Saturday, March 5, 2011

Archer's "Tragical History": Spy Comedy or Workplace Comedy?

     FX's Archer began showing signs last season that, besides being a spy thriller, it may also be a workplace comedy. Those signs have morphed into the heart of the show in season two. While Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and the other ISIS agents still sometimes go out into the field to do stuff, much of the action takes place in ISIS headquarters as the various personalities that make up its staff clash and chafe. Even while out of the office, more often than not some of the administrative staff gets into the action.

     This week, Cyril (Chris Parnell) feels bad about himself after his co-workers laugh at him. This is nothing new. But this time, Cyril is given the opportunity to do something about it when the mysterious Spelvin (Peter Serafinowicz, Shaun of the Dead, Running Wilde) gives him a computer virus. Cyril thinks he will mess with ISIS's systems, then fix it, becoming a hero. The first part of the plan goes fine. The second, not so much. Because Spelvin is really tricking Cyril so he can steal the list of agents and sell it to the highest bidder.

     Poor Cyril. While initially presented as a straight-laced dweeb, Cyril has since been shown with drug and sex addiction problems. Now he is also a traitor. Luckily, only Archer finds out, as Cyril needs his help to stop Spelvin, and in the end, though Archer will never admit it, Cyril sort of redeems himself. Did I mention Cyril is an accountant, and has no business getting mixed up in espionage stuff?

     The humor comes not just from Cyril's fish out of water schtick, but also in how he relates to super-spy Archer. At least twice Archer mentions something, and Cyril expresses surprise at the thought, only to have Archer query "And you don't?" Great punchline. They are two very different people, and the highlighting of that fact lent to copious laughter. I won't say it is exactly unexpected that Cyril saves the day, after Archer handles the combat portion, of course, but the story flows naturally. Plus, Spelvin has sexy bikini-clad ninja bodyguards for Archer to flirt with, so really, win-win.

     Back at ISIS, things look a lot more like The Office than James Bond. Krieger (Lucky Yates) should be fixing the computers, but Lana (Aisha Tyler) has destroyed his virtual girlfriend, so he is working on a new one. That image alone is priceless. Cheryl (Judy Greer) and Pam (Amber Nash) unhook all the computers, and Cheryl accidentally destroys them, and quite possible the elevator. Bickering with co-workers? Destruction of company property? Sounds like a workplace comedy to me.

     The series also stars Jessica Walter as Malory and Adam Reed as Ray. Tune into Archer Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

Article first published as TV Review: Archer - "Tragical History" on Blogcritics.

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