Major change was afoot in FX animation last night, with the return of “Archer” on a new night – the first time (at least post-“Shield”) that FX has programmed originals on Monday – in an episode that massively upended the show’s status quo, and with the debut of “Chozen,” teaming up various creative people from “Archer” and “Eastbound & Down.” A few thoughts on both coming up just as soon as I can remember the name of Beaker’s partner…
“Archer” is the known commodity, and one of FX’s biggest hits – which is why it wasn’t moved over to FXX (and also why “Chozen” ultimately wasn’t sacrificed on the altar of the new, lower-rated channel) – and it takes some onions to so thoroughly blow up the premise the way “White Elephant” did. There’s plenty of evidence even on cable of innovative shows riding out their initial set-up as long as is humanly possible, even after it starts to feel played out. And for all the talk of how animation comes with an unlimited effects budget and can go anywhere and show anything, “Archer” was still a series produced on the cheap, in part because there were so many static sets and costumes that could be recycled every week. By blowing up the ISIS offices and turning the characters from spies to drug dealers (or, in Cheryl’s case, from a secretary to an aspiring country star), dropping them into new settings with lots of new costumes, etc., means an unexpected level of expense at this point (producer Matt Thompson explained more in this interview), and it’s to FX’s credit that they let Adam Reed and company both mess with a successful formula and do it in a way that will cost more money.
I’ve seen the next couple of “Archer Vice” episodes, and you can really feel the difference. The characters all have their usual personalities, but their circumstances are so radically different that all the usual jokes and behavioral tics feel reinvigorated. But I do wonder how many of you are disappointed that ISIS no longer exists, if anyone feels that making the characters into drug dealers pushes them too far over a certain legal/behavioral line, or if they’ve always been so awful that this is only a logical extension. And in the meantime, ISIS went out with a literal and figurative bang, as “White Elephant” was one of the funniest premieres the show has done so far.
As for “Chozen,” it’s… strange. Funny at times, but strange. Though creator Grant DeKernion didn’t work on “Eastbound” (this is his first produced credit), there’s more than a little bit of Kenny Effing Powers DNA in this show, but with Chozen being ever so slightly less abrasive than Kenny was, but just as oblivious, and with an amusing voice performance from Bobby Moynihan. “Eastbound” tended to be a show I admired more than I enjoyed, in large part because Kenny was so tough to take, but I know it had a lot of fans here; did this feel like too much of a rehash, or did the animation, the focus on the rap world, and making Chozen gay(*) separate it enough into its own thing for you?
(*) All the advance publicity materials suggested that Chozen’s sexuality was going to be a major part of the show and its comic worldview, but it’s a fairly minor, matter-of-fact thing here and in the other episodes I’ve seen.
Both shows will be appearing at press tour today, and I expect there will be a HitFix recap of the “Archer” panel, which I’ll link to here when it’s up. But in the meantime, I want to know what people thought of the reinvented show and of the brand-new one. Is this a comedy bloc to fall in love with, or was everyone quickly changing the channel to “Rick and Morty” at 10:30?