • I love how all archer fans seem to think the show is clever and nuanced.

      It is less clever than family guy and it has tricked many people.

  7. I had Archer recommended to me so I gave it a shot. I don’t find it funny, I don’t plan on watching any more episodes, and don’t understand why it’s so popular. FWIW I do enjoy Bob’s Burgers.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dave. I think Bob’s Burgers is a fantastic show (fart jokes and all). And, for what it’s worth, I know people who like both shows quite a lot – I just happen to like one a lot more.

  8. I’ve watched 15+ episodes of Archer. My girlfriend absolutely loves it. So does my dad even. Most of the episodes I have watched, I sat through and didn’t laugh once. Not even a small chuckle.

    I think for me, plain and simple, I enjoy shows (comedies specifically) that I can relate to and that seem realistic. Mostly that I can relate to.

    Not one bit of Archer is relatable to me. And it’s not at all realistic. I realize it’s not meant to be either of those things but just those reasons alone is probably what makes it not at all for me.

    I’ll add that I enjoy structure and a nice setup to a joke. When I watch Archer I feel as though it’s mostly sarcasm and “stupid humour” (not sure how else to describe it) ala Robot Chicken just not as immature. RC might be a bad example but it’s all I can think of. I enjoy RC but only a few episodes every couple months if nothing else is on.

    I also enjoy getting attached to a character or characters and their relationships. You just can’t with Archer.

    I totally agree with the aquired taste comment. If you don’t like season 1 episode 1, I doubt you’d like anymore of it.

    Good blog, and good on ya staying classy in your comment responses.

    Have a good one.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Matt. I think you are on to something with your theory about sarcastic humor on Archer. I believe I know exactly what you mean and it’s certainly not my favorite comedy style.

      I think it is great that most of the commenters here have been so passionate and smart about the show one way or another. You’ve watched a fair amount of the show and can say articulately why the show is not for you. Thanks for doing that. Same with the folks that like the show.

      When I wrote the post I surely didn’t think as many people would comment about it let alone read it so that’s pretty cool.

      Thanks again, Matt.

      • That hit the nail on the head. It’It’s the sarcasm that kills it for me. I enjoyed Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so a friend recommended Archer. ATHF may be a stupid show, but that’s the point. It doesn’t try to be smart.

        I told my friend that I didn’t care for it, but maybe I had missed something. I do jump to conclusions on occasion, so I often reassess such hasty decisions and give things another round with the right motivation. It changed nothing.

        I went through a sarcastic stage, and have known some very sarcastic people. I think I may have just had my fill.

        I’ve had someone suggest that I just didn’t get it, that it was somehow a smart show. I paused for a few moments. I’m not one that fears or will shy away from silence in a conversation, most do. Just as I noticed he was about to prompt me, I calmly stated, “I read and watch material that would make your head spin. That is, if you had the attention span and vocabulary with which it could be viewed and somewhat understood, and uderstanding those words is far more simple than the concepts they form. A greater number of people that have watched it enjoy it. You are insinuating that there are more intelligent people than unintelligent people. That is demonstrably false. Using that observation, I too could make an irrational assertion about the intellectual condition of the fans of the show, but neither of us wants to go there. Do we?”

        Needless to say, that shut him up. To be clear, I in no way believe one’s entertainment pursuits reflect upon their intellectual capacity in and of themselves. I merely used that as a tool to demonstrate that two can play at that game.

  9. congratulations on not being able to enjoy a television show that most people do enjoy and congratulations on being long winded. i guess.

  10. So it’s 1 am and I’m on my phone. Just got home from the bar where the tv show archer was brought up by a few friends. I just can’t get into it! My best friend feels the same, we have pretty similar tastes. I asked 3 of my friends to try to explain why they like it or why I should watch it. I even asked them to maybe tell me what shows are comparable or explain what type of comedy it is. I didn’t think they’d change my mind about it but I had hoped they’d at least help me figure out why I couldn’t enjoy it. No such luck. Hell, when I asked them to name 4 other favorite comedies we tended to agree. So I came home and took my search to Google and found this blog. Thank you for spelling it out for me. I have a better understanding now of why I don’t like it. It’s the characters, I can’t relate to or take interest in or laugh at any of them. I don’t mind a jerk among an ensemble cast, but don’t make them all that way.

  11. Archer the show is funny because Archer the character is incredibly absurd. It took me a while to “get it” myself. But I’m glad I did. The whole world of Archer is absurd. The characters on the show tend to operate with a 12-year-old-boy mentality. The humor on the show steps on all sorts of toes, from sexual dysfunction to child abuse/neglect to racism to narcissism to drug abuse, and even developmental disorders and alcoholism. None of these topics are intended to be treated particularly seriously in the show itself, but as Archeron pointed out, they’re exaggerated to provide humorous (teenage) perspective of real problems that real people actually have to deal with.

    The show’s writing is fantastic. I’m often amazed at the complex web of a plot the writers can come up with for a thirty minute show. Some episodes are obviously based around one single joke, but others make the plot actually necessary. The recurring gags are my favorite part of the show (specifically, Archer’s voice mail and his mother’s reaction). There is a lot of detail put into the show, if you look for it. Even the opening titles and theme I really appreciate as very well done. The dialog can come at you pretty fast, so you need to pay constant attention if you want to catch all of it. All of this, while at the same time giving a nod and a kick to the groin of the James Bond franchise. Except Bond has never had a Pam Poovey around.

    I disagree that the employees of ISIS are blanket cold and calculating. Rather, they’re all so insecure that they’re too far out of practice to displaying any sensitivity, or even humanity. But it does pop up from time to time, often subtly. The show’s characters are, frankly, crazy. They’re stuck in a dysfunctional insecure teenage mindset, and are not capable of cementing a lasting relationship with anyone, let alone each other. The way their minds work is so pathetic it is funny. To me, the characters–more or less all cynical a-holes–are more of a model of how not to live one’s life. It might require someone to have a little of that in them to be able to laugh at all the jokes. It could be hard for some people to just not take Archer so seriously. That’s okay. I happen to think that Archer can even show us (in an extreme manner) that no matter how bad life seems, it can always be laughed at. What’s the point of being grown up if you can’t be childish from time to time? Everyone deserves a respite from the hassles of life and responsibility, and Archer the show is mine. That’s entertainment.

    • Thank you so much for your eloquent comment, Jovet. I’m so glad that the show works for you. I agree, that the show is extremely complex and, this season, feels like it is trying to top that complexity and what you call childishness with Archer: Vice (which I think is a brilliant shift).

  12. Thanks so, so much for writing this entry. I kept hearing a good friend of mine talk so much about how ‘funny’ Archer was. I finally get the chance to sit down and watch, ‘one’, count em,’one’ episode, and I was doing well to get through it.
    I saw exactly where the jokes were supposed to be, but I found the humor forced and sophomoric. Void, as you said, of humanity that actually makes for character development and interest, they are also severely selfish characters, which is about as interesting as watching wealthy women at a hair salon dictate what they want done to ‘improve’ themselves. Vacuous and predictable humor over and over….
    I used to be a serious Simpsons fan, incidentally, and right around the time that Flanders’ wife was killed, there were some major storyline, writing and character issues. Fewer were the episodes where the family had loving, forgiving moments. Greater were the episodes that they name-called, and pointlessly insulted one another for the audience to find funny?
    I find, if Archer had been written, even half as well as Arrested Development, it would be pure gold. Sadly, it’s void of cleverness and in my opinion, clings to sex and violence as a recurring gag. Pathetic, and typical of modern tv…

    • Thanks, Lunchie. I think your point about being able to see where the jokes should be but not finding them funny is entirely accurate to my viewing of Archer, too. Thank you for illuminating something for me that I wasn’t able to formulate.

  13. Interesting entry, and I think that the last two posts here kinda sum up the problems I’ve been having with most animated television in the past decade. There just seems (for me) to be too much emphasis on cold, forced, snarky, violent humor, as if that was all that is needed to be funny. I appreciate the parody, and I do laugh at some scenes in episodes that I’ve watched– but overall, they just leave me cold. I really don’t care about any of the characters, and as such, don’t really feel the need to tune in again….

  14. Sounds like the real reason you didn’t like it is because you started watching this show hoping for a soap drama. My god, you get so touchy feely and serious about it, no wonder you don’t like Archer, you’d have to loosen up first

    • I do love myself a good old-fashioned “soap drama” but I promise you that isn’t what I want from Archer. It’s unfortunate that that’s what came across in my post. I’ll try to write better next time. Thanks for reading and defending the show, Luci!

  15. This might not do me any justice, but I’m an anon anyway. If I wanted to laugh at animated shit, I’d watch some South Park and Robot Chicken. Archer is try-hard humour in contrast…

    • Try-hard, as in, “let’s make this show as sarcastic and dry as possible, revolving around a cast of pretentious, shallow characters that appeal to an equally elitist demographic”. Archer is a rather cute attempt at intelligent, sexy comedy… Alas, the almighty void of subjectivity…

      • Thanks for your comment, Anon, and thanks for reading. I’m curious about your assertion that it is an elitist demographic watching the show. I have never thought much about “who” (ie. what type of person) is actually watching Archer but I do think that those who “get it” seem pretty passionate about it (see: all of the comments that this post has garnered).

  16. Hi, I’m like really late to this but since people are still commenting (and you’re still responding, totally cool by the way) I figured I’d get my 2 cents in. First of all, when I first heard of Archer and watched the first episode at the request of an avid fan, I didn’t really “get it” (my words) and thought that it genuinely wasn’t even all that funny. That being said, giving it shot after shot and seeing an episode here and there really got me hooked. Now, having seen every episode multiple times, I can safely say I understand the ‘different’ level of humor it’s on, which as you pointed out, is basically sarcastic and asshole-ish. To that respect, I’d agree that to an extent you have to sort of have that sense of humor. Still, in a paradoxical way I think that the perceived shallowness of the characters (Archer as a spoiled mama’s boy who always gets what he wants, or Carol as a immoral, detached heiress) lends itself to a certain depth as we see ourselves mirrored in them, and start to understand how they got there. Cheryl/Carol is actually one of my favorite characters because, in addition to inexplicably being able to break the fourth wall, she represents a case study of someone who has everything but to combat her lack of emotional belongings, turns to physical and emotional abuse, similar but different to Archer. Her callousness to me (this also applies to archer) results from an inability to take anything seriously knowing that whatever trouble he/she gets into, they will inexplicably be fine due to money or Mallory’s pulling strings. In that sense, I think the show becomes a playground for all types of dysfunction, and the animation allows for virtually any scenario that the writer could throw the cast into, all the while maintaining a steady running gag of inside jokes and surprisingly obscure/deep references. Of course, Pam, Cyril, and Krieger also all have their own issues, but for brevity (haha) I’ll spare you the analysis on that. Anyway, I’m not gunna say you have to love it, but I will say if you take it at face value I think it’s a pretty stellar show, with some pretty intelligent writers. Sorry for the wall of text, enjoy :)

    • Thanks so much for this, Alexander. I must admit that I haven’t kept up with Archer this past season but I’m glad to hear that it is still going strong. I am slightly curious about this Cheryl/Carol business though and I’m glad to hear that they having been adding dimension to the secondary characters. I seem to remember that at the point I stopped watching Pam was becoming more interesting to me. I also think the way the show can play with genre is fun. You’re right, the characters can pretty much get put in any situation and it works in a strange way. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  17. I am 27, and when I enter a room with my friends, who are of similar age, they are sometimes watching Archer, and every time he says BONER or BOOBS or RAPE, they go out of their minds with laughter.

    The last two things to really get me to laugh were Voltaire’s Candide, and Trailer Park Boys.

    BONER POOP LANA, THE RAPE CANCER BONER POOP LANA.

    Archer is a childish show, and I think that childish humor appeals to the child in people, but if this show is any indication, a modern person’s inner-child is a disturbing entity which I want to avoid.

  18. I’m so glad you wrote this article. I have tried on multiple occasions to watch this show, but just can’t get into it. The trouble I have with the show is that for me, the characters aren’t that far from reality. These kind of assholes exist, especially in the horribly poor treatment of women I’ve seen in the show. Its hard for me to laugh at something that’s still a genuine problem. I’m happy to see that there are some men who are not into the show as well. As others have said, the jokes are cheap, easy laughs (often at the expense of women) and do appeal to a 12 year old boy mentality with lots of sex and violence. Its easy for a guy to laugh at rape jokes or women being sexualized, because those are problems he will likely never experience. I know the show is just a joke, but… I do think it is telling as to what people are willing to laugh at

  19. Brand a show enough with “sharp”, “sexy”, “hilarious” and “sophisticated” tags and you instantly gain support of elitist snobs whose worst nightmare is to not get it. Surprising how few jokes are then needed to make it a success. You can pad it out with tits too if you like. Or ass. Or prostitutes getting whacked. Naughty interracial porn.Guns. Anything you like.

    Alternatively make a comedy and you make all kinds of people laugh forever. This ones a bit more difficult though.

  20. I have a friend who loves this show and is very smart, and I have known many people to love it, but whenever I watch it, I can’t even pay attention, it is just so boring and unfunny to me. It isn’t that I don’t get which parts are supposed ot be funny, but it just comes off as so wacky and random and juvenile to me. the thing is though, I like shows with random silly jokes, like family guy, and I like juvenile stupid humour, like say trailer park boys. Interestingly the same good friend hates those shows. Comedy is so interesting. That friend and I tried to figure out one time what it is that we each find funny as we tend to not like the same comedy shows. The only ones we both like are Seinfeld, South Park, It’s Always Sunny… and Plebs.

    I feel like I tend to like shows in which one or more main characters is delusional and thinks highly of themselves, even though they are kind of a loser. George from Seinfeld; Mac, Dennis, or Dee from Sunny; Larry from Curb; Ricky from TPBs; Gob from Arrested Development; Peter or Brian from Family Guy; all the guys in Workaholics; the boss from both the US and UK Office; many of the characters played by Chris Lilly in all his shows; Perolta in Brooklyn 99; Kenny from Eastbound and Down; Warwick from Life’s Too Short; Stuart from Hello Ladies, Marcus from Plebs; Stan from American dad; Randy from South Park; Mr D from Mr. D; Nathan from Nathan for You; many of the characters in sketch shows Portlandia or the Birthday Boys; Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory; Barry from the Goldbergs; Duckman from Duckman; and likely many more.

    I also like shows without such characters, for instance I love Louie, and Louie is completely self-deprecating and is not arrogant or ignorant at all. But the painfully delusional loser character is the one trend I could identify in 80% of the comedies I like. It also isn’t the only factor I find funny in those shows (often I find other characters or aspects of the shows the funniest part), but it is interesting that it comes up often. My friend agrees that some shows he likes have such characters, but in the ones he doesn’t like, he interprets the show as promoting that sort of character or behaviour in some sense, whereas I always see (which seems obvious to me) that the show is poking fun at how pathetic the character is and therein lies the comedy. To me that character is always the butt of the jokes, but to him they are often seen as the hero, which he doesn’t like because the character is a bad person. Kenny in Eastbound is a great example. I think it is obvious that Kenny is the butt of the joke, we are largely laughing AT him, but my friend finds the show promoting of racist and ignorant views because Kenny is the hero and makes ignorant jokes and comments.

    Strangely he likes South Park, which is arguably much more offensive in content, because it is clear to him that the show is making fun of the stupid ignorant people. I find the shows he likes the best are wacky and quirky and mostly only funny based on inside jokes that aren’t, in and of themselves, funny. I will admit that a show like Trailer Park Boys is like this, which I realized after trying to get people to like it only to realize that they didn’t get it because they didn’t know the characters. I guess I just found something funny enough about that show to get the ball rolling and it went from there. I think I find the context of that show genuinely both real and funny and it sucked me in long enough to love the characters.

    Which brings us around to Archer. I don’t laugh at Archer and I even stop paying attention, which is bizarre because I have a fantastic attention span and never fall asleep to movies or lose track of what is going on. I think you nailed it partly when you pointed out that there is no real story. Also, the setting just isn’t comedy conducive to me. Nothing about spies and all that is funny to me. I also get a sense that the whole show is just inside jokes for the writers who are just sitting there laughing themselves silly as they write it together, but to me it just comes off as random silly for the sake of silliness, and the goal seems to be as weird and bizarre as possible. Nothing about it is relate-able and it almost feels like it was made for a different generation than mine or something. I have found many adult swim comedies like this in the past as well. Archer is ‘weird’ funny, and it just doesn’t hit me right. About the only thing I find remotely funny is Jon Benjamin’s voice, which I find doesn’t fit the character at all. Also, I am a huge fan of animation in general, and I really don’t like the animation style. I will give it that the show is pretty unique, but I can’t get into it. I find many many comedies funny (for every one show my friend finds funny, I have 10), so it kind of irks me when a show friends find funny is not funny to me.

    My friend and I never considered this, but right now it just donned on me that I think the shows I like seem more real in some way while he likes shows that are completely detached from reality with wacky larger-than-life characters. I think he prefers not to relate to the characters, while I want to both relate to and despise them at the same time. I would venture to guess that those who like Archer likely prefer shows they inherently cannot relate to as far as characters and context goes, the wackier the better. Then again, my same friend likes Seinfeld and Plebs, which are both pretty relate-able, but perhaps the context is removed enough for him to distance himself, or perhaps the characters are like-able enough that my friend feels okay relating to them. I’m not sure, even after discussing it with him at length.

    One thing I have noticed is that we always tend to find the comedies we like to be more sophisticated in some way, and often say to those who don’t find it funny, “you just don’t get it, it is brilliant”. It seems to make sense that we would only find something funny if we get what the writers are doing, which often seems smart to us when we get it. I have a hard time seeing Archer as smart comedy, but those who like it insist that it is. I thought Trailer Park Boys was brilliant while many people find it stupid as hell. I feel like I understood what they were trying to do, and the show popularized the mockumentary format (I’m pretty sure they were the first to do it, at least on TV as far as I know), which became wildly popular. I thought I should mention since the OP likes Bob’s Burgers that it is another rare comedy that I don’t find remotely funny. Comedy is so fascinatingly subjective.

    • Thank you so much for this incredibly insightful comment, Jake. You’re so right about comedy being subjective. I watched the first episode of Archer’s new season and it still doesn’t do it for me (while the people I was watching with were laughing hysterically). And I think interrogating yourself for the reasons you might not like the show is far more interesting than just saying, “well, it’s obviously because of X reason”. Archer seems to be an interesting barometer for people and, at least for you, seems to be helpful in understanding what you DO think is funny. That’s pretty cool. Thanks again for your comment and for reading!

  21. where are you based? A lot of the eccentricities and cynical characters in Archer are related to living in an urban environment like New York or LA. Geography is destiny!

    • Thanks for your comment, Frank. We are based dead in the centre Canada (yes, we spell it “centre”). I did walk into the living room today to find my partner and his buddy laughing hysterically at one of the newer episodes of Archer so someone is getting the jokes way up in the Great White North!

  22. I’m sorry if I misunderstood you. Archer is not a sit-com in the classical sense. Although it’s focused on the here and now jokes to drive the whole plot it’s genius rests in the connection of several evolving tropes that eventually build up. Sure, some jokes one can do without, but the really great ones become a trademark. In this sense it’s canon, not repetition, what we enjoy. Rather than start over as if nothing happened, they chose a setting and characters with tremendous flexibility for exposition and expand on working gags.
    The subject and characters have incredible potential, not of growth exactly, but rather self-expression. And they can be surprisingly accurate and insightful. It’s very close to what would happen if society didn’t really care about pretending. Not unlike being drunk. The same “questionable” characters are actually very realistic and the fact that they are being made fun of (like Cheryl’s borderline psychopathy) both redeems them in order not to become moralizing or intolerant of human differences while at the same punishing them for their behaviour. It’s a universe where justice is not administered by a single entity but rather chaotic forces creating improbable situations. The only aspect I dislike is Archer’s alcoholism not taking a physical toll on him.
    In terms of emotion, it’s something of a personal taste. What really makes this show shine is its lighthearted humour mixed in with some really dark touches. I personally prefer entertainment to be either educational or purely recreational, not have it preach something or try to manipulate its audience into caring for certain things. I like to question things personally, and Archer certainly brings taboo topics to the table.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ivan! I haven’t been keeping up with the comments section here as much as I probably should because I haven’t watched recent seasons of Archer so I don’t feel well-versed enough to keep up with you all. I’m grateful to posters like you and everyone here, really, for keeping up the debate. Thanks folks!

  23. Well I totally agree with Kwoloszyn; I concur with the points regarding character change and depth.

    Even Peter Griffin has more depth and changes his lifestyle, opinions, goals/motives, and etc. all while being more compassionate and also a bigger dick than Archer. Has this been said by anybody in the comments?

    All the characters in Archer pretty much act as if they were people you know in your life saying their inner selfish asshole thoughts that most people are too nice/cordial to say. I never found the show very funny.

  24. I tried watching a handful of episodes, but I could never get into this show. Maybe I would change my mind if I saw more. From what I remember, most of the jokes were pop culture references. I feel like this is lazy writing that takes advantage of the very human desire to be one of the people that “gets it”. I guess it can make an interesting game if you’re interested in trivia, but trivia != comedy.

    Family Guy is another example of the same writing style. To me, situational humor seems harder to write, and I find it more genuinely entertaining.

    I’m not sure what made me feel strongly enough to actually post about this, but I find it interesting that multiple people have recommended this show to me and I can’t stand it. Like, I’ve run out of shows on Netflix and I still won’t watch it. Maybe I just don’t get it :)

  25. I know this was written quite a bit ago I’m getting to it a bit late in the game, but I wanted to say thank you for writing this. I recently gave in to friends and students’ recommendations that I watch Bob’s Burgers and I’ve fallen in love with the charming little show. However, I decided that I’d give Archer another shot due to the “Bob’s Burgers” episode and I’d recently been wanting to give it another shot because so many friends love it. I’ll watch it and find myself genuinely amused about certain episodes, but every few episodes, I have to take a break and I couldn’t decide why I don’t like a show that brings out so many laughs.

    My first reason is that I just find basically every character abominable. The only character I actually like in any way is Archer and that’s because of his consistent…almost naivety to how the people around him are affected by his actions/how the world works or his choice to not care about it, knowing the facts. I couldn’t figure out the rest of my reason for not liking it, though; I agree with basically everything in this article.

    I do think the popularity of it simply comes (now) from a concept similar to the emperor’s fancy clothes. There are enough people saying they like it and enough people defending it wholeheartedly that anyone else would be a fool to say otherwise. It’s similar to Cards Against Humanities’ basically bullying advertising campaign of “not for the sensitive.” If you don’t like it, it’s because you are a prude or have no sense of humor, not because you genuinely do not find it appealing.

    The overall story simply has little to no charm, and only minor characters give you any real reason to hope for genuine people.

  26. I’m addicted to this show. I literally, not figuratively, go to sleep with this show on in the background.

    It’s become one of my two favorite animated series (Sword Art Online being the other).

    I found this post while trying to understand what elements about it make me like it so much.

    I’ve come to the conclusion I like it for probably the same reasons you dislike it!

    I’ve always loved spy movies so that’s why I initially started watching it; but isn’t why I love it.

    1. I love it because of the characters.

    Their ability to accept each other and work together despite their faults and obvious shortcomings is admirable and very relatable to me. I have many friends who are very dysfunctional, and we have our own “family unit”s where we live/work and survive together successfully in spite of our faults.

    For example I am a software engineer and make good money…when I’m able to work. I have bipolar disorder, social anxiety, colorblind and have asthma. My closest friends include others with mental illnesses/felony history (can’t get a job/apartment)/handicaps of other natures; and we all take care of each other in the ways the others need.

    And the way the characters in archer screw with each other, is how most of us interact.

    If we don’t laugh at our shortcomings and dysfunctions; we would be miserable and our friends help us laugh at them. Because we know they still love us, even if they show it with laughter.

    It’s a joke that if we’re nice to you, It’s because we don’t know you or care for you.

    Lastly the characters are honest with each other in ways most people can’t be, because they don’t censor their thoughts or pretend to be someone they’re not. Which is a trait I highly admire.

    2. The fact nothing is taken seriously.

    Taking trivial things seriously and serious things trivially is how I keep myself entertained. When planning for dinner I’ll use words typically found in military operations. “target has been acquired and we are en route to the rendevous” when referring to picking up food and heading home. Or “evac inbound, eta 15 minutes” when picking up someone from somewhere they don’t want to be.

    Likewise…when shit is serious, pretending like its not…helps me cope with the stress.

    And its incredibly humorous when a show uses that humor. Scrubs would be a good comparison, absurd humor in a serious situation (hospital). Absurdism keeps me sane.

    Hell in the episode the paramilitarios show up at the bar when the guys are looking for La Madrina; Ray even references this humorously when him and archer are already running and he says to Cyril “this is serious shit, come on!”.

    3. The contrast between Archer’s personality and his surprising competence/intelligence is a huge draw to me. He’s spent a lot of time researching, reading and practicing “being awesome” but doesn’t let it go to his head. His egotistical nature is a projection due to his insecurities, not a narcissistic arrogance. I despise arrogance, but can relate to the insecurity despite being competent. Specializing in AI without a degree or education in software development lead me to having a very successful career while still being very insecure and unconfident about my abilities. Just like archer, things just always seemed to work out for me *shrug*.

    ——

    Basically, the characters in Archer, if they were real people, are very “real” ( as in genuine) people. They know themselves, their faults/dysfunctions, and accept each other, work together and even live together in Archer Vice.

    They are a family in the way and sense my friends are my family.

    How could I not love them for that?

    • Thank you so much for sharing this, Brett. I’m so glad that Archer means so much to you and is helping you as well. Your comment means a lot to me. Thank you for reading.

  27. I do think the characters have some compassion – it’s just buried. Lana and Archer for example are clearly in love with each other as evidenced by their actions, even though they would never admit it.

    I’ve never seen “Bob’s Burgers”, but based on the example you gave, “Tina has been investigating the crime of the “Mad Pooper” who keeps pooping all over her school.” Archer may be gross at times but it’s not puerile like that. The villains almost seem like they could be real people and the humor is smart – I have caught scores of literary and historical references in the show and I don’t think I come close to catching them all!

  28. Your synopsis was an interesting read but I am afraid I must disagree with most of you points to the highest degree! None of what I am about to say is meant negatively on you, merely my views in comparrison. In a nutshell you don’t like archer because you find the characters impossible to relate to. First of all, it’s a cartoon, all characters in which are off the wall exaggerated and almost eccentric. Second they are spies in their make believe world so unless you are a spy in a made up world in which occurrences are near infathomable, you can’t put yourself in their shoes.
    The show is all about scripting. Fast paced, language based and a constant bombardment of jokes of different categories and levels. Archers arrogance is coupled with spontaneous bouts of intellectual retorts thus negating his seemingly stupid and self obsessed persona.
    Also comparing bobs burger to this show is not slightly on the money as the core concepts and style of comedy are antipodes of each other! Everything, from the target audience to line delivery, are in different veins… The fact that bob and archers voice is the same guy is merely a casting coincidence and says nothing in respect to the shows eligibility.
    Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on what I have raised. Peace out, keep on airing your thoughts, with debate and views we have no progression :)

    • Thanks so much James and to the other folks that have posted on this blog post recently. I have enjoyed reading all of the comments here. I’m afraid, though, that I haven’t watched Archer in quite some time so it’s hard for me to debate anything that is currently happening on the show. And who knows, if I had kept watching, my opinion on the show may have changed!

      I love these comments though and it isn’t for lack of enjoyment that I haven’t been responding much lately, only that I don’t feel like I’m in any real position to do so. I hope that the comments continue for as long as Archer is still around!

  29. I found this blog post because I literally typed “can’t get into Archer” into Google. Everyone I know, including really funny friends who’s opinion on comedy I value a lot, LOVES this show, and I’ve tried, but nothin’.

    The jokes come in such rapid-fire fashion that it’s difficult to pay attention and, you know, CARE. And I’m not sure most of the jokes are even that funny. Meh.

  30. Some interesting views here! The thing that attracts me to archer is the contrast between immaturity and smartness. The calculated strokes of genius throughout every episode is captivating. Not one piece of dialogue is wasted without sarcasm or just a general sledge. It’s also interesting to note that I couldn’t stand bobs burgers when it first started but I’ve found that it’s a lot better now. I don’t mind family guy and I’m a big fan of the simpsons. Anyways back to the smartness of archer. I love how he’s ‘the worlds best secret agent’ yet he’s entirely incompetent, he still is extremely competent but his ability to take light of a tense moment is almost admirable. On so many occasions archer is very very wrong, but also kinda right. The show is also massively politically incorrect. Jokes about cancer, rape, autism etc seem immature and insensitive at first, but in a society that’s so anal about not offending people this really hits the nail on the head for me. Season 5’s excessive use of Pam was annoying though. I also don’t see how archer can be in any way compared to Seinfeld. Lack of character developement can get tiring at times but it doesn’t really matter when the show is always so fun. My post is a bit scattered but I hope it gave a bit of insight into a fan of the show (my iq is also 140 – is that surprising?)

  31. I find all the superficial and pretentious people i know from well off families enjoy this show, i find this show is quite pretentious and superficial also. There’s also a whole elite ism theme going on in there as well which a lot of these people i know have superiority complexes so maybe they can relate to it or aspire to this type of behavior.(obviously not the killing and shooting part). But that’s just my opinion i could be wrong.

  32. Pingback: Archer | blogjob

  33. Also very late to the game but eh, here goes.
    You’ve decided that the characters are two-dimensional and flimsy – people who like the show disagree. Simple as that – if you go through the effort of believing these are rear people you begin to appreciate all the subtleties. Look past the fact it’s animated, treat the animation as if it were an instagram filter.

  34. I’m just wondering why no one has mentioned the actual animation. It is a work of art and I find that every episode is a pleasure just to look at. Yes, I love the show’s spitfire wit and absurd comedy, but the depth of both the 2D and 3D animation is part of the draw. The casserole of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s set, props, and jokes really make it a perfect show for me. It’s not for everyone though. Entertainment is a form of art and not everyone wants the same painting on the wall. I will say that I like every show mentioned in this entire thread… Right down to SAO. What I watch depends on my mood. I’m a bit bipolar that way, and watch waaaaaay too much television.

  35. I couldn’t get past the second episode of Archer, the only thing I even remotely found comical was the “That’s how you get ants” bit. As for Bob’s Burgers… I can’t get much into that show either. Before it is asked, yes I do actually watch a lot of animated shows.

  36. Archer might be the worst thing I have ever seen on tv, and i will admit to having watched an episode of the wendy williams show.

  37. I kept hearing how funny this show was, started watching multiple seasons now and.. Archer is incredibly overrated for me. Yeah comedy is subjective but jesus is there a more irredeemably, piece of shit character than most on this show? Archers constant annoyances aren’t endearing or funny. The ongoing Lana.. LANA…. LANNAAAAA! ” WHAT” “Nothing – laugh-” bit, How is that funny? It seems like to offset how incredibly childish and stupid the characters are the writers throw some high brow historical reference or some inane correct fact that Archers spouts off like it’ll cancel out all the lame sarcastic gags and gay jokes. South Park tries to reference news or a topic that matters, Simpsons was a balance of family and absurdity. Family Guy liked to provoke and layer jokes. Archer are just assholes, with no redeeming qualities, that you’re supposed to laugh at? I don’t get it.

  38. Totally agree. I think this is partly why Archer doesn’t do it for me.

    ALSO – I find Archer hard on my ears, even at lower volume. I don’t know exactly what it is about the sound recording… maybe high gain or something? The characters seem like they’re always yelling. I don’t have this displeasure in any other show. Anyone else sense this?

  39. Love Archer. Love everything about it. Currently, there is no show I enjoy more, animated or otherwise. Haven’t loved an animated series as much as this since Futurama (“Everybody’s always in favor of saving Hitler’s brain. But when you put it in the body of a great white shark – oooh, suddenly you’ve gone too far !”). Archer (to me) is just as clever. If you don’t get it/don’t like it, that’s a shame. Different strokes.

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