This last summer, while the world held it’s breath about the American election, fans of “Archer” got a bit of satisfaction as the show was renewed for another three seasons. And so it was that, for the second year in a row, I met with almost all of the regulars of the humorously brutal animated spy/private eye sitcom, as well as the show’s creator, Adam Reed, who also provides the voice of fun-loving voice of sanity Ray Gillette. Like my last “Archer” chat held at San Diego Comic-Con, the interviews were done two at a time in super-fast five-minute stints. Alas, this meant that acting legend Jessica Walter deferred almost entirely to Reed. Similarly, ace farceur Chris Parnell lent brilliant but “you had to be there” comic support to Lucky Yates’s thoughts on voicing the lovably sinister Dr. Algernon Krieger. Happily, stars H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer and Amber Nash were more easily transcribed.
As for the new season, with selfish superspy turned self-involved private eye Sterling Archer last seen floating fully clothed and wrong side down in a Hollywood pool, “Dreamland” will take us into a season-long fantasia set in the film noir heyday of 1947. Presumably emanating from the not-quite-dead Archer’s brain and very definitely from the show’s new network home of FXX, the show premieres Wednesday, April 5th at 10PM.
We are promised a great many noir references, the return of former guest star Jeffrey Tambor and no doubt phrasing and anachronistic references to Kenny Loggins. We can also reportedly expect a touching tribute to the long-suffering character of Woodhouse, formerly played by veteran actor George Coe, who passed away at 86 in July 2015, a few days after my first meeting with the “Archer” cast.
Before he became the world’s second most famous spy novelist, literary master John le Carre famously disliked the world’s most famous spy (who never actually seems to spy much). He has said of James Bond that “you felt he would have gone through the same antics for any country really, if the girls had been so pretty and the Martinis so dry.” We can argue about whether or not that’s literally or just figuratively true of 007. However, it’s very definitely the case if you’re talking about Sterling Malory Archer, the cocktail-guzzling, murderously self-centered yet oddly competent titular protagonist of “Archer,” Adam Reed’s blend of super-smart, reference-heavy, super-black comedy spy satire and frequently filthy animated workplace sitcom. If you’re a fan, like this writer, you’ll be delighted to know that the show returns to FX with its seventh season this Thursday night, March 31th.
Last summer, just as the new season was starting to go into production, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Comic-Con roundtable with pretty much the entire regular cast of the show as well as creator and voice actor Adam Reed. That’s pretty impressive considering the show’s cast includes voice acting comedy genius H. Jon Benjamin (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Home Movies,” etc.) as the voice of Archer; multi-talented actress Aisha Tyler as the even more multi-talented and super-smart superspy Lana Kane; SNL-grad par excellence Chris Parnell (“30 Rock”) as weaselly espionage accountant Cyril Figgis; borderline ubiquitous working actress Judy Greer as the lovably psychopathic billionairess Cheryl Tunt; the less well-known but seemingly no less talented Lucky Yates as mad scientist Dr. Krieger; and the voice of poly-addictive fan favorite Pam Poovey herself, Amber Nash. Present in the room but, sadly, not at my table was genuine acting great Jessica Walter (“Arrested Development,” “Play Misty for Me”), whose Malory Archer is easily the scariest mom in spy fiction this side of “The Manchurian Candidate.”
What follows are highlights of the conversations I was lucky to have or listen in on.
Said Hurwitz, while addressing the audience at the New Yorker Festival on Sunday:
“I have been working on the screenplay for a long time and found that as time went by there was so much more to the story. In fact, where everyone’s been for five years became a big part of the story. So, in working on the screenplay I found that even if I just gave five minutes per character to that backstory, we were halfway through the movie before the characters got together. And that kinda gave birth to this thing we’ve not been pursuing for a while and we’re kinda going public with a little bit. We’re trying to do kind of limited run series into the movie.”
Too good to be true? Hurwitz doesn’t seem to think so, judging by his candor and optimism on the subject. Jason Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth on the beloved show, further stirred the pot when he tweeted, “It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!”
“Arrested Development” fans have been waiting five years for good news, and while it’s wise and natural to remain somewhat skeptical until production on the movie and/or episodes has actually started, there’s enough smoke here to at least suggest the existence of a real fire.