With the third season of "Archer" heading to FX next month, "Archer: The Complete Second Season" hit DVD this week as way to allow fans to catch up or draw in a new audience for the hilarious spy series.
For those of you not familiar with the show, "Archer" takes place in an alternate world where the Cold War is still going on and it follows Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin); a fantastic secret agent and a horribly self-centered human being. Joining Archer are his offbeat coworkers, Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell), Cheryl (Judy Greer), Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates), Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) Ray Gillette (Adam Reed), superstar agent, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) and Sterling's mother, Mallory Archer (Jessica Walter); who leads the gang of idiots at ISIS.
Watching the season again for this review, it was striking how series creator Adam Reed lined up the episodes and built up the continuity of "Archer." For example, Archer is sued for child support over "the wee baby Seamus" in the third episode, "Blood Test" and Seamus doesn't disappear after his initial appearance. He actually plays into some really funny jokes in the fifth episode, "The Double Deuce" and another sight gag late in the season. Suffice to say, Archer's not a very good father and when you see Malory with the kid, you'll understand why.
Reed also finds time to service nearly his entire supporting cast, Lana gets an origin in "Pipeline Fever," Cyril gets the spotlight in "Tragical History," the secret history of Woodhouse (George Coe) is uncovered in "The Double Deuce" and “El Secuestro” gives both Pam and Cheryl a lot of screentime.
Which brings us back to Archer himself. By his very nature, Sterling isn't capable of much character growth or emotion. And yet, Archer shows a sympathetic side in "Swiss Miss" and he suffers a real emotional loss in the season finale, "Double Trouble." But the highlight of the season is the two part episode, “Stage Two" and “Placebo Effect;" which take Sterling Archer into some truly dark comedic territory.
There isn't a bad episode in the season, as they all range from very good to great. "Archer" is always a very quotable show, but the line that keeps me laughing for extended periods comes in the second episode, “A Going Concern": "Barry, you ass. For the love of all that is green, take Rabbert and I to the lettuce store!" It may not make sense now, but in context it was amazingly funny. Jeffrey Tambor, I salute you.
The one thing that I can't endorse about this DVD set is the appalling lack of extras. There are no commentaries on any of the episodes, and only a few supplemental features. "Archersaurus – Self-Extinction" plays into a gag on the season 1 DVD set that swapped out Archer for a raptor in the pilot episode. The joke works a little bit better this time when the other characters offer commentary about it.
Two other features, "Ask Archer" and "Semper Fi," are amusing but short. The best addition is the "L'espoin Mal Fait" feature; which has a hysterical premise at the expensive of the one cast member who doesn't resemble his animated counterpart. The only other extra is 13 minutes of excerpts from the "Archer" panel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con International.
Another slight disappointment is that the "Heart of Archness" three-part episode from last fall wasn't included in this set, presumably to be released with the eventual season 3 set.
If this DVD set was graded just on the episodes alone, the rating would be near perfect. But presentation counts and it really does seem like this set was rushed out without giving fans the extras they deserve. This is still worth owning if you're an "Archer" fan or if you know someone who currently isn't. I think if this set was given to anyone who loves comedy and hadn't seen "Archer" yet, they'd be converts by the end of the first episode.
Spread the word, and check out the new season of "Archer" when it debuts on FX on Thursday, January 19, 2012.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.