By now, in the sixth season beginning this week, there is a kind of beauty to FX's Archer that few animated shows achieve. What I mean by that is not its visuals — the animation is, as always, intentionally stiff, budget-conscious minimal. No, I mean the beautifully layered jokes and the lushly vivid characterization that has formed around the series.
Last season, Archer took a left turn and transformed into Archer Vice, a tale of inept drug-running in the manner only Sterling Archer and his comrades could (not) pull off. At the end of Archer Vice, Archer and his tough colleague Lana had become parents. The new season finds Lana and various other characters pushing around a pink baby carriage (Archer has yet to commit to such a fatherly chore). It contains sweet little A.J. But the other change in the show is a repudiation of last season's reboot: a de-boot, in which Archer and the gang are back in the spy-for-hire game.
Creator Adam Reed was faced with the unfortunate coincidence that Archer's spy agency ISIS now carried a name associated with real-life terrorism, so he opted to align his protagonists with the CIA. Thus, Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), Lana (Aisha Tyler), Archer's mother, Malory (Jessica Walter), and the rest of the crew are now launched on missions around the globe.
Benjamin's deadpan line-readings serve as marvelous contrast to the wild escapades, and the show's ratio of clever-to-vulgar is stronger — tighter — than it's ever been. This season, listen for guest voices such as Christian Slater (returning as the character known only as "Slater"), Fargo's Allison Tolman as Pam's sister, and, as Lana's parents, CCH Pounder and Keith David.
The Emmy-nominated Archer is one of the most satisfying comedies of any sort, its densely packed jokes contrasting with the airy, assured confidence a show achieves when its characters seem so three-dimensionally real to their audience. This season, our hero turns himself into a verb, folks: "I'm Archerizing this plan!" he announces at one point. Prepare to be Archered.
Archer premieres Thursday, Jan. 8 at 10 p.m. on FX.