Before getting heavily outmatched by Rick and Morty, Archer was the king of animated adult television. After passing the torch, the ex-champ has fallen on rough times with recent seasons not living up to the lofty expectation set by the fans. The show, as recent as 2016, has been sweeping accolades for its great work receiving both the Primetime Emmy Award and Critics’ Choice Award. However, with the start of dream seasons induced by the state of the main character, Sterling Archer, the praise has stopped, and the review scores have seen a significant dip as seen on Rotten Tomatoes. With the unfortunate decline of Archer, will the show ever be able to obtain the same standing it once held?
Before diving into the above question, it is important to look at the current state of the show. This is best done by reviewing the latest season of Archer titled Archer: Danger Island. In this season it continues the dream season with Archer set in 1938 on the island of Mitimotu. The plot is similar to an old ABC television show called Tales of the Gold Monkey, which inspired the more widely known TaleSpin, featuring an island climate, treasure, and action. This fun romp through the jungle felt hollow as there was not much original content and primarily played off past jokes. Arguably, the humor didn’t land as well the second time except a few lines sporadically placed through the season. The new content like Lucky Yate’s parrot character, Crackers, was one of the bright spots of the season who employed a healthy dose of slapstick. It was shown towards the end of the last episode “Archer: Danger Island – A Discovery” that there will be yet another season used as a dream season, though the next one will be set in the future and play on the Alien franchise. Get ready for more callbacks with Space Pirates being undoubtedly one of them.
This will make three consecutive dream seasons which makes Archer start to rival Naruto Shippuden for filler episodes. Are these seasons that bad? Honestly, no, but it’s like watching an animated “best of album” and while everyone loves the classics at a certain point new content is needed to shake things up. What these dream seasons do provide is a way for the show creators to mix things up and add new elements in the long-running series. This works in some cases such as Yate’s being turned into a bird and fails in others. The key is to shake up the characters enough where it doesn’t feel like the same character in a different time period. This is, in my opinion, where these dream seasons fail with the writers using recycled jokes with the characters in a different fashion. When looking from a show perspective this recycling is due to Archer’s coma in result of the season 7’s finale. In the coma, he is playing the old material from previous seasons even bringing back characters nearly universally hated like Noah. As the show has not covered all of Archer’s life it could easily introduce new characters that Archer has met offscreen which would break the show’s monotony.
Archer’s creator Adam Reed has noted a concern among fans that these seasons have a different tone. Last season’s Dreamland had an overall dark tone with few moments of levity due to Reed’s status at the time of writing it. He was recovering from a major shoulder surgery and with the help of painkillers, he created the darkness of Dreamland. This season was closer to the original tone of the series with a mix of darkness and levity. This correction can signal that the show is coming close to the same feel of the seasons Archer was critically acclaimed. The crafty writing and the exuberance the cast displayed made the show worth watching and is at it’s best when these factors are met.
Archer has faced steep rating drop as it started with the dream seasons which could show the fan interest of these arcs. This is likely the culprit of the show being pushed off to FX’s sister network FXX which has significantly less reach than the former. The trends between season ratings are not ideal with viewership dropping a quarter between the season 8 and 9’s premiere. The consistency of this drop, while not a strong indicator, points to the lack of fan engagement with the series. Critic response to these arcs has been widely more positive than fan response as seen on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Dreamland has received a better response with a 66% audience score on RT compared to a 58% for Danger Island. This is a significant drop from the season before dream arcs which received a 90% audience score showing the lack of interest in these filler arcs could be driving away fans.
The creative problems have been mounting for one of television’s most beloved shows stemming from the lack of new content. The dream arcs of Archer have been met with some apathy from the fanbase due to the recycled jokes. The ratings have dropped but that could be attributed due to the decision to move Archer to FXX. These dream seasons as already touched upon are meant to shake up the formula allowing for the same characters in different situations. With Archer just completing its 9th season show fatigue may be rearing its ugly head on the beloved franchise. It happens to the best shows with Archer capitalizing off the decline of Family Guy and now with Rick and Morty adversely impacting the show. It’s always hard to see one of your favorite shows fade into obscurity but that is the way of Hollywood. With Archer having just two seasons left on the current contract with FX(X), Season 11 might be the season of the show. It would be a nice sight to see Archer fix all of the creative issues the show has and get back to its former glory.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you like the direction Archer is heading?