Season 1 of Archer perfects the art of turning a formula into consistently hilarious and notably discernible television. Each episode, despite following roughly the exact same path as the previous, is shrouded by new locations, colorful antagonists, and circulating jokes unique to each episode until its easy to recall each episode as a unique entity, despite the structural similarities throughout the season. Producing each episode as a standalone work of art is a hallmark of a successful show, particularly if the basis under which they are constructed is so uniform.
Granted, to consider the first season of Archer a successful television project requires a very particular taste in humor. It is certainly darker, quirkier, and more nuanced than its successors, which broaden in comedy and appeal (while ironically diminishing my own enjoyment) with each year. My enjoyment of it has been particularly enhanced by my own knowledge of spy/heist/’60s movie tropes, and thusly a lot of the more subtle elements that nevertheless characterize the very core structure to which I spoke – from the Bond villain stereotypes to the character types from which the protagonists are derived – may go over the head of some viewers and lessen the show’s overall appeal. And despite its nature as an animated comedy, the very power of this first season – the way in which each episode presents a self-contained narrative, complete with some callbacks to previous episodes and some contained within itself – likely appeals more to prestige TV buffs than to fans of Family Guy. But regardless, to this target audience, Archer does achieve its goal, or at least a goal, in creating a encapsulated product both in its individual episodes and in the overall season.