People regularly come to me praising some new adult animated show, its edginess, its lack of respect for “literally everything”, and, sometimes, its supposedly brilliant and inspired social commentary. No offense to anybody who’s a fan of shows such as Family Guy, American Dad, and other Drawn Togethers, but I’ve just never really been a part of the hype. Sure, when I was younger, eager to prove to the world how free of mind I was, I did watch those shows and make sure everybody knew I watched them. Did I enjoy them though? Maybe. Debatable. They were fun enough for a couple episodes. Call me a condescending pseudo-intellectual, but I never thought that anything they did was all that controversial.
Of course, every time I so much as mention this, there’s a whole fuss about how much poo, vomit, offensive language, and how many taboo sex acts are involved in those shows. To that, I answer: is any of this still edgy? I mean sure, it’s edgy for the conservative, the kind of people who still tremor when a woman so much as lifts her skirt above her ankle. Maybe it’s edgy for the generation of our parents, who still think The Simpsons is unbearably offensive to good taste. But us? Most of my generation thinks of The Simpsons as tame. We grew up surrounded with explicit imagery to the point where we get to be cynical about topics that would have been controversial a few decades ago. We’re jaded. Hell, Hollywood is dumping a movie that should have been a porn film in theaters next month and all we do about it is rage about how bad it looks. By the way, it is going to blow. And not the kind of blow you’d like.
Alcohol, bodily fluids, and sex are not edgy anymore. They’re entertaining, yes, but they can’t really be used as acting proof of a rebellious mind. At least not to me, and not in the way that most adult comedy shows illustrate them. What about South Park, you say? I know the fans are going to come at me outraged, claiming that I just don’t get the show, but I seriously think it’s overrated. Do the writers have strong opinions about things? Yes. Is each South Park episode about something? Yes. Is it incredibly insightful and subtle? It’s certainly interesting, thought-provoking at times, and I think that the writers erased the definition of subtle in their dictionary and then ripped the whole page out and ate it. This is only my opinion, of course, but as a writer, I just find myself bored when I watch a lot of animated adult comedies.
I do not enjoy watching the painfully awkward imitations of human beings that act as characters for shows such as Family Guy. I don’t laugh at fat jokes, or “she’s ugly” jokes, or women-in-the-kitchen jokes, and I really just roll my eyes at most kind of sexual acts considered as outrageous -and therefore funny, on most of those shows. The only exception to that rule is probably American Dad, where they had me laughing at Roger’s tendancy to have sex with everything for a little while, just because they couldn’t read a book without it sporting a hole the size of a perfectly cylindrical penis. Other than that, I can’t help but always see a pattern in those shows. Most characters in it are dumb and/or easily manipulated, those who are not are miserable, and stories escalate from a seemingly mundane situation until it becomes absurd enough to be entertaining.
In other words, they’re like The Simpsons, only with a lot more sexual frustration. Speaking of the characters, they’re usually very stereotypical. I barely remember their names half the time, but I always recognize them by their behaviour. You have your stay-at-home Mom, your inappropriate Dad, your struggling teenagers, your bullies, your in-laws, your people of colour, etc.
I guess my problem with adult comedy shows boils down to one thing: they’re easy. The characters are easy to write, the jokes are easy to make, and even though I really don’t think you need overly complex concepts or stories to make a good show, I personally need more than “let’s poo on a pizza because it’s offensive”. I need more than walking stereotypes going about their not-so-edgy life, doing things that only seem daring and controversial if you ignore the now decades-long legacy of satire and comedy on television, or if you think that opinionated writers are gods.
So here it is. There just isn’t usually anything exciting or hilarious in the world of animated adult comedies for Ana.
Except when it comes to Archer.
See, Archer brings to the adult animated comedy table something that I never get tired of: good writing. Sure, the show involves a lot of bodily fluids, a shit-tonne of sex, and an unhealthy amount of alcohol, drugs, and nazi clones. It also has fully-fledged characters and really fun stories to tell, which is a good start, but those characters are not just whacky and complex, and those stories are not just random: they’re whacky and random in a world where people are aware of their insanity. Archer is an ass with a terrible sense of humour and a total lack of boundaries and self-awareness. He may be good at his job, but a lot of the time, he’s just really, really lucky, a fact that even him acknowledges after a while. Everybody around him knows this and gets enraged whenever he acts out. Comedy is good when it’s nonsense, but it’s even better when it’s grounded in reality. If characters in-universe are there to play the audience, or at least have the reaction that actual people would have, it just makes things funnier, because then we’re laughing with and at the characters. You know, the whole gap thing. It’s all about the gap thing.
Nobody in Archer ever implies that anybody should be revered for their trashy behaviour. Everybody is somewhat of an asshole. Everybody knows that everybody is somewhat of an asshole. They bounce off each other’s assholery for our pleasure and amusement, but they are also able to feel some genuine emotion. I will personally laugh harder at a show that says “OH MY GOD HOW DID YOU GET THIS IN THERE?” than at a show that says “HAHA I PUT A THING THERE, WATCH ME.” I won’t say that the show is perfect -the only perfect show on Earth is Adventure Time, but Archer is certainly the most enjoyable adult comedy that I know, because it plays with the audience’s expectation. I love that Archer has the biggest Œdipus complex in the history of television. I love that Mallory Archer won’t apologize for having a sex life. I love that Lana can and will cripple you if you insult her. And I love Cheryl. Or Carol. Or whatever her name is. I just. Love. Archer.
The show has just begun its sixth season. After the hilarious roller coaster ride that was season five, a.k.a Archer Vice, I was a little afraid of being bored. This feeling went on all the way through the pilot, which was fun enough but lacked some serious action, partly due to the fact that Lana was barely in it. But then, in episode two, Archer and Lana had a fight about Archer wanting to make himself a verb right before Archer accidentally locked her and Owen Stern in a limo, leaving him alone to fight off a bunch of highly-trained military people while on a mission for the CIA that revealed to be yet another trap. And everything was right with the world.
– Anais L