season review

“Archer Vice” Season Review and How We React to Disappointment


Alex Russell

Some weeks ago, I called myself an idiot for missing the point about Archer. I talked about how showrunner Adam Reed succeeded in keeping Archer fresh by making the show about the characters and the stakes rather than the setting. I suggested that those truths made the show’s shift to Archer “Vice” — this season’s change in setting from a spy agency to a series of international cocaine deals — a change that didn’t matter. It wouldn’t mean a thing, I said.

Archer “Vice” (henceforth just Archer) turned out to be 13 weird episodes that showcased just how far a show can fall. Archer is a great show that found some purchase with viewers after establishing itself. All it apparently took was this season’s reboot to destroy that following: Archer‘s ratings dropped by nearly half from last season.

The change of setting truly doesn’t matter. Archer is a show a show about spies as much as Parks and Recreation is a show about local government. The spy stuff was there just as framework for jokes. The real problem wasn’t a location switch. The real problem was that they just don’t care anymore.

In the 12th episode characters question out loud why they are making certain decisions. When a character unlocks a jail cell the prisoner asks her where she got the key. She says she has no idea and the situation is dropped. Another character — one of the relatively important “bad guys” in the season — is killed (by a tiger, for just about no reason) because the show runs out of stuff for him to do. There’s no explanation given for some of the stupid decisions, and most of the best parts of Archer have revolved around people finding reasons for seemingly senseless acts.

An important point here: No one on Archer is ever “random.” They make mistakes because they’re stupid, or selfish, or shortsighted. They succeed because they make the right decision for the wrong reason. These things don’t just happen, because that wouldn’t be funny or interesting. The good part of Archer has always been the why, and this season was far less interested with why.

As for the finale itself, I won’t give away the ending because it’s still worth your time. It’s good at what Archer is good at: depth, character development, and a hard reset. Without giving it away, I can still mention that the jokes are terribleArcher has always been about mixing “high” and “low” at the same time. People set up more complex situational jokes with slap contests and puns. A lot of this season has been lazier one-off stuff, and that is never more obvious than a half-hearted sex joke in the finale that you can even hear Pam’s voice actress not care about as she delivers it. The “stupid jokes” don’t feel like they’re done on purpose anymore. What’s worse, and I would have said this was impossible, is that this season of Archer just wasn’t very damn funny.

I didn’t watch How I Met Your Mother, but it provided an interesting commentary on television and disappointment this year. People waited and waited to see how the story would wrap up, and they seem to have been, for the most part, disappointed. People often couched their anger with the ending in a kind of “I deserved better” sentiment. The argument seemed to be that they felt “owed” a better ending for the time they invested. We feel like television is part of our life experience now. We meet people and we get to know them. Even on a joke machine like Archer, we meet people and we want to be interested in their lives.

Adam Reed doesn’t owe me better episodes of Archer, but he might want to consider making some next season anyway. I rather like this show, and another season like Archer “Vice” will probably be the end of the series.

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at or on Twitter at @alexbad.

Image:  GQ

Broad City: Season Review


Jonathan May

I’m just going to come out and say it—Broad City is one of the funniest damn shows I’ve ever seen. It’s everything Girls fails to be and so, so much more. The jokes are uninhibited, surprising, and recurring. Cultural references abound. But the wacky, lovable, goofy best friendship Ilana and Abbi share makes up the core of this comedy set in Brooklyn. I’m comforted by a show that’s not afraid to portray every relationship as not being wrought with peril.

The comedy duo, Ilana and Abbi, have been doing this show on YouTube from 2009-2011. Amy Poehler saw them, and the rest is history. Luckily they’ve maintained most of the writing credits, as they are best able to draw out the nuances from their relationship and its quotidian nature. I discovered later that my favorite episode (“Working Girls”) wasn’t written by them, but in that episode, the two spend most of their time apart. Curious.

This isn’t a show that’s trying to be smart, and thank God. The show tries to be, and amply succeeds in being, hilarious—a much higher virtue for television. There are many references to this being the Golden Age of television, as if we were all being written about by Hesiod. The seriousness with which people approach this idea extends into most shows themselves, making them bland and self-important, as if we are supposed to find reflections from life or higher meanings; it’s also the result of presentist thought reigning in the current cultural dialectic, a presumptuous and vain attitude. Broad City is a great reminder that television can simply be for entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you don’t like jokes about weed or vaginas or bodily functions, this is, in fact, probably not the show for you. But if you have a sense of humor, you should definitely binge-watch the first season (10 episodes). The secondary characters are brilliantly rendered; the cameos are few, but incredibly well-chosen (Rachel Dratch and Janeane Garofalo to name a few). And to those happy fans, rejoice!—a second season is in the works. I know I’ll be watching.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at

Image source: Comedy Central