'Archer' FX's bawdy spy series returns

Preview a scene from the animated sitcom's third season premiere featuring Burt Reynolds

Matthew Perpetua

FX's animated series Archer may look like a hard-edged spy show, but it's actually television's bawdiest workplace comedy, with high-adventure setpieces and international intrigue mainly serving as a backdrop for the cast's often super-creepy sexual antics. Each episode is packed full of jokes so filthy it is truly amazing that they make it past network censors, but according to series creator – and sole writer – Adam Reed, FX has actually encouraged him to push the envelope in his scripts. "Developing the show, even in the treatment that I wrote, my agents were like, 'Take that out, that's too much,'" he told Rolling Stone, noting one particularly offensive gag about German schiesse porn. "But FX, they're not afraid to be edgy. There have been times when they've said, 'You know, you could go a little further with this than you've done in the script.'"

The cast of Archer is full of familiar voice talents, particularly if you happen to have been a fan of the cult hit Arrested Development. "I'm a huge fan of Arrested Development," says Reed, who previously co-created the surreal Adult Swim shows Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo. "I think it's one of the best sitcoms ever. So when we sent out the casting call for Mallory, we were describing the character and said, 'Think Jessica Walter in Arrested Development.' And her agent called us back and was like, "How about the actual Jessica Walter?' Then, shamelessly, we dropped her name when we realized, 'Oh, maybe we can get actual famous people to do this.' So then we called Chris Parnell and Aisha Tyler and Judy Greer and, 'Hey, Jessica's doin' it! How about you guys?'"

Reed was particularly lucky to land comedian and veteran voice actor H. Jon Benjamin as the show's title character, a monstrously self-absorbed and debauched spin on the James Bond archetype. "When I first started doing it, I couldn't have pictured a worse fit for me," Benjamin says of his character. "I'm self-deprecating, so I thought, well, I'm a terrible choice for a spy. I'm Jewish and nasally, that's not your typical spy. But I think he probably thought that character-wise, I fit. I think I had done stuff prior that suited Archer's type of character. You know, like an asshole. I have the voice of an asshole."

Benjamin, who concurrently stars as the lead voice in Fox's animated sitcom Bob's Burgers and got his start in animation on the Comedy Central series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, relishes the opportunity to tear into some of the meanest jokes in Reed's scripts. "It's fun to viciously insult people," he says. "And it's fun to do that in real life. I mean, people hold back most of the time, but I get to do that in a booth, alone. And I've done that occasionally in my real life, once to a waiter. And maybe to some girl, but I was drunk."

In the clip above, from Archer's third season premiere, Benjamin's superspy comes face to face with none other than Burt Reynolds. "He's in our premiere episode as himself," says Reed. "Which is huge for us – probably not as huge for Burt Reynolds, but very big for us." Other guest stars slated for season three include Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer and the Canadian comedy trio the Trailer Park Boys. "Every show that I like, I'm [thinking], 'I wonder if we could get that guy or that woman?'" says Reed. "We're trying to become known enough so that people will agree to do the show. We had David Cross and Patrick Warburton on our three-episode mini-season before the season proper starts, so we've been really lucky."

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