The untold truth of Archer

Archer burst onto the scene in 2009, winning a loyal FX audience and rave reviews from critics. Adam Reed's spy spoof mixed James Bond with The Simpsons and a sarcastic touch of The Daily Show. It's basically a threesome made for TV (phrasing). Of course, the story behind this animated sitcom is almost amazing as the show itself, so let's head into the Danger Zone and take a look at all things Archer.

Phrasing

Television creates catchphrases. Imagine how incomplete your wardrobe would be without your cache of catchphrase t-shirts. Archer is no stranger to this concept, and the show even created one of its own. Whenever a double entendre slips out, a character will yell, "Phrasing!" This snappy slogan has crept into the lexicon of everyday speak, and its origins are as sophomoric as they should be.

Show creator Adam Reed admits that "phrasing" is just a shortening of "that's what she said," the catchall sexual wordplay that became popular in the 2000s. Of course, it's not like this a new thing. Shakespeare and Chaucer sprinkled their writing with sexual puns, and both guys are now considered legendary writers. But there's something simple about "phrasing." It knocks the concept down to one word, and it's way easier muttering it to yourself in everyday life.

The Space Ghost influence

Way back in 1994, Cartoon Network took a chance on—what sounds like on paper—the stupidest idea ever conceived: a talk show hosted by a throw-away superhero character from the 1960s. A lot of people don't remember that Space Ghost started as a real cartoon, battling space monsters in an over-the-top style befitting of, well, a talk show host. Enter the 1990s, that surreal period where people regurgitated older programming, and just like that, Space Ghost Coast to Coast was formed.

So what's the connection to Archer? Well, showrunner Adam Reed worked on Space Ghost Coast to Coast as a writer during seasons four through six. In fact, Reed got his first professional writing credit on the show, and that launched his creative career. Reed next created Sealab 2021, a parody straight out of the Space Ghost school of spoofing Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The original show was Sealab 2020, an animated series set in the futuristic year of 2020 where scientists lived under the sea and…who cares because nobody remembers it anyway. What's important is that all that spoofing of '60s and '70s cartoons led directly to Archer, and thus, a legend was born.

The cast is based on real people

Adam Reed's home base is in Atlanta, and he used the southern mega city as inspiration. More specifically, Reed and executive producer Matt Thompson were inspired by the people that were all around them, using the faces of friends and acquaintances to create their characters. For example, Malory Archer is based on Atlanta actress Kathleen Cohen, and Sterling Archer comes from model Jason Fitzgerald. Atlanta antiques dealer Candi McElhannon is the face of Pam, and Kynyetta Lester—a Hooters waitress Reed met after a monster truck rally—serves as the body model for Lana.

While Chris Parnell looks a lot like the character he voices, Cyril, he's actually not the model. Instead, the animators turned to Atlanta restaurateur Stuart Fierman for inspiration. But the oddest duck is Lucky Yeats. He voices Krieger, but he's the facial inspiration for Ray, who's in turn played by show creator Adam Reed. Got all that? As for Krieger, his face belongs to Ben Brieger, Reed's former classmate from the University of North Carolina who currently works as an emergency room doctor in Austin, Texas. Interestingly enough, that's how Krieger got his name. It's "Brieger" with a "K" instead of a "B." In fact, Dr. Brieger volunteered his real name, but Reed altered it slightly, to give the physician some dignity.

Lucky Yates was on Good Eats

Lucky Yates is a truly unusual character, and we mean that in a good way. The guy is a puppeteer based in Atlanta, who worked his way from the box office at the Center for Puppetry Arts to Atlanta Public Television. And eventually, the man made his way on to Atlanta's big show: Good Eats.

Yates played a wide variety of characters on Alton Brown's cooking show, including the dungeon master, Lucky the fishmonger, and Lucky the butcher. (It sounds like he's the Tony Danza of Atlanta.) In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything," Yates had nothing but praise for Brown, saying the foodie is even more hilarious in real life. Yates stayed with Good Eats until Brown pulled the plug, but later on, Yates appeared on Brown's podcast to talk about Archer and reminisce about the good old days.

The Arrested Development connection

Atlanta isn't the only Archer tie-in. You may have noticed that awesome shows tend to hang with each other, and we're not talking Fish spinning out of Barney Miller. Arrested Development is one of the most amazing and underappreciated shows in recent memory, and it's cut from the same cloth as Archer, wit and all. So it totally makes sense that the two shows have a bit of a crossover when it comes to talent.

Development alums Judy Greer and Jessica Walter play Cheryl Tunt and Malory Archer, respectively. Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross have appeared in guest spots on Archer, giving it even more of a Development flare. And according to Greer, there's a tonal theme between the shows, which probably accounts for the intersecting fan bases. But really, the connection makes sense because the Archer powers-that-be are actually Arrested Development fans who specifically went after Walter to play Malory. As for Greer, she took a throwaway character and turned her into a regular cast member by bringing the ditzy masochist to life with her impeccable line delivery and timing.

They were ISIS before it was bad

Life intersecting art isn't a new thing, but this phenomenon gets pretty weird when it comes to Sterling Archer, who was employed by the International Secret Intelligence Service…also known as ISIS. When the show began, the most famous Isis was the either the Egyptian deity or Shazam's female counterpart, depending on your age or knowledge of obscure superhero shows. Of course, if we have to explain what ISIS is now, well, as Archer himself would say, "Read a book or something."

As the terror group became more prevalent, the spy spoof show had a problem. That name simply wasn't going to cut it. Season six saw the former ISIS dissolve before it was swallowed up by the CIA. In other words, ISIS in the world of Archer is no more. And in case you're nostalgic for some ISIS Archer stuff (or just a budding terrorist looking to advertise), you're out of luck. The Archer online store doesn't carry ISIS material anymore.

The only joke cut from the show

Archer is edgy. The only time you'll hear someone mention this show and "politically correct" in the same sentence is when they're being negative…like degrees Kelvin negative. After all, there aren't a lot of shows ripping on the handicapped or making slavery jokes, but even Adam Reed doesn't have total free rein over everything. Believe it or not, some stuff is verboten even on Archer.

According to Reed, one script called for the disarmament of a terrorist by throwing Sterling's baby boy, Seamus, at the thug to distract him. Evidently, this didn't sit well with the folks at FX, who declared something along the lines of, "We're not a network that throws babies!" It was a brave stand indeed, but it wasn't the only time FX put up a fight. Season two saw a young German girl hitting on Archer, and in the original script, she was only 14. Understandably, FX said no. Adam Reed explained the age of consent in Germany is 14, but the network still wasn't happy. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement, deciding to settle for 16.

Ron Cadillac and Malory Archer are a real couple

In season four, Malory Archer married a car dealership owner named Ron Cadillac, much to the chagrin of Sterling Archer. True, Ron isn't on the show as much as he once was, but Malory still sees a lot of him, kind of. As it turns out, voice actors Jessica Walter and Ron Leibman (Malory and Ron, respectively) are husband and wife in real life.

Both coming off divorces, the couple met in 1982 and married a year later, and the two have been hitched ever since. (Previously, Leibman was married to Linda Lavin. You know, Alice? Not a big Vic Tayback crowd?) Interestingly, before joining forces with FX, practically every role Leibman played was a serious part. Walter was also more of a dramatic actor, often playing the scornful woman. Of course, that all changed thanks to her roles in Archer and Arrested Development, and now she's gained a little bit of late-career comedic immortality, similar to the great Leslie Nielsen.

The show is a grammar lesson

We're not saying that Archer is highbrow comedy, but the show makes Dennis Miller look like a knock-knock joke. Any program that can pry idiom humor into a 22 minute show isn't messing around. The show is drunk in metaphors and puns, going so far as to even teach proper grammar. Basically, the show is kind of like Melville, not an easy read.

One of the most intricate puns involved the concept of Chekhov's gun. In one episode, Archer established that a pen was poisonous, and later, that same pen lead to the death of a prostitute (or hooker, as they're called when they're dead). So who's this Chekhov guy? Well, Anton Chekhov was a playwright who said if a gun is loaded early in the story, then someone would fire that gun in a later act. Of course, he wasn't applying this principle to just guns. It was just a memorable way to establish the idea of setups and payoffs.

As for that poison pen, it served as the Chekhov's gun of the show. Of course, there's also the nice little bait-and-switch later in the episode when Archer names his own pistol "Chekhov." Finally, Archer's butler, Woodhouse, explains how Cyril expecting the literal gun—and not the deadly pen—to end up killing someone is "woefully esoteric." Didn't think you could learn so much by watching a spoof cartoon, did you? You really need to pay attention to catch everything on this show.

Krieger's website

When it comes to hidden jokes and messages, Archer is the undisputed champ of television. Take, for example, the elaborate gag involving Krieger's website. This is going to get complicated, so buckle up.

So, according to one dedicated Imgur user, Archer hid tiny, complicated clues throughout the show that pointed to Krieger's secret website. It all started in season six with the reappearance of Conway Stern. His information page features a "File/Serial" section with a hexadecimal code (numbers and letters that can be translated into English). The translated code was revealed to be a webpage: tiny.cc/pigly. As it turns out, "tiny" is a way to shorten a link, and the link inside the tiny led to a YouTube video full of random colors and one really weird sound.

So what happens next? Well, if you copy the sound from that YouTube link and put it in audio editor, you'll get a spectrogram revealing a weird assortment of letters and numbers. Hold on to this thought. We'll come back to it in just a second.

A few episodes of Archer later, fans saw a strange URL pop up on a computer screen. Using an online cipher and the code taken from the YouTube spectogram, you could then translate this URL and get a link leading to a Craigslist ad asking for human volunteers for an experiment. If you actually volunteered, you were then instructed to read each sentence from beginning to end. That's a hint to read the first letter and last letter of each sentence in the Craigslist ad. Follows those instruction, and you'll wind up at a Reddit post that sounds a lot like Dr. Krieger himself. There's a code in his post that leads directly to Krieger's Flickr account, which in turns leads to Krieger's website, in all its glory.

Naturally, the username/password is "Krieger/guest." There's a ton you can do once you're logged in, leading to all sorts of images and hidden things, and all this came from a quick little image on-screen. And you thought you were tricky hiding Easter eggs in the backyard.

Do you smell toast?

Did you know that watching Archer can save your life? In episode one of season six, Malory exclaimed that she was having a stroke and, oddly enough, smelled toast. Of course, it was actually just Milton, the new mobile copy machine that, well, also makes toast. As a result, the "toast" line became a running gag throughout the season.

However, smelling something burning when you don't own a portable toaster could be a bad thing. As it turns out, phantom smells are often signs of an impending stroke. While you might not necessarily catch a whiff of toast, you might smell something that's "chemical-like" or smoky. And since over 140,000 people die from strokes annually, it seems like Archer is doing its small part to save lives. Also, it's a great line to randomly blurt out. So the next time your boss yells at your for not putting the pens back into the pen holder, you can just ask, "Do you smell toast?" and your co-worker will nod approvingly.