With the terrorist group ISIS, alternately known as ISIL or the Islamic State, making headlines worldwide with its murderous tactics and inflexible ideology, FX’s animated comedy Archer has smartly chosen to distance itself from the group by renaming the spy agency at its center.
For five seasons, the series has focused on a group of spies working for ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service), but now that the other ISIS has forever besmirched the acronym, FX and the creative team behind Archer – including creator Adam Reed and exec-producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis – decided it was necessary to discreetly ditch the name. “We quietly did,” Reed told The Daily Beast, noting:
“We were waiting for it to go away—at least I was. Back in Season 5, FX said, ‘This might be a thing,’ and I thought, ‘Maybe it won’t be? Maybe it’ll be the mole that I’m gonna ignore and nothing will happen.’ We got sort of lucky and could organically make a merger with the CIA, so we went back and retroactively painted out the ISIS logos in parts of the show, and we just don’t talk about it in dialogue.”
In the season six premiere, movers are seen rolling the ISIS sign out of the spy agency’s headquarters. From now on, Archer will simply address its setting as ‘the agency.’ Thompson explained:
“We won’t say ISIS anymore, and the only visual representation of it will be that sign rolling off the show. It’s just the most awful thing, and we didn’t want to have anything to do with it. There were people online saying that we should address it and say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe these guys have co-opted our name.’ That’s the way South Park would do it, coming after them and saying, ‘These assholes stole our name,’ but that’s not the way the Archer universe works, where it’s all our own creations. In our universe, they don’t exist.”
Of course, as obviously necessary as the name change was, simply eliminating ISIS from the upcoming season doesn’t make all of FX’s problems go away. The network can’t retroactively erase the name from previous seasons, and almost all of the popular merchandise made for Archer includes the acronym. Said Reed, maybe joking, maybe not: “So I guess that’s all going to a landfill somewhere.”
Whatever steps FX and the creators take to distance Archer from ISIS, it’s a real shame that the series has been impacted by such horrific real-world events. Hopefully, as Reed said above, the name change won’t feel forced or uncomfortable, and the series can now continue along its own wacky path without ever again encountering any outside interference.