So Archer might be the greatest television show ever made. Yeah, there are all those top shelf shows that will live for the ages, like Breaking Bad and The Wire and Sex and the City, but it’s spy games on crack that seems to go on repeat on Netflix after about every eighty minutes of other television. And as a historian, I adore the complete pastiche it makes of time, dragging together the Internet, glowing green computer consoles, the Soviet Union, and a hodge podge of other temporally exclusive details of the last sixty years or so.
Did you know that in Braveheart the blue face painting really was more of a Celtic thing that the Scots never would have thought of, that the kilts weren’t even invented for another couple of hundred years, that the prima nocte plot point hadn’t happened in centuries, that William Wallace never believed in freedom, that the princess he nailed was actually about fifty years older than him, and that entirely the wrong king was on the throne? If you said yes to all of the above, then you’re just trying to impress me and nod along at the right points in my diatribe, because I made most of that up, and what I didn’t make up is probably wrong because it’s just half-remembered trivia from reading the Internet over the last decade.
All of human history gets cut up in the popular brain into vast broad chunks of time: first came cavemen, then Egyptians, then Greeks, Romans, boom Dark Ages, somebody trips over America, pirates, American Revolution, Civil War, cowboys and Indians, beat the Huns, Great Depression, beat the Nazis, scary Russians, and now there are terrorists in our oil. In our popular entertainment, we slur together hundreds of years of history into one broad conception of a particular time. And the longer ago that time was, the broader of a brush it gets filled in with over more and more centuries.
And that’s what Archer is: it’s how popular entertainment is going to remember our time period five hundred years from now. Including Burt Reynolds role in all of it? Especially that part.