5 great shows like Archer…eerily so

Sterling Archer

Although really, there’s no one QUITE like him.

So when Archer came along, I thought it was just about the greatest thing in the universe to come along since…the last time H. Jon Benjamin did just about anything. He’s a pretty spectacular performer, and Archer is such a spectacular use of his voice, and his presence as the charismatic centerpiece of a horrifically dysfunctional work environment is just absolutely magnificent.

But little did you know there are other shows like Archer out there to be absorbed by discerning lovers of all things sarcastic, in large part due to the cast’s previous work in other projects. Since they’re usually playing characters that work really well for them, though not necessarily similar, the improvised (or seemingly improvised) dialogue makes for amazingly entertaining banter, not unlike the incessant arguing that is such a hallmark of the ISIS crew.

Shows like Archer:

1) Arrested Development

Arrested Development cast

The show whose…development was arrested.

This is perhaps the most immediately obvious recommendation for people looking for a pseudo-Archer, since it shares quite a few cast members, without feeling the slightest bit nostalgic. Despite the fact that Mallory Archer is essentially a rated R version of Lucille Bluth, it doesn’t feel repetitive. Despite the fact Cheryl/Carol is a rated R version of Kitty, she doesn’t feel repetitive either. It’s quite a snazzy accomplishment.

Other reappearances include George Sr. and Tobias Funke, though it never really feels tired. Part of this is likely due to the fact that Archer is the central character, along with the 2ndary Lana, so they’re putting their new people front and center. But the point is that you’ll get a kick out of hearing your favorite people complaining about everything in ridiculous situations.

The banter is what sets Archer apart, and although the characters bouncing off each other is a trait of Arrested Development as well, the arguments most often include ridiculous misunderstandings rather than competitive snarkiness (though that’s certainly present as well). The oddball nonsense and wacky predicaments are endlessly entertaining, though Arrested Development features a family trying to get along, while Archer feels people trying to destroy each other at every turn. Often, these appear to be indistinguishable.

2) Home Movies

Home Movies McGuirk and Brendon

I love the background artwork.

If you haven’t checked out Home Movies, you are a terrible person. H. Jon Benjamin is in fine form here as the obliviously dumb Coach McGuirk, who doesn’t quite know how to spell his own name, but always has some spectacular one-liner to gain the upper hand anyway. But even though McGuirk tends to be the fan favorite, he’s also the voice of the spectacularly ingenious Jason, whose witticisms are not unlike those of McGuirk and Archer. He can say ridiculous nonsense that makes other people look ridiculously nonsensical. It’s a skill.

But the rest of the cast manage to shine just as brightly. Brendon Small and Melissa, along with Brendon’s mom Paula, offer constantly brilliant dialogue, funny comments, and self-conscious banter, the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat due to have cleverly uncomfortable the characters manage to make the proceedings feel. Some of my favorite moments are when “nothing” happens, and the characters just hang out and annoy each other’s brains out. Case in point: the hurricane episode. Holy wow.

3) O’Grady

O'Grady cast

The banter between the two main characters is basically like the banter between Jason and Melissa in Home Movies. Because they’re the same characters.

This is actually a bit more of a suggestion for fans of Home Movies, since it has more in common with that show than Archer, but there’s plenty of in-spirit similarities for the ISIS fans as well. Constant batter and characters annoying the hell out of each other, for example. The banter between the two main characters (one of whom is H. Jon Benjamin, with what sounds like a clothespin on his nose) is just as entertaining and hilarious as the banter between Archer and Lana.

The premise of this cancelled-before-its-time show is that the characters live in a town with supernatural events that occur randomly and unexpectedly; they call it the Weirdness, and each episode features a different bizarre happenstance, with which the characters must deal. In one episode, whenever a character lies, a speech bubble appears overhead that tells the truth; in another, characters float when happy, and sink when sad. In a society of secretive comments and hidden agendas, these two particular episodes turn little white lies into abject hilarity.

Generally the Weirdness offers some interesting take on society, with some insightful commentary for the more thoughtful viewers, though just as often it’s merely a weird predicament the characters must deal with. And beyond that, the sarcastic banter is alive and well. My favorite moments are when characters turn a minor disagreement into a ridiculous screaming match.

4) Bob’s Burgers

Bob's Burgers cast

On the downside, for some reason the animation is incredibly discomforting to me.

Okay, so I know I’m harping on the “it has H. Jon Benjamin in it” topic for quite some time, but dammit, he is hilarious. It’s nice seeing him on Bob’s Burgers, which has a bit more potential as something of a mainstream show, at least on a somewhat smaller, semi-cultish level. It’s a bit higher profile than some of his other work (if for no other reason than it’s on Hulu), and it’s a lot of fun.

It definitely took a while to find its footing, but once it gets into the swing of things around season 2, it’s just great. The writers also get better and better and using some of the less funny characters (Tina and Gene) whose every line needs to be lovingly crafted for it to be funny, rather than just weird. It’s more of a challenge than you might think, which is why it seemed to take a bit longer than Louise’s hilarity, which was up and running right away.

H. Jon Benjamin is in a slightly different role here, as the proper business proprietor trying to manage his ridiculous crew, which is the exact opposite of much of his other work, where he’s the thorn in the side of just about everyone around him. It’s fun watching him try to make it work when every cog in his machine is warped beyond repair.

5) Frisky Dingo

Frisky Dingo

Wouldn’t you want him to save YOUR day?

Yet another Archer cousin, this time more of a production crew crossover than a character-based one, Frisky Dingo is an earlier project from the same creators, featuring a similar sense of humor, but production values more proportionate to its early-days characteristics. Archer looks like a far more mature creation, both in terms of the animation and the story lines. Frisky Dingo looks like a bunch of kids getting together and copying and pasting hand-drawn animations together with silly dialogue dubbed over for their own amusement. But in a good way.

Crossover cameos appear here and there, though they’re often subtle enough that you’d miss them if you weren’t an avid Frisky Dingo fan (like I did), but they’re in there for the fans to adore. But on top of the crossover characters, which are mostly minimal anyway, the dialogue features a lot of the over-the-top ridiculous comments and sarcastic banter. Plus, it’s technically a “workplace comedy,” but it’s a stretch to say it has anything in common with those sorts of shows. It feels a whole lot more like a few random guys somehow managed to get their basement hobby onto the television screen, Which is awesome.

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