The "extracurricular" references continue to fly fast and furiously throughout this fourth season of Archer. Sometimes they're quite explicit, as in the homage to Bob's Burgers, or even a passing comment in that same episode, where mad scientist Dr. Krieger informs the ISIS crew that "this isn't The Flintstones" and that Archer's amnesia can't be cured by whacking a skillet on his head. (Three guesses as to how Archer's amnesia is ultimately cured.) Other episodes, though, are a good deal more circumspect—if no less hilarious—in sly, winking pointers to other shows or characters. When Timothy Olyphant shows up as a "guest voice" in the season's second episode, there's an unmistakable tip o' the Stetson to Justified that perhaps only diehard fans of that series will catch. While this means that at least some of Archer's often very dry humor will zing over the heads of some audience members, it's also a sign that the series' writing staff absolutely refuses to cater to the lowest common denominator.
Archer continues to be (appropriately) arch, with a perfectly skewed deadpan sense of humor that is frequently pretty smutty (though almost always hilariously so). Mama Malory's penchant for drinking of course provides plenty of laughs, but there's perhaps a useless attempt to slightly humanize her character with the now recurring character of Ron Cadillac, who becomes Archer's stepfather. One of this season's funniest episodes sees the two attempting some male bonding which of course devolves into all sorts of chaos.
The show also continues to mine the simmering sexual interplay between Archer and Lana, as well as the hilariously grotesque machinations of the two ISIS "drones" Cheryl and Pam (who could just as easily show up in any given episode of The Office: Season Nine, speaking of unlikely crossovers). There's also some decidedly politically incorrect fun made out of Ray's paraplegia (caused by Archer, of course), including a great episode where Krieger thinks he has come up with a cure. The humor here is often whip smart, if often a bit on the juvenile side, and deals as much in physical shtick (especially with regard to Ray and his disability) as in verbal humor.
The sort of acerbic humor that is regularly on display throughout Archer will of course not be to everyone's taste, but for those who like their comedy on the dark and twisted side, and their martinis shaken, not stirred, Archer continues to be one of the most consistently funny shows on television. Aided by a really great looking animation aesthetic and spot on voice work, this is one animated series that really deserves to be seen by those who normally wouldn't dream of watching a mere "cartoon".
Archer: The Complete Season Four is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Archer is one of the more distinctive looking animated series on television right now, with (as noted above) a kind of quasi-rotoscoped, almost photo-realistic, approach that is a lot of fun to watch. Archer: The Complete Season Four continues with the tradition of the other seasons' Blu-ray releases by offering a pretty bombastic lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that regularly utilizes the side channels for great foley effects like gunfire and the occasional Molotov cocktail explosion. Dialogue is always clearly presented and well prioritized, even in some of the busier, noisier action sequences.
- Fisherman's Daughter is a completely bizarre short (you expected anything less?) that posits Krieger as a youthful letterman taking out a girl, all in anime style--until a surprise "reveal" shows what's really going on.
- Archer Live! is a 2013 New York appearance by the voice cast with a live audience.