TV Club

Archer Season 4: Does Wikipedia make the FX show more enjoyable?

Do you need Wikipedia to watch this show?

Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) makes a cheap Giardia joke.

Courtesy of FX Networks

In Slate’s Archer TV Club, Jeremy Stahl will IM each week with a different fan of the FX spy comedy. This week he chats with Future Tense editor Torie Bosch.

Jeremy Stahl: Hola! Como estas? Mucho gracias para joining the chat today, Torie!

Torie Bosch: I’m going to have to use some Google Translate here, because like an idiot, I took Latin for almost 10 years. So: Gracias por tenerme.

Stahl: Ha! “Latin seems much more useful,” he says outwardly sarcastically but is inwardly jealous of your declension skills. I thought that everything about this episode was muy bueno, but I especially loved Archer’s condescending pidgin Spanish and his sweet interactions with Lupe.* Her shrug after blowing the border patrolman off the road with a semi-automatic was priceless. Also, did you catch the sign by that tiny shred of border fence that the patrol truck crashed into? (“More Border Fence Coming Soon!”)


The episode’s introductory ISIS debrief was also a fun way to get into the story. It starts with Cyril and Lana recounting to Malory how, while trying to capture Mexico’s leading coyote (Spanish for coyote and also people smuggler), Archer beat them up and kidnapped a station wagon full of smuggled Mexican people because he wanted to vulgarly hit on the lead smuggler.

The rest of the episode is just Archer’s misadventures in getting shot in the back by a couple of border guards, being operated on by an unlicensed veterinarian, and exploring his potential undiagnosed atypical autism.* You know, the usual Archer stuff. What did you think?

Bosch: I loved this episode. I just wish there had been some subtitles so I could appreciate Archer’s bad Spanish, but I suppose not translating allowed those with a slightly better grasp of Spanish to enjoy the joke all the more. That brief look at Cyril, Archer, and Lana’s conflicting opinions on illegal immigration was a real highlight for me as well.


Stahl: I admit to doing a lot of pausing and Google translating and Wikipedia searching this episode, and I’m starting to wonder if this is not the right way to watch Archer.


For example, did you know the difference between a loanword and a calque? Or what Giardia is? Or who starred in the Defiant Ones?

Bosch: You’re more dedicated than I am with all that Wiki searching. Lazily, I just let the missed laughs go right past me.  

Stahl: Either that or I have whatever Archer has. Which reminds me, did you know that some of the characteristics of pervasive developmental disorder, otherwise known as atypical “autismo,” are “difficulty with changes in routines or environments,” “unusual play with toys and other objects,” and “difficulty with social behavior.” Doesn’t seem like a bad description of Sterling Archer.


Bosch: It’s true! Funny enough, Malory could easily be described as one of the “refrigerator mothers” long (erroneously) believed to cause their children to develop autism.

By the way, I knew the difference between a loanword and a calque and the Defiant Ones, but not what was going on in the car with Giardia. Dare I ask?

Stahl: Giardia is what I assume is an obscure intestinal disorder, which Archer believed to be causing excess gas and all other sorts of unpleasantness in that car—though my guess is it was the Doritos.


Bosch: Oh, delightful.

Stahl: I guess the point is that instead of Adam Reed just making a cheap joke about somebody having gas in a car, he makes a better joke about Archer making a cheap joke about somebody having an obscure intestinal disorder in a car.


Bosch: Archer truly is the thinking man’s dick-and-fart show.

Stahl: Ha! You kid, but I think that’s an excellent characterization.

Bosch: I’m sincere, actually—my fondness for Archer surprised me because I am, frankly, a bit prudish and uptight. Vulgarity doesn’t usually make me laugh. But the erudite way Archer approaches it makes me love the show all the more.

Stahl: Indeed! No less a bastion of American high culture as Harpers ran a full-length essay on the show’s intellectual merits in this month’s issue. I think the money line in Charles Bock’s essay is this: “The visual tone of the show, like its deadpan, involute gags, is adult in the sense of ‘grown-up,’ as opposed to simply ‘not for kiddies.’ “


Bosch: Well stated, Charles Bock.

Stahl: I think there is still a lot of infantile humor at the heart of the show (see every oral sex joke in this episode), but most of it is done in such a way—couched in satire of culture high and low—that makes it “grown up.”

Anyway, mucho gracias again for chatting with me, Kimmy Kevlar!

Bosch: Thanks for letting me crash, amigo! 

Correction, March 8, 2013: This post originally stated that Sterling Archer was operated on by an unlicensed dentist. He was operated on by an unlicensed veterinarian. This post also misspelled pidgin Spanish.