Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Archer: How to do a parody/live cast

Archer has had such a strong sophomore season that it's gaining notice as one of the strongest comedies of the 2nd half of the 2010-2011 TV season.

The show isn't just another spy parody but a first-rate spy parody. The key to the show is that the characters are uniquely idiosyncratic creations. They don't really fall consistently toward the stereotypes that they're targeting.

For example, let's compare Archer to James Bond which is what most spy parodies are aiming at:

James Bond is a ladies man. Archer sleeps around a lot as well but he doesn't have any standards, he's completely willing to pay for sex and often confuses his girlfriends and paid escorts for one another. He also pays consequences for sleeping around (paying child support, risk of STD's, etc.) which is an avenue tbat everyone from SNLto Austin Powers has used.

However, Archer (H Jon Benjamin) wasn't created solely to parody James Bond. He has other idiosynchratic (and positively entertaining) habits that have absolutely nothing to do with James Bond: He's a spoiled child with severe issues to work out in his relationship with his mother.

His mother (Arrested Development's Jessica Walters) is the equivalent of M but there's added value: The repercussions of her past sexual exploits figure a lot into plots, she cuts corners to save costs, she has a rivalry with the neighbor.

Lana would be the equivalent of one of the more competent Bond girls. Because she's black (or mixed-race) and sassy, it's easy to compare her to Halle Berry's Jinx, but we could easily go with Moonraker's Holly Goodhead or Spy Who Loved Me's Triple X. Nonetheless, Lana is somewhat of a high-maintnence girlfriend and she's a bit catty with the other ladies of the office. Speaking of which....

Moneypenny's equivalent is a character (played by Judy Greer) who's changed her name from Carol to Cheryl to Karina over the course of the show because of a need to get noticed more. Reading this as a Bond parody again, the Moneypenny-Bond sexual tension is subverted by the fact that Moneypenny's equivalent is a very loose woman who's already slept with Archer multiple times before and it's not even that big of a deal to either of them. Reading this as more than a parody, Cheryl/Carol is also wierd in a way that's difficult to categorize: She's particularly vicious to HR rep Pam, she's borderline abusive to accountant Cyrill and sometimes gets overly excited. It all comes to full circle in the second season when we realize that Carol/Cheryl has spent time in an insane assylum.

The Q equivalent, who has been given considerably more screentime this season, is mad scientist Kreiger (Lucky Yates). It's exactly where you'd expect a parody to take Q. In one recent episode it was revealed that he was making clones of himself.

The other characters are equally complex and cooky: HR rep Pam is slightly condescending, has a big mouth, and is sexually undesirable. Accountant Cyrill, on the other hand, is very much a stud but is in sexohaulics anonymous (sexual insecurity figures into a lot of characters' backstories for some reason).

Because the characters are so rich, I was thinking that the show might be undervalued because it's in cartoon form which is less geared for deep characterization. Still, it might be just a little easier if these characters were attached to live actors.

Which is why, I thought I might theorize on who would play Archer if it were live:
Archer: Josh Hartnett, Mark Wahlberg, Ashton Kutcher, Adam Scott, Luke Wilson
Lana: Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Mila Kunis
Cyrill: Rob Lowe, Topher Grace, Dean Cain, Will Ferrell, John Michael Higgins
Mallory: Jennifer Coolidge, Frances McDormand, Catherine O'Hara, Jane Curtin
Cheryl/Carroll: Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, Judy Greer (honestly, if I had to pick one person from the cast to play their voice part, I can't think of anyone else who could pull it off but Greer)
Pam: Alex Borstein, Drea de Matteo, Jennifer Coolidge
Krieger: Will Ferrell, Matt Bessar

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