Tag Archives: Archer

Tyler Labine fans may enjoy his new Deadbeat

'Deadbeat' on Hulu Plus.

Tyler Labine (‘Reaper’) and Cat Deeley (‘So You Think You Can Dance’) star as rival mediums in ‘Deadbeat,’ a supernatural comedy now streaming exclusively on Hulu Plus.

Canadian-born actor Tyler Labine has been acting for more than two decades, but the first time I really noticed him was in Shaun Cassidy’s provocative yet prematurely canceled 2005-06 sci-fi series Invasion. I became a big Labine fan while enjoying his hilarious work in the 2007-09 CW series Reaper, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style supernatural comedy that found Labine and a buddy trying to outwit Satan himself (Ray Wise). Later, he held his own opposite the dazzling Judy Greer (Archer) in the shortlived 2011 CBS romantic comedy Mad Love.
Now Labine is back in Reaper mode (sort of) in Deadbeat, a new supernatural comedy that began streaming its first 10-episode season Wednesday exclusively on Hulu Plus. The show casts Labine as sad-sack New Yorker Kevin Pacalioglu (pronounced “pack-a-lee-OH-glu,” but just call him “Pac” like everyone else does). Pac is pretty much a slacker who is down on his luck. He has no family to speak of, it’s been eight years since he got lucky with a woman and his only friend is his drug dealer, Rufus “Roofie” Jones (Brandon T. Jackson from the Percy Jackson teen movie series).
Pac’s sole marketable skill is that he sees dead people. He’s a genuine medium, who is compassionate enough to take time to help restless souls wrap up the unfinished business that ties them to the mortal world. Unfortunately, he’s absolutely terrible when it comes to negotiating for his services, so he lives on the brink of financial disaster.
Pac doesn’t call a lot of attention to himself, but he still catches the eye of Camomile White (Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance), a beautiful clairvoyant whose sunny smile and camera-friendly personality conceal the fact that she’s a shameless fraud preying on the grief and superstition of others. Over the course of Season 1, Pac helplessly finds himself attracted to Camomile, who sees him only as a rival and a threat to her career.
It’s a fairly interesting set-up, but I’m not going to kid you, the first few episodes of Deadbeat are fairly deadly, playing like something that was dashed off by the writers at the end of a long night of drinking. When we first meet him, Pac is hard to root for, even as played by Labine. He’s a depressed mess, not to mention apparently an idiot who mangles even very common words and phrases (he actually pronounces “hymn” as “hymen”). The jokes are nothing special, either.
Weirdly, the second half of the season – starting with episode six, a Halloween-themed story that finds an interesting twist on the scary Bloody Mary urban legend – seems like a different show altogether. Pac stops acting quite so mentally disabled and the ghosts he meets are more interesting and start to connect in a meaningful way with Pac’s own journey. By the time we get to the end of the season, when we see Labine reunited with his old Reaper castmate Wise, the writers have taken Pac, Camomile and her mousy assistant, Sue (played by Lucy DeVito, daughter of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), to an interesting place and set up the potential for a fairly promising second season, if Hulu orders one.
As noted, though, to get there, you have to slog through some dismal creative flailing by the writers in the early episodes. If you’re a fan of Labine – or, for that matter, Deeley, who actually is very good working in stone-cold-bitch mode – it’s probably worth the effort. Otherwise, you probably can sit this one out.

Archer gets its Don Johnson on for Season 5

'Archer' returns tonight on FX.

A surreal wordless ballet sequence opens Season 5 of ‘Archer’ tonight on FX.

Apart from both shows being in their fifth season, I’ve never seen much in common between the elegant CBS legal drama The Good Wife and Archer, the cheerfully bawdy spy parody returning tonight on FX.
Just as Good Wife has earned kudos from both critics and fans this season for subversively blowing up its own central premise and heading off in a new and exciting creative direction, however, Archer is reinventing itself just as audaciously, and to hilarious effect.
Tonight’s premiere opens with a surreal, wordless prologue in the ISIS offices, as Sterling Archer arrives bearing flowers, a tribute to his mother, Malory, on her second fake 50th birthday (don’t ask, it’s a thing). Serene classical music plays on the soundtrack while staff members cavort balletically and gracefully as Archer makes his way to his mother’s side, hands her the flowers, and …
KABOOM! We’re into an insane firefight with the FBI that culminates in ISIS operations being shut down for reasons that I’ll let you discover for yourself (although as Archer would sum it up: “Classic Mother!”).
Suffice it to say, by the first commercial break, the former agents, whose personal assets have been seized by the feds, are living together in stately Tunt Manor, the family home of secretary Cheryl/possibly Carol Tunt, a vast mausoleum Archer dubs “Casa de Addams Family.” They’re all shell-shocked, but after discussing their options, they do what any of us would do in these circumstances.
They form their own cocaine cartel.
Thus, this season of Archer – or Archer Vice, as the opening credits have it starting with episode two – takes off in a wild new direction as these fractious characters fans have come to love find themselves in a vastly different context. Archer’s ex-girlfriend, Lana Kane (voice of Aisha Tyler), is now pregnant via artificial insemination, which ratchets up tension with both Archer (the sublime H. Jon Benjamin) and Lana’s other ex, Cyril Figgis (former Saturday Night Live regular Chris Parnell), who is now in charge of laundering the cartel’s money – or the money they anticipate making if they can keep former human resources director Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) from eating the cocaine like powdered sugar. While Lana, Archer and Pam are in Miami on their first assignments, Malory (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development) coordinates things from the New York mansion, where Cheryl/Carol (Judy Greer) is toying with changing her name to Cherlene as she embarks on her long-delayed dream of becoming a country music superstar.
And things only get zanier after that.
Since Archer is, in some respects, starting over, this may be an ideal time for new viewers to jump on the bandwagon, although hardcore fans will be rewarded by a delightful abundance of callbacks to earlier ISIS cases, situations and characters. Newbies still should find plenty of things to laugh about, but the longer you stick with Archer, the funnier it becomes. As silly as it gets, the show also is a very smart blend of pop-culture and literary reference points (Archer’s sorely mistreated English butler, Woodhouse, is a tip of the hat to British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, for example). This show has jokes so densely packed into each episode that some of the funniest – like Archer’s offhand reference to “Kentucky Jelly” – may not even register until a few seconds after you hear them. In short, for my money this is the most consistently uproarious half-hour on television right now.
'Archer' returns tonight on FX.

‘Archer’ cleverly reinvents itself for its Season 5 premiere tonight on FX.

I wish I could say the same for Chozen, the new animated series making its debut tonight right after Archer. No such luck, though. SNL regular Bobby Moynihan provides the voice of the show’s title character, a gay white rapper trying to readjust to society and re-establish his career after being framed by a childhood friend-turned-rival (Cliff “Method Man” Smith) and serving a 10-year prison sentence.
On paper, Chozen looked fairly promising, given its central premise that invites the show to skewer white artists who ill-advisedly try to appropriate a black cultural identity for career purposes. Archer creator Adam Reed is among the show’s executive producers, as is Danny McBride (HBO’s Eastbound & Down, along with several hit feature films), and the voice cast, in addition to Moynihan, includes such comedy power players as Kathryn Hahn (We’re the Millers) and The Mindy Project series regular and writer Ike Barinholtz.
Sadly, Chozen turns out to be pretty much a one-joke affair, and it’s a crude dirty joke at that, repeated tediously for shock value. Every now and then, a gag will pop – as when an endearingly nerdy character frets that if he doesn’t lose his virginity soon, ‘’I’ll be the laughing stock of my whole Quidditch team” – but such moments are few and far between.
Maybe it’s the presence of the hard-working Moynihan, who does all he can with his very thin material, but Chozen reminded me of one of those hapless SNL sketches that clearly doesn’t really work yet somehow keeps getting trotted out over and over again. Given the caliber of some of the people on the creative team, I guess there’s a chance Chozen will pull itself together over time, but after sitting through the five episodes FX provided for preview, I’m just not feelin’ it.
'Chozen' premieres tonight on FX.

Despite some power players on its creative team, tonight’s season premiere of ‘Chozen’ is pretty much a one-joke affair.

It’s Hammer (and Sickle) Time

FX has carved out an impressive niche for itself with diverse, envelope-pushing fare ranging from hard-hitting cop show The Shield to the wildly raunchy animated spy spoof Archer and the character-driven crime drama Justified. In some ways, however, The Americans, which premieres tonight with a special 90-minute episode, may be the channel’s riskiest venture yet.
Set in 1981, shortly after President Ronald Reagan’s first term begins, the period drama explores the complex lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell), who live in suburban Washington, D.C., with their two children, 13-year-old Paige (Holly Turner) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), 10. Philip and Elizabeth look like any clean-cut young couple pursuing the American dream, but the reality is far more sinister: They’re Russian spies who have spent the last several years in a KGB-arranged marriage, working for the Soviet Union.
As the story opens, Philip is beginning to have second thoughts about their double life. For one thing, Reagan’s sabre-rattling speeches have his Moscow bosses worried that the new president is one step away from declaring outright war on their country, which leads the Russians to ramp up their own covert activity stateside. For another, Philip is becoming more and more seduced by the role he has been assigned to play. His marriage to Elizabeth may have been set up by the Motherland, but their years together, especially raising their two kids, have sparked a genuine emotional bond between them. And when Philip discovers that their latest neighbor is an FBI counterintelligence agent (Noah Emmerich), he starts in earnest to consider defecting with his family.
Until they figure out a way to do that without jeopardizing their own lives, or those of their kids, Philip and Elizabeth are forced to continue their undercover dirty work for Moscow – and it can get pretty dirty indeed. Elizabeth, for example, goes all Rosa Klebb on one innocent young American, poisoning him to force his mother to plant a listening device in the home of a highly placed government official. Moreover, both of them freely engage in sex with their targets to get the information their bosses need.
In other words, The Americans asks us to identify with and root for a couple of “bad guys,” and the degree to which the show pulls that off is largely to the credit of its two stars, both superb. Rhys vividly conveys Philip’s deep ambivalence over his situation and his growing desperation to find a way out, while Russell is a revelation as this tough-as-nails KGB officer who still feels a very deep allegiance to Russia, even as she begins to realize her kids may wind up paying a heavy price if she and her husband don’t change sides.
The series judiciously employs flashbacks to give us perspective on how Elizabeth and Philip reached this crossroads, but after watching the two episodes FX provided for review, I’m still wondering about what motivated their younger selves to join the secret police in the first place. Were they coerced somehow, or did they just see these careers as a means to power and relative financial security? And now, are they considering defecting mainly out of fear and a desire to protect their comfortable American lifestyle, or are they genuinely remorseful for some of their past activities?
That ambiguity makes it hard for me to sign up for Team Elizabeth and Philip just yet, but the two stars, and the fast pace of their suspenseful show, will keep me watching over the next few weeks.