Archer Season Premiere Review: “Fugue and Riffs” (Season 4, Episode 1)

Currently, out of the (what seems like) dozens of television shows I watch, I own a mere two on DVD. One is Lost, season five to be exact, part of my prize for winning an Oscar pool last year at a party thrown by a CBS intern. To date, I’ve seen something like a grand total of five episodes of the show due to an inherent bias I have which boils down to this: my sister likes it, which means it mustn’t be any good. That being said, having the fifth season of a show when I’ve not even finished the first will, over time, drive me mad, so I’ll get to it. Eventually.

Meanwhile, the other is Archer, seasons one and two, every episode of which I’ve already seen. In the case of some episodes, multiple times, having introduced my ex-girlfriend to both it and Breaking Bad, the only currently airing show that I’d go so far as to rank ahead of it. It started with season one, purchased largely in order to watch the “un-aired pilot” it included, which turned out to be nothing more than a scene-for-scene, word-for-word recreation of the original pilot, except with Archersaurus in place of Sterling himself, the dinosaur speaking entirely in prehistoric shrieks. It took a couple minutes for me to realize that, no, this was it, and that, stranger still, it worked.

Not just that, it was borderline genius, or so you’d have thought by the way I laughed myself into a flushed and tear-stricken state. By the time I’d composed myself once more, it was decided. As far as comedies, animated or otherwise, were concerned, Archer was without peer. Since then, little has changed; in fact, my fervor has only increased. For last season’s premiere, I threw myself a joint birthday party slash Archer viewing party, as I was lucky enough to have both perfectly coincide, the premiere just happening to fall on January 19th, my birthday. This season, I leapt at the opportunity to communicate my undying fealty to and love of this show, by means of these weekly reviews. So, without further adieu, it’s onto the review.

Which I’ll begin by pointing out that, after three seasons, Archer still manages to surprise me. When it hit me that this was the Bob’s Burgers crossover, I’ll admit that I was more than a little skeptical. To me, the two shows couldn’t be further apart, speaking strictly based on quality. One makes me laugh louder than I should while people are sleeping in the room right across the hallway, whereas the other can’t even tease my lips into a smirk. Naturally, I was concerned that it would be too much Bob’s Burgers and not enough Archer; however, I was pleased to find that it was as much an episode of Bob’s Burgers as The Phantom Menace was a Star Wars film.

Though ever so slightly disappointed that more time wasn’t spent with Archer as Bob. For a second there, I almost forgot what it was like watching Bob’s Burgers, an exercise in humorlessness, thinking a second chance was warranted based on the Dumbledore-esque magic Adam Reed worked to make those characters engaging and, dare I say it, likable. Just seeing Bob’s family, done up Archer style, amused me more than Bob’s Burgers ever did. And honestly, if that’s all this entire season turned out to be, cross-over after cross-over, with Archer embodying the role of all of animation’s most famous fathers, from Bob Belcher to Homer Simpson, and Reed animating them all in Archer‘s signature style, I’d tune in each and every week as anticipated as ever.

Alas, that is not the case and, as unfortunate as that is, I’m okay with it. Because Archer is at its best when Archer is, well, Archer. Such as when he swiftly, and brutally, murders the KGB agents who’d come to Bob’s restaurant intent upon killing him. Or when he finds a suitable slingshot for the Molotov cocktails after Lana took a frying pan to his head, the speed with which he found it suggesting that his unintentional burning of Lana’s bra might have been at least partly intentional, that, in that moment, he was more Archer than Bob.

And it was the little things like that which made “Fugue and Riffs” such a stellar episode. There’s Kreiger stuffing a tiny pig into the pocket of his lab coat, Pam talking about staying at the spa “25/8,” Mallory’s “son-of-a-bitch” (she said it!) remark, and so on. Watching Archer, I’m reminded of a lyric from Eminem’s “On Fire” that goes like this: “I’m wastin’ punchlines, but I got so many to spare. I just thought of another one that might go here.” The jokes come so rapid fire, and so many go over my head, and yet it’s still the funniest show on television, as proven by the premier.

Furthermore, if Archer maintains this level of quality throughout the season, season four could easily be the best of them all, and praise doesn’t get much higher than that. Whatever happens, I’m sure I’ll enjoy myself every step of the way. Reed hasn’t disappointed me yet.