‘Archer’ just as clever, and bonkers, as ever

Updated April 22, 2018 - 7:19 pm

It may go down as the best thing ISIS ever did.

Granted, the terror group’s contributions to society could be written on the back of a matchbook while still leaving room for your grocery list and the starting lineup for your fantasy baseball team. But the jihadists did help transform “Archer” (10 p.m. Wednesday, FXX) from a giddy spy spoof to one of the most deliciously inventive comedies on TV.

During its first four seasons, hard-drinking, seldom-thinking spy Sterling Archer (voiced with a hilariously short-fused deadpan by H. Jon Benjamin) worked for his acid-tongued mother (Jessica Walter, “Arrested Development”) at the International Secret Intelligence Service, aka ISIS.

Season 5, nicknamed “Archer Vice,” saw Sterling and his colleagues — including the curvaceous Lana (Aisha Tyler), his sometime love interest who makes Jessica Rabbit look like a longshoreman — move away from the agency and start over as a wildly inept cocaine cartel while riffing on everything from Don Johnson’s Sonny Crockett to Burt Reynolds’ Bo “Bandit” Darville.

ISIS was never mentioned again.

Future seasons saw the “Archer” crew working for CIA handler Slater, who looked exactly like, and was voiced by, Christian Slater. The team relocated from New York to a Los Angeles private investigation agency run by longtime lackey Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell, “Saturday Night Live”) that took its inspiration from “Magnum, P.I.”

Things became truly bizarre last season, no small feat for a series that had previously featured sex cyborgs, holographic girlfriends and an irradiated man-eating pig — and those were just some of the side projects created by Dr. Algernop Krieger (Lucky Yates), who has no actual medical degree and may be the genetic descendant of Adolf Hitler.

That year, known as “Archer Dreamland,” saw the cast transported to 1947 Hollywood for a noirish detective story that cemented the show’s status as a first-rate anthology series, with the same characters and voice actors taking on (somewhat) different roles.

Now, with “Archer Danger Island,” it’s 1939 and Sterling is a one-eyed seaplane pilot, again working for his mother, a hotel owner on the South Pacific island of Mitimotu.

Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) and the brilliantly named Charlotte Vandertunt (Judy Greer), who sounds like an escapee from an especially risque Carol Burnett sketch, are merely versions of their previous characters.

Lana, meanwhile, is island royalty Princess Lanaluakalani; Parnell’s Figgis is a German spy; the fussy Ray Gillette (series creator Adam Reed) is a French capitaine; while Krieger has become a macaw named Crackers.

It’s every bit as bonkers as it sounds.

And “Archer” is still as clever as ever.

“That’s a real Catch-22,” Pam says at one point, before Sterling corrects her. “Uh, I don’t think that’s a thing yet.” (The Joseph Heller novel was first published in 1961.)

Only “Archer” could follow that up, seconds later, with the two recalling their failed eatery that utilized the leftover meat from a furrier to create an unsuccessful delicacy known as Chinchilladas.

Without ISIS, none of this deliriousness would have happened. But “Archer” has proven, much like the rest of the world, that it can carry on just fine without it.

What to watch

Offred (Elisabeth Moss) fights to save her unborn child from the dystopian Gilead in Season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Wednesday, Hulu), the reigning Emmy winner for best drama.

Functioning alcoholic baseball announcer Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) is back, having relocated to New Orleans without his girlfriend Jules (Amanda Peet), in the return of “Brockmire” (10 p.m. Wednesday, IFC).

Weeks before she marries Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wraps up her seven seasons on “Suits” (9 p.m. Wednesday, USA) as her Rachel Zane marries Patrick J. Adams’ Michael Ross in the final episode for both actors.

Antonio Banderas stars as Pablo Picasso in the second installment of the Emmy-nominated anthology series “Genius” (9 p.m. Tuesday, National Geographic).

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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