The phrase “throw it out” has become something of a catchphrase within our group of friends. Most often, it basically means that we’re expressing distaste for whatever we’re referring to. In that spirit, I present Throw It Out Thursday, a weekly feature where I toss out a few hundred words about something that I think needs to be kicked to the curb. – Kyle
Last night, I happened upon this interview with Matt Thompson, executive producer of Archer, the excellent animated spy comedy that more people (cough, Dana) should watch. Thompson explains that this season, the show’s fifth, will be a radical departure from what came before. The big bombshell: They’re dropping the “spy” bit. Why? “[F]rankly because Adam [Reed, creator and writer] got bored. He is the sole writer of the show and he felt like he was spinning his wheels at some point…And when we presented FX with this idea we were like, ‘I hope you don’t hate us but we want to change everything.’ And they were coolly like, ‘OK great. Sounds awesome.’ Which kind of weirded us out because you know, you don’t just, like, change a show in the middle of it.”
Is this change, or some of the others discussed in the interview, insignificant? No. But they’re almost entirely to do with plot, which has never been something Archer seems to concern itself with much. That’s not a knock on the show; rather, it’s a testament to strong writing, particularly the characterization. That the characters will be changing professions really doesn’t matter much. They’re still going to be the same hilariously awful, awfully hilarious people. The spy conceit really only functioned to put the characters in wacky situations – in the course of its four seasons, Archer has set episodes everywhere from Turkmenistan to outer space – and let their personalities bounce off of one another.
Anyway, the point is that the people who make a great TV show, rather than just keep going back to the same wells they’ve been tapping, made the conscious decision to pick a new direction. Everyone involved seems pretty excited about it, and given that Archer has been consistently great since its inception, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially since I was legitimately intrigued by the ideas Thompson revealed. Based on what I’ve seen, however, this appears to be a minority viewpoint.
I wasn’t surprised by the backlash. I mean, I know I’m the first person ever to point this out, but some people don’t really handle change all that well. And Thompson said it himself above – you don’t see this kind of thing happen too often. But that’s basically all the prevailing arguments seemed to boil down to: We like this thing the way it is, and changing it is guaranteed to make us hate it.
I think that’s bullshit, personally. I’d rather see someone whose work I admire try something new than rest on their laurels, because for a variety of reasons, the latter approach almost always seems to be a detriment to the end product. Why should I want Reed to keep writing the same way if it bores him? If the guy writing something doesn’t give a shit about it, why should I? Why should anyone? Stagnation is the enemy of creativity, and Reed has yet to make anything I haven’t enjoyed immensely. He’s earned my trust.
It’s entirely possible that the doubters will be vindicated by history, and that the show will suffer a drop in quality due to the changes being made. But it’s by no means a certainty, and I’m excited as hell to see what Archer can do with them. Like Neil Young said, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.