Austin Powers and the popular French film series OSS 117 have already sufficiently covered the spoofing/parodying of the spy genre, with plenty of well deserved homages made specifically to the suavest of all spies, James Bond. But, in 2010, an up-and-coming cable channel proved that there is still plenty of room for secret agent laughs with the debut of Archer.
Set in a purposefully ambiguous time period, Archer follows the adventures of Sterling Archer, top spy at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), carrying out the orders of his mother Mallory. The missions are ridiculous and often fall apart right before the viewer’s eyes. But, much like Agent 007 himself, Archer always gets the bad guy in the end.
The show earned a large following and became one of FX’s highest rated shows both commercially and critically. Every week Archer would hilariously foil the scheme of another bad guy while never sticking to too much of an overarching storyline. Then, after four successful seasons, the entire format of the show changed. Without giving away too much, Archer and his team were no longer spies! Matt Thompson, one of the executive producers for Archer, recently spoke with the website uproxx.com about how and why these changes came about for the very popular show.
There is a big radical departure this season on Archer and that came about frankly because Adam got bored. He is the sole writer of the show and he felt like he was spinning his wheels at some point… It has kind of almost evolved into spy mission of the week, which is fine. And it’s going well. People liked it. Our ratings have gone up every year. FX is really happy with us. And so you have a show that is successful and/or becoming more successful and we decided to change everything because we were bored and because we just want to make the show that makes us interested and happy in the end.
The show is now being called Archer Vice in a direct reference to the popular 80s cop show Miami Vice. Archer and his team stay together and try to form their own drug cartel.
Any live action show would never even consider this type of major transition in show format for a few reasons, the biggest being that it would require the network to give them a lot more money for a complete overhaul on sets, costumes, props, merchandise and marketing. However Archer‘s animation format allows and enables this type of radical departure from normalcy and descent into a whole new playing-field.
The animation genre and format, while normally reserved for comedic purposes in the United States, is very flexible in terms of money. If something doesn’t work you can literally erase it for a fraction of the cost, compared to not liking an expensive set piece on a film or television set.
While the animation genre may not be taken seriously when pitching a spy film or crime thriller, Archer manages to both bring action and laughs to both genres easily. The animation format makes this possible with its creative freedoms allowed by a lower budget in a television series.