Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
As the fall TV premieres begin to burst forth onto our screen like a giant, whacked pinata full of illegitimate Mad>"/>
Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
As the fall TV premieres begin to burst forth onto our screen like a giant, whacked pinata full of illegitimate Mad Men progeny and "supernatural dramas," TV Dinner is here to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. This week will investigate a particularly golden bale in FX's Archer, which will premiere its third season this Thursday night. As for the food, Pike Place Chinese will find its spot on the TV tray, as the restaurant also enters a crucial new phase in the long-enduring restaurant's history by stepping into the delivery game.
The Restaurant: While Pike Place Chinese has been up and running within Seattle's famed Pike Place Market since 1983, their food has mostly been confined to the market proper. This year, the small market staple took its business out to the boon of indolent Chinese-food lovers citywide. Simply reviewing Pike Place Chinese's take-out prowess means taking away the substantial boon of its glorious Elliott Bay view, but I'm happy to report that PPC's grub isn't made unbearable by mere recontextualizing.
The General Tsao's Chicken has a bite to it that isn't completely drowned in corn syrup, but seems a little heavy on the breading. Still, liberal hunks of broccoli that haven't been cooked to a mushy oblivion keep most bites substantial.
The Hot and Sour Soup didn't exactly blow my mind, tasting more acrid and vinegary than anything else. The color of it was most discouraging, a morose dark brown broth hiding only faintly lighter browns and grays. Fortunately, the meal was perked back up with firm and delightfully chewy barbecue pork. All in all, it was a pleasant enough meal; the food didn't dazzle, but it filled me up, the delivery was made in a timely fashion, and it had much more spice to it than crappy grocery-store deli fare.
The Entertainment: While normally I'd feel weird about featuring two shows from the same network in a row, FX has been churning out quality new shows like they were going out of style (and hey, after a passing glance at big brother FOX's dismal fall lineup, that might actually be the case). Whether tense, action-packed dramas like Sons of Anarchy and Justified or hilarious dark comedies like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Wilfred, FX has been absolutely crushing it when it comes to the most recent wave of television's critical darlings.
Archer is one of FX's most recent hits, an animated spoof centered around spy-movie stereotypes and the charmingly depraved characters who inhabit them. The show features budding voice legend H. Jon Benjamin as Bond-pastiche title superspy Sterling Archer as he navigates a series of harrowing but hilarious (harrowious?) trials stemming from his perilous career, his dysfunctional coworkers, and his ceaseless, socially crippling narcissism.
Archer's flirtations with pure absurdity, self-referential humor, grace with running gags, and shared cast members have all drawn comparison to the show that lays claim to perhaps the most vocally mourned early departure of comedy in television history: Arrested Development. Indeed, upon the death of the cult darling, there seemed to be a constant stream of sitcoms with crude but snappy dialogue hastily touted as the show's spiritual successor. Show creator Mitchell Hurwitz even re-teamed with Will Arnett on two separate FOX comedies in an attempt to recapture the magic, but both Running Wilde and Sit Down, Shut Up suffered the axe even more quickly than their predecessor.
However, with Jessica Walter returning as Mallory Archer, the domineering, aggressively corrupt matriarch of an international organization (with Jeffrey Tambor even making a few appearances as her on-again, off-again flame) and Judy Greer reprising a sexually deviant, blackmail-prone secretary, Archer seems to be the most organic continuance of Arrested Development's intellectually lewd meta-comic spirit that's the most faithful to the original. More important, it's damn funny.
With this comparison in mind, it's time to discuss the fact that Archer is now on the accursed third season that Arrested Development never made past, meaning that a fourth-season renewal will be taking the show into territory rarely tread by any modern sitcom worth watching. After a wholly unexpected, almost completely successful debut season was followed by an arguably even more solid sophomore effort, the pressure is on Archer to deliver a third solid year to cement the spy spoof into our collective unconscious.
My bet is that Archer will deliver Thursday night, if not for the promise of a mindblowing crossover with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, then for its pedigree, its spectacular voice cast and a careful balance of humor and melodrama. In an era where sitcoms can easily seem like they're making you uncomfortable just for a sliver of much-needed emotional affect, Archer takes on heady issues like cancer and suicide with a reckless, characteristic pace that allows for some pretty serious suckerpunches in the few cases where the show's scope is pulled back.
If the first two seasons are any indication, I'll be hoping for a fourth, fifth, and sixth season that will carve Archer's way past "the next Arrested Development," towards groundbreaking new comedies being referred to as "the next Archer."
The Pairing: If it somehow isn't blatantly obvious that I preferred the TV side of this week just a little more, then I'll say it here. While Pike Place Chinese is an enjoyable enough addition to Seattle's delivery options, the food isn't exactly ambitious.If you aren't feeling like Chinese, this one isn't going to change your mind. However, if you're looking for a smart, jarring kick to the increasingly belabored animated sitcom, Archer delivers.