15 Well-Phrased Facts About Archer
Archer is about to kick off its seventh season. For its first four seasons, the animated series was a smart comedy about the perpetually horny and stubborn spy Sterling Archer and the rest of the International Secret Intelligence Service. In season five it became Archer Vice, a Miami Vice-inspired show centered around drugs and country music. The sixth season found Archer and his cohorts, including his mother Malory, working for the CIA. Before Archer becomes a show about a detective agency obsessed with Tom Selleck and Magnum P.I., here are some facts about the hit animated series to read before you enter the Danger Zone.
1. ADAM REED CAME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE SHOW WHILE TRAVELING THROUGH SPAIN.
Two key things happened in Archer creator Adam Reed's life before he took a year off to travel to Europe: Frisky Dingo (2006-2008), the show he created with Matt Thompson, ceased production, and someone gave him a collection of all of the James Bond paperbacks. His thoughts throughout his travels in Spain tended to turn toward Bond, and on one fateful day in a Salamanca, Spain cafe, a beautiful woman ignored him. Reed didn't know how to approach her, but thought up the kind of character who would be able to: a spy.
2. THE SHOW'S ORIGINAL TITLE WAS DUCHESS.
Duchess, Sterling's code name and Malory's Afghan hound, was the title of the show up until about the final day of animating the opening sequence.
3. DAME JUDI DENCH INSPIRED MALORY.
"I was watching the reboot of James Bond with Judi Dench as M," Reed said in 2011. "And for whatever reason, I thought, 'What if she was his mom?' And that’s when Mal kinda clicked, and then I thought it’d be great if his ex-girlfriend worked there and was actually better at her job than he was."
4. FOR HIS AUDITION, H. JON BENJAMIN HAD TO FIND A STUDIO IN TUCSON, ARIZONA.
H. Jon Benjamin was visiting his parents in Arizona when he got a call from Reed asking to do a voice recording of the pilot, and he needed it quickly. "Basically, I had to do my own legwork and find a recording studio in Tucson," Benjamin told The A.V. Club. "They have a couple."
5. FX WANTED A HANDSOME DRAMATIC ACTOR TO VOICE STERLING ARCHER.
"FX actually had a list of a lot of really dramatic actors who look like Archer," Reed told Adweek. "And we kept saying 'Jon Benjamin! Trust us. It's going to be great!'" Reed had his protagonist animated in a suit, and sent FX a video of the suited Archer talking to kids about showing them a dead body, using audio from H. Jon Benjamin as Coach John McGuirk in Home Movies (1999-2004). The network loved it.
6. RAY RESEMBLES ONE OF THE VOICE ACTORS ON THE SHOW, BUT IT'S NOT THE ACTOR WHO VOICES RAY.
The physical model for field agent Ray Gillette is Lucky Yates. Yates is the voice actor for Dr. Krieger.
As far as the other characters: Sterling is modeled after a professional photographer/former model/electrician. Lana is modeled after a Hooters waitress who once served Reed and Thompson after the two went to a Monster Truck Rally for Reed's birthday. Brett is modeled after and voiced by the show's art director/producer Neal Holman.
7. NEITHER RAY NOR CHERYL WERE SUPPOSED TO BE RECURRING CHARACTERS.
Reed agreed to voice Dr. Krieger himself, believing he was going to be a one-off character and casting a professional would have been a waste of money. Cheryl Tunt was also meant to be a short-lived character until Judy Greer was cast in the role. "Yeah, it was going to be a running gag that Archer kept impregnating Malory’s secretaries," Reed said of Cheryl's originally intended fate. "Whenever it happened, they would gas them with sleeping gas and just leave them on the steps at Bellevue Hospital with no ID or memory of what just happened. But when Judy agreed to do the show, Cheryl became a much more important character."
8. FX STANDARDS AND PRACTICES HAS HAD A COUPLE OF ISSUES WITH THE SERIES.
The network was against Archer throwing a baby to disarm an assassin. FX was also against Anka Schlotz being 14 years old in the season two premiere, "Swiss Miss." "The girl was originally 14 because I did a bunch of Wikipedia research and found out that that is the age of consent in Germany," Reed told The A.V. Club. "They said they didn’t care where it was the age of consent, it wasn’t the age of consent on FX."
9. FX THOUGHT THAT STERLING WAS TOO DUMB.
Reed had trouble figuring out how to make his lead someone the audience could root for if he was a smart, handsome, rich playboy who could also beat you up—so he wanted to lose the "smart." But FX thought the bumbling spy thing had already been done too many times. "So I kept having him do stupid stuff," Reed told the Writers Guild of America, West, "and we kept butting heads on it all through the first season until my argument that I finally hit upon for FX: He’s not stupid. He’s just supremely confident and thinks that nothing bad is ever going to happen to him, so in these dangerous situations where he’s being an idiot, he’s just being willfully obtuse to see what will happen. That sort of opened up some doors. Also, his mom is such a wreck and his sad childhood is appealing. That helps."
10. JESSICA WALTER DOESN'T GET SOME OF MALORY'S REFERENCES.
Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development) voices Malory Archer. "I have no idea of half the things. I always have to ask, 'What does this mean?' because I’m not trendy," Walter told The A.V. Club. One example she gave of not understanding something written in the script was when Malory was to sing the "boom-chicka-boom" music that appears in pornographic movies. Walter insisted on a line reading because she didn't know what it was.
11. RON CADILLAC AND MALORY ARCHER ARE MARRIED IN REAL LIFE.
Ron Leibman and Jessica Walter have been married since 1983. Leibman was cast on the show because of his work on Kaz (1978-1979), a series Leibman created, co-wrote, and starred in (he won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama for his troubles). On the short-lived CBS series, Leibman played Martin "Kaz" Kazinsky, a car thief-turned-criminal lawyer.
12. BURT REYNOLDS THOUGHT HE COULD HAVE DONE MORE WITH HIS EPISODE.
"I personally thought I was a little too dull," Reynolds told GQ after he provided his iconic voice to the episode "The Man From Jupiter," where he played himself/Archer's idol/Malory's boyfriend. "Maybe they should've gotten me after I'd had a few drinks ... I think I could get better at it. I just didn't give the character enough color. I tried to be honest, but I think that wasn't enough, in retrospect." Reynolds said he'd be game to make another appearance on the series.
13. THE AMERICAN TINNITUS ASSOCIATION IS "PLEASED" WITH THE SHOW.
Matt Thompson (the show's executive producer) and the Archer staff were contacted by the American Tinnitus Association. They were "pleased" with Sterling Archer talking about having the affliction. The show has donated merchandise for ATA charity auctions.
14. TUMBLR HELPED CONVINCE JON HAMM TO MAKE A GUEST APPEARANCE.
Thompson showed Jon Hamm's management team the Sterling Draper Archer Pryce Tumblr account, which matches screengrabs from Mad Men with captions from Archer. It helped Thompson convince Hamm that the Internet wanted to see/hear Hamm as Captain Murphy in the two-parter "Sea Tunt."
15. THE TIME IS NEVER SPECIFIED.
Cold War-era politics tend to drive the plots of Archer's episodes, yet there are topical references. And while the computer technology seems old, characters have cell phones at their disposal. Reed said that the time period of Archer is "sort of intentionally ill-defined."