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Entries in Comedy (3)


Archer: Filthy Animation Like You Like


FX Networks

Thursdays 10/9c

Archer is pure comic gold for those who like their nudity animated and their dialogue graphic and to the point.  The new show from Adam Reed and Matt Thompson (Sealab 2021) is FX’s first venture into animation, and it rightfully earns its TV-MA rating. 

After a sneak viewing with no promotion of pilot “Mole Hunt” after the season premiere of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on September 17, 20009, Archer returned in January and has nearly fulfilled its 10-episode run (season finale airs Thursday, March 18 at 10/9c). 

With it’s setting the fictional spy agency ISIS, Archer is a clever combination of 60s-style animation (a la Sealab), modern-age technology, and a worldview somewhere in between, with a still-existent Soviet Union the main nemesis. 

Agent Sterling Archer is the alpha male of this agency, voiced by the hilarious baritone of H. Jon Benjamin (Home Movies).  He never pulls punches whether in the field or in barbed banter with his coworkers.  His mother Malory is the hyper-sexed head of ISIS, who is the cause of Archer’s frequently referenced abandonment issues. The uncaring alcoholic is appropriately brought to life by Jessica Walter (Arrested Development). 

Lana Kane is a capable, driven agent who happens to be Archer’s ex.  Well-grounded by Aisha Tyler (Friends, CSI), Lana now dates ISIS comptroller and all-around pansy Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell, SNL, 30 Rock).  Jeffrey Tambor, who plays the head of rival agency ODIN, extends the Arrested Development connection in some episodes.

Archer definitely bears the markings of its Cartoon Network creators, characterized by rapid-fire dialogue and ethnic-based humor embodied by animation from Radical Axis.  Story continuity is honored to some degree, though characters tend to recover from bullet holes in just a few frames.  The combination of derogatory repartee with outrageous sexuality guarantees laughs out loud.  My favorite jaw-dropping line of the season, in reference to ODIN secretary Framboise: “She was like the Pelé of anal.” 

Archer fits perfectly into my narrow criteria for a hit animated series. It has a clean and retro look, balanced action sequences, and plenty of edgy, sexual dialogue delivered by great actors.  I’m happy to hear a 13-episode second season has been picked up for 2011. 

Catch up on the first five episodes of Archer on Hulu, with the rest of the season to be added 30 days after original airdate through May. 



Ricky Gervais Show: Free Download

Ricky Gervais is taking his podacst to HBO.  How, you ask?  By animating it, of course.  iTunes is offering a free preview of the first episode, which airs on HBO February 19. 

I've heard Gervais talk about his podcast on late-night tv, the main element of which is constantly berating eccentric sidekick Karl, alongside longtime collaborator Stephen Merchant.  Karl has a few screws loose and apparently has a head "like an effing orange." 

This glowing description did nothing to encourage me to subscribe to the podcast, although in general I do enjoy Gervais' work.  And I certainly don't need to see an animated podcast.  Hasn't this idea been done before? 

I think this is just a case of HBO throwing money at Gervais and him taking it.  It's not like he'll have to do much extra work, because as far as I know his artistic skills do not match his quick wit.

But a free preview is a chance for newcomers to see for themselves.  Let me know what you think!


Bill Maher...But I'm Not Wrong

Bill Maher...But I'm Not Wrong

HBO Comedy Special

Original Airdate: February 12, 2010

On Demand until March 15 with subscription


Bill Maher, the sharp-witted and mouthy host of Real Time with Bill Maher, recently performed a new stand up special in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I was curious about the choice of venue, but the auditorium was packed and the crowd seemed to soak up his usual elitist fare with pleasure.  Well, everyone except that poor bastard in the front row wearing a sweater vest. 

Maher opened with a jab at John Edwards, the former Senator from North Carolina, saying, "He was right about one thing.  There are two Americas, and he was getting laid in both of them." 

The show's tone and content was what one might expect from Maher, as he unleashed his acerbic wit on everything from the economy to terrorism, Michael Jackson to Barack Obama.  He had to remind the crowd several times that "This is not a rally," although he was visibly happy to see his passion resonate with the audience. 

Maher has become an expert at blending social satire with deep political insight, and he at least tends to avoid the hypocrisy that permeates so many powerful Americans' actions.  His spot-on delivery and impeccable timing lead to many laugh-out-loud moments, even for himself.  

There is always plenty of fire and brimstone from the Religulous star.  He so thoroughly ripped organized religion, couching its cornerstones in such drippingly sarcastic terms, that one dare not refute him. He rattled off a litany of responses to the statement that religion "doesn't do any harm" and concluded with his well-developed thesis that religion is mass delusion.

Where I most agree with Bill Maher is his take on the Republican party.  He fleshes out the common characterizations of the GOP being fear-mongerers and misinformers, but the key part of his argument is his depiction of Republicans as anti-intellectual.  Their desire to hearken back to "the real America" is just a reliance on sentimental nostalgia for a time that never existed.  Maher equates this "real America" with the 1950s, which really wasn't an ideal time if you were black, or gay, or disabled, or a woman.  He is right when he says the Republican party constantly nominates people who "just don't know enough."

Which brings us to Sarah Palin.  Such an easy target, Maher commented that "you can always count on Palin for a sip of water," as he took a gulp during an applause break.  He called her out on the "notes on hand" incident, saying that "a Republican writing 'Tax Cuts' on their hand is like if you saw the Coyote's paw and it said 'Roadrunner' on it."  One of the biggest laughs of the night. 

While I enjoyed much of Maher's special, including the many skewerings of public sex scandals, where I did not align with his tastes was in his encore, which was comprised of a Saudi fashion show from designer "Muslim Dior."  Essentially an unnecessary and unsuccessful sight gag, with women in identical burkas paraded out, I thought it was a weak way to end the show after he had just finished enumerating some reasonable recommendations for Obama. 

If you are a fan of Bill Maher, this batch of new material is well worth watching.  And if you have preconceived notions of him, it's worth seeing for yourself.  If nothing else Maher is a concerned citizen, and he is voicing his opinions loudly and proudly, something we could all take a lesson from. 

Real Time with Bill Maher returns to HBO with new episodes starting February 19 at 10:00 p.m.