Only one name should come to mind when thinking of the coolest, most badass spy in fiction: Sterling Archer. Now, I get how you might have come up with someone like James Bond, but 007 hasn’t been nearly as consistent over his 60+ years of spying. However, Bond and his creator Ian Fleming do get credit for inspiring Archer creator Adam Reed to develop his critically acclaimed FX series, with a few key differences. Such as Archer not being a thinly-veiled rapist.
In a recent interview with AdWeek gearing up for the Season 6 premiere, Reed spoke about how the vice-embracing Archer came about, and it all started with a stack of unread Ian Fleming paperbacks sitting on a shelf.
James Bond, in the books, is just a bad person. Obviously he drinks too much. He’s sort of a cold-blooded assassin and there’s plenty of racism. But there’s more than one occasion where Bond just rapes these women but in a ‘romantic’ way where you can practically hear the violins swell. I mean, Fleming writes stuff like ‘Bond twisted her arm behind her back and took his reward.’ And I’m like, ‘Holy shit. James Bond?’ Like things you would never imagine Roger Moore doing.”
That reading session turned the unformed Sterling Archer from a bit of a goofy spy spoof into a whiskey-slurping, catchphrase-spouting, sex-loving hero. (Or anti-hero, depending on whether you think the series’ central gang is doing the world any good or not.) But the sex that Archer is having is purely consensual, as Reed says the bedroom stuff is the one area his Bond influence did not come through.
It could even be argued that Archer is closer to the world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond than the newest era of 007 is. Daniel Craig’s Bond is a much more professional and by-the-books government rogue than any of the previous ones have been, embracing a realism that, while mostly enjoyable, doesn’t ring as true. Archer, on the other hand, will take it shaken, stirred, spun around and then some. And sure, I’m talking about alcoholic drinks.
Another major part of Archer’s appeal is the voicework of H. Jon Benjamin, whose place in the show can also be attributed to Reed, since he was the only one with the initial confidence that Benjamin would pull it off. (Phrasing.) Here’s how he explained that.
FX actually had a list of a lot of really dramatic actors who look like Archer. And we kept saying ‘Jon Benjamin! Trust us. It's going to be great!’ And they were like, ‘Oh, what about handsome Jim here?’ So we had actually already drawn Archer and we went and got some audio from a show called Home Movies, in which Jon played the drunken soccer coach, and we just animated Archer in a suit standing there with a martini talking to these kids about showing them a dead body and sent it to FX. And they were like, ‘Yep, lock him down. That's the guy!’
So now you know how one of the funniest TV shows ever created came to a head. (Phra…never mind.) Catch Archer’s Season 6 premiere on FX on Thursday, January 8, at 10 p.m. ET.