I was recently pointed in the direction of Archer and have so far endured several dozens stitches and somehow pulled my back from sheer laughter. Reputably the worlds ‘greatest secret agent’, Archer seems dead set against being the normal spy character and yet still achieves every mission. Could he be better than the famous 007?
Until the amazing era of Daniel Craig, James Bond films could almost entirely be summed up as “Kill and/or sex, opening credits, talking, sneaking, action, sex, action, talking, sex, end credits”. Archer has zero predictability but somehow still finds time in twenty minutes to have plenty of gunfire, explosions and patently ridiculous plans that he pulls off while under the painful influence of a hangover. Other that that, Archer remains more realistic… marginally. As opposed to the atomic-powered radio beam featured in Dr. No, Archer has a climatic car chase with Burt Reynolds and several vans of Cuban assassins during which he breaks the fourth wall and has a tickle fight. Let’s have a brief comparison between the two.
Other than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and a few vague references in later films, there is almost no mention of Bond’s family, biological or otherwise until Skyfall. On the Archer hand, he works under his mother and alongside his ex-girlfriend and her partner whilst enjoying the odd brief engagement with a Russian cyborg. His father is a source of much debate as it is insult at his mother. Nobody actually knows who he is but for a brief minute in Season 4 when Archer is having a near-death experience before he comes back and quickly forgets.
For the better part of five decades, viewers had to deal with the constant flirting between Moneypenny and Bond. Within five minutes of Archer, you learn that he’s slept with both the Moneypenny equivalent and his own female counter-part in the form of Lana Kane. He also later has a relationship with Pam, the hideous head of HR. Archer also has such a silver tongue that women actively chase him and yet maintains some personal levels of respect and realises that some things are more important than meaningless sex (such as binge-drinking or governmental super-secrets). In Spectre, Bonds casually kills two men before aggressively seducing a fresh widow into giving up information about her recently dead husband. Classy.
Maybe Bond isn’t the epitome of laughter but the only half-way funny line I remember for the entire franchise is when Connery throws a toaster in a bathtub and says ‘Shocking’. For a series stretching back fifty years and upwards of twenty films, that’s a serious lack of any humor. Archer, facing down four armed Canadian Mounties trots out ‘Armed with what? Pamphlets about Canada’s responsible gun control laws?’ Realising that his butler has a chance of getting wind of a million dollars he blurts out the ever quotable line: ‘I would totally kill you for that!”
I’m also half sure that the Archer writers actually compose little ditties in Morse and then decide how to split them in there’s so much swearing sometimes. Nothing is off the table with Archer. It might be slightly stereotypical to have an Adrican-American hippie with an afro but Lana Kane was just that before joining ISIS (Archer got there first guys, keep calm). We also have the walking the walking human target of Brett and the many chimes of ‘phrasing’ whenever somebody inadvertently makes an innuendo.
Whilst Bond repeats his mantra of ‘Sex, talk, sex, action’ for several films, Archer:
- Struggles to come to terms with his lack of father
- Finds the man who could be his father
- Watches that man die
- Gets cancer
- Overcomes cancer
- Actually volunteers to drown so that his pregnant ex can survive and trusts her to resuscitate him
In between all of this, he skydives, scuba dives and visits several dives in order to prevent mass murder and global catastrophe. Whereas it takes Bond several hours and millions of pounds to carry out one quick kill, it takes one Sterling to assassinate fifty people by accident before the opening credits.
Archer has an uncanny ability of identifying any firearms correctly after only a brief glance but Bond can probably do the same. He also hears where each gunshot comes from, much the same as Bond. But then Bond falls short when Archer constantly proves himself capable of counting who fired how many bullets, how many they have left, doesn’t always understand sarcasm and can be extremely possessive, once going so far as to say ‘my night-vision goggles’. He even realizes in season four that he genuinely might be autistic. Even if it’s just part of some long running joke, it gives me hope that more main characters will be given their own unique oddities in the future.
To evaluate the first season of Archer he:
- Uncovers a spy (by accident),
- Tries to train the ISIS accountant as a spy,
- Gets (both literally and metaphorically) stabbed in the back,
- Is forced to cover up the assassination of the chairman of the UN intelligence committee,
- Tries to seduce a gay man,
- Accidentally messes up another agent’s mission in an misplaced rescue,
- Mistakenly activates a bomb on a ‘rigid air ship’ (blimp),
- Realizes that without the underlings, he cannot pull off a mission… during a mission,
- Quits to start at another firm and then returns to ISIS (all in one episode) and
- Has a Soviet brain control chip implanted in his skull.
Compared with the first ten Bond films where 007:
- Stops an atomic-powered radio (Dr. No),
- Steals a computer (From Russia With Love),
- Stops a gold robbery (Goldfinger),
- Recovers a nuke (Thunderball),
- Attacks SPECTRE with a ninja army (You Only Live Twice),
- Changes faces and infiltrates a mind-control facility (On Her Majesties Secret Service),
- Changes his face back and stops a space laser (Diamonds Are Forever),
- Changes faces again and take on a voodoo drug smuggler (Live And Let Die),
- Faces an assassin (The Man With The Golden Gun) and
- Takes on a mad fish-man intent on starting nuclear war (The Spy Who Loved Me),
Of the two, Archer pulls off ahead with flying colours. Bond was great in his day but the character was written as a persona, allowing anyone to step into the shoes should the occasion arise. The films have made no mention of this detail and just switched actors whenever they feel like it, leading to the question of if they are the same person or not. Regardless, most of the pre-Craig films are interchangeable and the most amusement I have had with them was seeing Colin Salmon and recognising him from his later works of Dr Who and Arrow. There are few Bond films that I have ever wanted to watch again but the past week has mostly consisted of cycling through every Archer episode there is.
Bizarrely, Archer also has no definitive era. While James tries is best to keep with, and ahead of, the modern times, Archer is fighting the KGB in Soviet Russia with touch screen phones linked into an old tape mainframe. Whilst the computers belong in the last century, some of the cars decidedly belong in the current decade.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which is better for you. Personally, I prefer the humour of Archer to the blandness that encompasses most of the Bond history but I hold high hopes for the upcoming film and still remember in awe the climatic explosion in SPECTRE.