Tag Archives: FX

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.

Raylan confronts another toxic clan on Justified

Timothy Olpihant stars in Season 5 of 'Justified,' premiering tonight on FX.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Oliphant) finds himself in Florida to investigate the presumed death of a Coast Guard officer in the season premiere of ‘Justified’ on FX.

The great American author Elmore Leonard died last August at age 87, but his work lives on in Justified, the Emmy-wnning drama that starts its fifth season tonight on FX.
Based on Leonard’s novella Fire in the Hole, this rich, multi-layered series stars Timothy Oliphant as cocky Kentucky-based Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, whose work throws him into daily contact with the kind of quirky, violent and often comical characters that Leonard himself specialized in.
Many TV critics and fans of Justified point to Season 2 of the show as the most satisfying to date, and I’m not inclined to argue. That batch of episodes found Raylan wrangling with a truly nasty mountain clan headed by a lethal matriarch named Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale of The Millers in a tremendous performance that won her an Emmy Award).
Season 5 of Justified introduces us to another, equally nasty redneck family called the Crowes, with whom Raylan becomes entangled when he is dispatched to the Florida Everglades to investigate the case of an off-duty Florida Coast Guard officer who is missing and presumed dead. His investigation leads him to an alligator farm owned by family patriarch Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport), a rough piece of work who puts Raylan on the trail of the man responsible for the murder – but not before Darryl learns that a Kentucky cousin of the Crowes, Dewey (Damon Herriman), recently received a sizable windfall in a settlement with the U.S. Marshals office.
Meanwhile, continuing a Season 4 storyline back in Kentucky, a cash-poor Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is running out of options in his desperate bid to get his fiancée, Ava (Joelle Carter), out of jail, so he heads to Detroit to retrieve some missing drugs with Dixie Mafia figurehead Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), only to find themselves in a polite conversation with the Canadian Mafia (very funny guest performances by Dave Foley and Will Sasso).
Beyond that, I really don’t want to spoil any more of the delirious delights awaiting fans in these new episodes of Justified (at least the first two – that’s all I’ve seen). Critics rave about Justified every time a new season rolls around, but it’s high time more viewers caught on to this fascinating, splendidly acted gallery of unforgettable characters.
Michael Rapaport and Alicia Witt guest star in Season 5 of 'Justified.'

Alicia Witt (right, ‘Cybill’) guest stars as the sister and legal advisor of a nasty Florida crime boss (MIchael Rapaport) in ‘Justified.’

FX’s ‘Bridge’ opening takes a toll

Demien Bichir and Diane Kruger
Immigration and border control are divisive political topics in our country these days, so it’s not surprising that an edgy and ambitious cable channel like FX eventually would turn its attention in that direction.
Still, watching the opening of tonight’s new crime drama The Bridge had me wondering if I ever before had seen a new series that seemed so determined to make me change the channel.
The 90-minute episode opens on the bridge that connects El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. Traffic is at a standstill while officers investigate a crime scene that includes the lifeless body of an American judge well-known for her anti-immigration leanings, her corpse stretching dead-center across the border.
Among the group is El Paso Police Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), who is quickly alienating everyone around her with her rude, impersonal manner. When she’s approached by a south-of-the-border counterpart, Juarez Detective Marco Ruiz (former Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir, A Better Life), Sonya brusquely rebuffs him and, when an ambulance comes up to the roadblock bearing a heart attack patient and his hysterical wife (Annabeth Gish) trying desperately to get to the nearest American hospital, Sonya coldly tries to blow them off since she doesn’t want them driving through her immaculate crime scene.
My mounting skepticism that a woman as tactless and empathy-challenged as Sonya would ever be hired to work on such a volatile beat was only aggravated further when she visits the grieving spouse of the victim and so infuriates him with her blunt interrogation – “Any affairs? Did she ever do drugs?” – that the man angrily orders her from his home.
It’s only a few minutes later, when Sonya is conferring with her boss, Lt. Hank Wade (Ted Levine, Monk), that we get the full picture: Sonya has Asperger’s syndrome, but Hank values her sharp focus and keen attention to details so much that he is willing to cope with the occasional flack Sonya’s lack of empathy provokes in many people.
Once we get past our own awkward first meeting with Sonya, The Bridge – which was adapted from a Scandinavian series — soon kicks in with some very provocative storytelling, as Sonya and Marco team up (much against her will) to investigate what turns out to be TWO murders, one from each side of the border. Secondary story lines involve Gish’s now-widowed character as she struggles to find out more about her wealthy husband’s secret business dealings, and Matthew Lillard’s turn as a shady El Paso newspaper reporter who starts to realize some of his tabloid journalism has ticked off some very dangerous people.
By the end of tonight’s premiere you, like I, probably will be eager for this thriller to continue, but that’s assuming you make it past the first 15 minutes or so – and frankly, in these short-attention-span times of ours, I’m not sure that’s a safe bet for many viewers. It’s obviously somewhat easier to accept Sonya’s prickly behavior once we understand what lies at the root of it, and I’m glad to see a primetime series other than NBC’s Parenthood that is willing to incorporate autism into the core of its premise. It helps, too, that Bichir is such a laid-back, affable presence, a nice balance to Kruger’s determinedly un-cuddly performance (in one scene, when Sonya studies an exsanguinated body and says, “They drained the blood – that’s neat,” I wasn’t sure whether she meant “neat” in the sense of “tidy” or “cool”).
For now, at least, I’ll be traveling this bridge every week to see where it takes me.