Will “Archer” Season 9’s World War 2 Theme Hurt the Comedy?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: FXX)

The official theme for “Archer” season nine has been revealed, and on the surface, it sounds pretty fun.

“Danger Island”, huh? That’s not bad; it’s got a cool, enigmatic sense to it that calls to mind cult ‘60s spy stories. You could almost imagine this being a story about James Bond swinging into a volcano on a jungle vine to battle a supervillain.

That said, the subject matter is, to put it bluntly, a little less inherently cheerful.

To quote Entertainment Weekly’s synopsis of the new season:

“Executive producer Matt Thompson painted the scene: It is spring 1939, the Japanese are invading China, Germany just annexed Austria, and ‘in the middle of this, seaplane pilot and semi-functioning alcoholic Sterling Archer is drinking, screwing, gambling, and generally bumbling around French Polynesia with a smart-ass parrot named Crackers,’ he revealed. ‘Welcome to Danger Island’.”

There are a lot of complex themes bouncing around here, but it’s easy to see that, more than anything else, the theme of “Archer” season nine seems to be a riff on “Casablanca”, and the concept of a sunny colonialist resort where people are actively avoiding thinking too much about the brewing global conflict that’s about to swallow the world.

“Casablanca” is not know as a hilarious comedy – instead, it’s gone down in history as one of the most bittersweet, depressingly romantic tales in cinematic history. The film is noteworthy for actually having been filmed in 1942, while World War II was raging, just three short years after the events of this new season of “Archer”.

So will “Archer” work in this setting? Can dumb comedy come from this grim period of human history?

It could be argued that, if anything, such a depressing time period is perfect for a little levity. After all, for many people, humor is the perfect coping method when things go sour.

The easiest comparison here is “Blackadder Goes Forth”, a British sitcom starring Rowan “Mr Bean” Atkinson and Hugh “It’s Never Lupus” Laurie that was set in the trenches of World War I. From the nauseatingly bleak setting comes fantastic dark comedy, as well as some catharsis as levity is breathed into an otherwise horribly traumatic period of history.

Besides, looking at the world around us now, and the ongoing political conflicts, racial inequality, and national crises that rage, there’s a lot about 1939 French Polynesia that feels familiar. This might just be the best opportunity “Archer” has ever had for social commentary, and a chance to poke fun at some uncomfortably topical themes of impending doom.

Also, there’ll probably be some dirty jokes in there. What could possibly go wrong?