'Archer': Cartoon spy has trouble with the ladies

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THE SHOW "Archer"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 10 on FX

REASON TO WATCH From the funny guys who brought you Adult Swim's "Sealab 2021," Matt Thompson and Adam Reed, with voice cast including Jessica Walter and Aisha Tyler.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The International Secret Intelligence Service is a spy agency beset by serious back-office dysfunction. Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is a suave if hard-bitten boozehound who, nonetheless, knows how to handle weaponry and women - sometimes. His chief nemeses are his iron-willed mother - yes, he's a mama's boy - Malory Archer (Walter), who runs ISIS, and his ex-girlfriend, agent Lana Kane (Tyler). I guess you could add to his list of office nemeses Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell), who's the comptroller and dating Lana.

Sterling is abusive, particularly to his personal assistant, Woodhouse (George Coe). Although he is abused mightily in return, particularly by Lana, who notes that he's "dragging a 35-year-old umbilical cord."

MY SAYFX gave "Archer" a sneak preview back in September, so if you were paying attention, you saw a raw, raucous and astringently funny half-hour. It seemed to be the perfect companion to the like-minded "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

But I watched the other episodes provided by FX, and I have to tell you, they're just not as good. They sag and drag in too many spots - strange, considering there's so much promise in tonight's episode. Best are Benjamin (who perfectly captures the bleating neediness of Archer) and that clean, crisp animation.

BOTTOM LINE Suffice it to say, keep the kids away, but you will laugh - and feel guilty about it afterward.

GRADE B

Shades of Adult Swim

TRIVIA ALERT 1 Reed and Thompson are Adult Swim alums, and the humor here is reminiscent of "Sealab," as well as their other

(albeit short-lived) Adult Swim hit, "Frisky Dingo." Like them, "Archer" employs cell-shaded animation - kind of a primitive rotoscoping that mimics a comic book.

TRIVIA ALERT 2 Benjamin is a veteran voice actor, and "Family Guy" fans know him as Carl. He was also Ben on Comedy Central's "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist."

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