Archer: Season 6 (TV Review)

Archer: Season 6 (TV Review)

For always burning through each season of Archer as it is released on Netflix Canada, I don’t think I’ve ever actually written anything about it.

Hands down, Archer is one of the funniest shows on television, always able to elicit some laughs with its perverted humour, or now classic and highly quotable running jokes. Who doesn’t a little bit of “Danger Zone,” or Archer himself reminding us of how you get ants.

ARCHER: Episode 7, Season 6 "Nellis" (Airing Thursday, February 19, 10:00 PM e/p) A rescue mission turns into an out-of-this-world visit to Area 51. Pictured: (L-R) Dr. Krieger (voice of Lucky Yates), Cyril Figgis (voice of Chris Parnell), Sterling Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin), Ray Gillette (voice of Adam Reed), Cheryl Tunt (voice of Judy Greer), Pam Poovey (voice of Amber Nash). CR: FX

The sixth season of the show, which follows in the footsteps of the less-than-stellar fifth season, Archer: Vice, does something that I never suspected the show would do: they move away from the running jokes. While there are several references to the use of the jokes, including Archer’s disdain that they aren’t using “Phrasing” any more, they are largely absent from the show for the entire season.

And it takes away from it all. Archer is so great because it creates something that provides the familiar for the die-hard viewer, as well as new jokes each episode. This is not to say that S6 is not funny anymore, but it definitely seems like something is missing. It still provides us with some very solid episodes, including the one where the gang is stuck in an elevator, and unable to escape.

archer2Much of the story line revolves around Lana, and her having had Archer’s baby. This has added a new wrinkle to the story that doesn’t always work, and the kid seems to be an inconvenience to the plot in the same way Ross and Rachel’s baby was on the final years of Friends. It is just sort of there, mentioned now and then, and rarely adds to the humour.

As usual, all of the characters in the show are awesome, and they all have their specific moments to shine. The beauty of Archer is that it is not one person who is able to always provide the punchlines, but all of them. Each character brings something to the table, and this is continued through S6. There are still plenty of laughs, and they are provided by different characters throughout. This diversity simply adds to the entertainment of the show, as it doesn’t always have to be focused on Archer and his (mis)adventures as a spy.

archer4Archer has often been a 1-2 sitting endeavor for me, and this season is no different. With a few 22-minute episodes to pour through, it takes very little time before you realize that another season has been completely eaten up, and that it will be about another year before the next one is released.

Well worth it, and despite the general end to the running jokes, Archer is still a damn funny show.

Happy Endings: Seasons 1-3 (TV Review)

Happy Endings: Seasons 1-3 (TV Review)

I truly love the show Happy Endings, and believe that it is one of the most underrated sitcoms to come out over the past few years. Going through the entire series on Netflix again recently, I was surprised that I hadn’t done a write-up on it before.

The show had a stunted beginning, and the first season suffered a little bit from them basically restarting the series part way through, in order to get more viewers in who had not tuned in for the original few episodes. This causes a little bit of repeated material, but overall, it was a road bump instead of something that was a complete turn off for viewers.

happy5The basis of the series is a group of six friends, and their zany lives after Alex leaves Dave at the altar. The rest of the group includes Alex’s sister, Jane, and her husband Brad, perennial single girl Penny, and Max, the gay character, who has as much trouble with men as Penny does. While the show definitely took a few episodes to get rolling, once the writers found the niches for their characters, it was off and running, and created a generally hilarious television sitcom.

And one that was cancelled too soon, as it still had plenty of steam going in Season 3 to keep going.

There are many things to like about this series, so I will try to outline a few of them. I would highly recommend Happy Endings to anybody, as the viewership could span from fans of Friends and New Girl to more intelligent and quirky comedies like Arrested Development.

1. The comedic timing of the actors is dead on, and adds to a clever dialogue. There are strong performances throughout the series, and the actors have truly bought in to their characters, and their individual quirks. Much like other sitcoms, each character has a distinct role, and their foibles serve as a primary engine to the plot. Jane is the Type A personality, Max is the uncaring one, Dave thinks he is much cooler than he really is, Alex is the dumb blonde, Penny is the train wreck, etc. The actors are good enough to make us buy into these characters, even though they are indeed cliches. But they work here.

2. The show is aware of itself. They will make fun of the plot holes that emerge in the series, or when a character seemingly appears from nowhere. An example of this is at the end of Season 3, when an older sister to Jane and Alex is introduced. They know it is far fetched, but aren’t above making fun of that fact. There are other “fourth wall” moments, when the characters indicate that they know they are in a TV show, and they work well.

happy43. The catch phrases. There are plenty of them, and they use them lightly. It is not one of those shows where they will beat a catch phrase to death. In fact, they will move on and use new ones. Most of these revolve around Penny, and her abbreviating common terms, or alternate pronunciations. They remain quirky and fun, because once we start to get bored of one, they have moved on to another.

4. The running jokes. A good series will use running jokes, but they aren’t so intrusive that it will alienate new viewers. Think of shows like Arrested Development or Archer. The jokes are always there, and they are brought up a few times, and they consistently work. In Happy Endings, they use jokes like Alex’s love of ribs (or general love of food), Max’s chubbiness, or Dave’s love of V-necks, in several episodes, and it always works.

happy35. The allusions. A smart show will use its cultural references well. Something like Family Guy, which is basically one episode long allusion to pop culture, is on the overkill spectrum. Happy Endings uses them much more sparingly, and to a much greater effect. When you catch one, they are generally hilarious. They go from imagined married names for celebrities, to a well placed “I am Queen’s Boulevard.” If you get it, they can be hilarious.

6. The plot. Unlike most sitcoms, that end up becoming dramas before too long, Happy Endings keeps it light. Sure, there is a plot that follows through each episode, and it could easily become drama, but they tackle it in a way that makes it not too plot heavy. The hijinks is what matters, and the running plot is secondary. We don’t have to care too much about the “will they or won’t they” storylines that have affected, and often ruined, other TV comedies.

happy27. Elisha Cuthbert. More known for dramatic roles, like as Jack Bauer’s daughter in 24, she really shines in a comedic role. Alex is extremely goofy and simple, and she plays it to a T. It doesn’t hurt that she is incredibly beautiful, and credit goes to the writers that they didn’t play that aspect up too much. Rare is the episode that focuses on her being a hot girl. Character first, looks later.

8. The chemistry. These actors work well together. There is great on-screen comedic chemistry between the bunch of them, and this makes it even funnier. They are able to play off one another, and their acting styles and characters mesh well enough that they can rattle on for a few minutes, and produce some gold.

Happy Endings is definitely well worth the watch. Never being too serious, it is not needed that the viewer becomes too invested in the whole thing. It is a fun show, and it is meant to be taken lightly. It was unfortunate that it never received the viewership it truly deserved while on air, and I can envision this show becoming more of a cult classic as time moves on. For now, check it out on Netflix, and enjoy the laughs.

BoJack Horseman: Season 1 (TV Review)

BoJack Horseman: Season 1 (TV Review)

New to Netflix is another cartoon geared specifically towards adults, BoJack Horseman. Right off the bat, it feels as if this show is meant to provide people who love Archer with something to do while they wait for the next seasons to be released. In BoJack Horseman, we get a little bit of Archer, a little bit of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and a dash of Arrested Development. There is a long list of talented actors who lend their voices to the show, but in the end, it falls a little bit more flat than I would have expected.

The story is about an actor, who is also a horse, who had a huge hit with a 1990’s family sitcom, and he has never truly recovered, or moved on, since. Never able to replicate his success, and unable to land a job, BoJack Horseman has become a bitter pseudo-celebrity, living off his glory years. And excessively living in his glory years, to the point where he often watches the DVDs of his old show, laughing along with the tired, filmed before a live studio audience, jokes that made him famous. The only gig BoJack has going for him, is an offer to write his memoirs, something he finally gets around to doing when he hires a ghost writer, who follows him around, reliving his stories of fame, and becoming his friend. 

bojack2The cast here is good, and the title character is voiced by Will Arnett, who simply has one of the coolest voices out there. it feels as though he never reaches the potential with his voice acting in this show, however, or maybe it is just that we want him to be more like Arnett is in his other shows. Maybe we just want an animated version of Gob Bluthe, but we don’t really get it. Other primary member include Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame, as Todd, the freeloading friend of BoJack’s who sleeps on his couch, and has to fight just to be allowed to use some closet space. Alison Brie provides the voice of the ghost writer, Diane. There are other celebrity cameos, like Naomi Watts and others, and there are some pretty decent secondary characters, like BoJack’s friend/rival, Mr. Peanutbutters (who is dating Diane), a dog who had a hit show similar to Horseman’s back in the day, and BoJack’s agent, a cat named Princess Carolyn that serves as BoJack’s agent and occasional love interest. 

Overall, it seemed like there could have been more done from the stellar actors they have to do the voices. I was expecting more, at least, and finished the series wondering if it could have been better had the voice actors gone a little further, or a little more extreme, in their creation of their characters. Think of how distinguishable each character is on Archer, simply based on their voices. I didn’t feel that came across in BoJack Horseman

As with most new shows, it takes a while before this one feels like it hits its stride. However, throughout the whole first season, it is not laugh-out-loud funny, as often Archer is, or the other comparable shows are. Perhaps it is unfair to compare this new series to something like the three I mentioned in the opening paragraph, as they have become cult favorites, or true comedy gems. But, since they are going after the same audience, I guess I can justify the comparisons. 

When you finish the dozen episodes of the first season, you are left with something that is…okay. There are some good moments in the show, and they start to string together jokes from other episodes, something that is more and more common in binge-watching TV series. There is a reasonable plot line, and BoJack himself does go through changes as the show progresses, so there is definitely a character arc, for the titular character, at least. There aren’t tons of laughs, but there are definitely worse things out there. Despite the expectations that I may have had for BoJack Horseman, it comes off as something that is distinctly average, unfortunately. But there is hope, as things have been set up nicely, and perhaps from here the writers can take this show somewhere more daring, and different, in order to improve for its second season, whenever that may come along. 

You won’t hate yourself for watching this show, as it is not a complete waste of time. But I wouldn’t go in expecting a gut-bustingly funny show, either.