Despite the endless potential offered by animation, for some reason adult animation Television in the U.S. remains frustratingly unambitious. Thanks to the success of The Simpsons and Family Guy and it's derivatives, it seems the family sitcom remains the default format. This is one of the reasons that Adam Reed's Spy-com stands out from the crowd. Although essentially a sitcom at heart- most of the humour comes from the characters- it's set-up allows for so much more. Maybe technical limitations have prevented it from going full-on James Bond, but it's certainly become more impressive in this regard as the series has gone on
Season 5 was a game-changer, as following the revelation that the spy agency they had been working with was not exactly kosher, the cast had instead set themselves up- or tried to at least- as international drug smugglers. Season 6 takes the series back to it's roots, as the spy agency (quietly dropping it's name due to unpleasant real-world connotations) becomes part of the CIA, and Archer is a spy once more.
After flirting with a series-long storyline in the previous season, the latest season is primarily made up of standalone episodes. While there is still an arc that connects the episode, this is very much back in mission-of-the-week territory. This arguably suits the show better and allows for a pleasing variety of storylines and locations that is a mix of espionage action and more domestic sit-com-ish stories.
Highlights include the return of an old foe, a Fantastic Voyage style shrunken-submarine mission, a visit to the in-laws and an encounter with Welsh terrorists. It does very much pick up from the previous season's story though, particularly as it deals with the fall-out of the arrival of Lana and Archer's baby. The concept of super-spies being parents is one the series often mines for laughs- especially as Sterling is not what you might call a natural father figure.
Archer always had an effective look, with a American comic-book vibe to it. The animation itself was never the strongest point however, meaning that the show's ability to mount elaborate action set-pieces was limited. The animation has improved immeasurably over the show's run, and in the sixth season it reaches new heights. Best of all this time around is a fantastic Bullitt inspired car chase in San Francisco.
Yet despite the improvements in the show's animation, Archer's biggest strength will always be the writing. There can be no stronger evidence for this than the fact this season managed to feature an episode in which the cast spend most of the episode stuck in a lift, and it's just as entertaining as any other episode of the season. Even if the show didn't look as good as it does, it would still be worth watching on the writing alone.
The voice cast also bring a lot to the show as always. H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter et al are all as fantastic as ever, and there's some excellent guest turns from talents including Keith David, Matthew Rhys and Christian Slater (as agent Slater).
Last season may have shaken things up (and done so brilliantly) but it's definitely still great to see Sterling and co back doing what they do best. Season 6 is another stormer and is up there with the very best the series has to offer.
ARCHER SEASON 6 is currently available to buy from Amazon Instant Video or iTunes.