Archer shouldn’t win its battle against The Jeffersons, which has had an undeniably stronger influence on American culture. To quote my mother, “I’m voting for The Jeffersons, I don’t even know what that other show is.”
Yet it deserves a defense. It is, against all odds, still on the air, still brilliant, still influential, and still hilarious. Debuting in 2009 on FX, the animated series often felt ahead of its time, much like The Simpsons–or The Jeffersons. Animated and decidedly for adults, the half-hour comedy series follows Sterling Archer, self-described world’s greatest spy, and his work at a fictional New York-based intelligence service (initially called Isis; the global terror state of the same name didn’t come to global prominence until 2014) with his more competent colleagues. Archer is surprisingly, delightfully vulgar and violent, so it would come as a surprise to many that it’s compassionate and celebrated for the LGBTQ+ characters of left-leaning politics.
Archer has a lot in common with The Jeffersons: both shows were helmed by men who had already delivered beloved shows to primetime. For Archer, it’s Adam Reed, who created and produced Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo for Adult Swim. The Jeffersons, of course, is the product of Norman Lear, who brought All in the Family (and so much more) to our living rooms; the show was created by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West, who wrote for All in the Family (and later, Three’s Company). They’re both critically-acclaimed: The Jeffersons was nominated for 14 Emmys and Isabel Sanford’s 1981 win marked the second Black actress to win an Emmy. To date, she is the only Black actress to win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Archer has been nominated several times and won twice.
Even Archer, incompetent and of questionable morals, would agree that the gap there is too wide.