I am angry at a TV show today.
I just saw the latest episode of “Archer” last night, even though it airs on Mondays, because at this stage of my life I often forget that live schedule-beholden television even exists until my husband reminds me we have something recorded on DVR to watch. He is the REAL brains in this organization.
Anyhow, FX’s weird animated spy series “Archer” has undergone some bananas changes in this, its fifth season, mainly that intelligence agency ISIS no longer exists (oh WHOOPS, these are spoilers) and the gang is now all hanging at Tunt Mansion trying to figure out how to sell a metric tonne of cocaine such that they can secure financial stability for the rest of their lives. I would get all hand-waving and “it’s complicated” here, but it’s not that complicated. It’s just strange. Strangeness is this series' bread and butter, from the bizarre world-traveling and frankly impossible escapades of our, um, heroes, to the fact that nobody seems to know what year it is.
I mean, this season they’ve even changed the name to “Archer Vice,” I guess so you know there’s a lot of cocaine involved in the new arrangement? I’m always sort of distressed when TV shows change titles, like when SeaQuest changed from “SeaQuest DSV” to “SeaQuest 2032” and it turned into a totally different bizarro version of the original show.
(Why is everyone staring, like nobody remembers SeaQuest? SHUT UP.)
My favorite part of “Archer” has long been Pam Poovey, the “sturdy bisexual” HR manager with impulse control problems, and not least because Pam is a member of a very select society of fat female characters on television who are not all about being insecure over their weight. And let's please note that Pam isn’t even a real human but IS ANIMATED, yet I still count her because our pickings in this arena are so very slim.
And as of last night, so is Pam.
Pam’s developed a cocaine addiction as a result of a flight she spent wrapped in a body cast made of cocaine (don’t bother asking), and in the most recent episode, she was revealed to have lost a bunch of weight, ostensibly as a result of her new habit. And, I mean, of all the insane stuff that happens on “Archer,” this isn’t even that outlandish. But when slender Pam stood up for the big reveal, I paused for a moment to assess, and then literally said out loud, “THAT ISN’T FUNNY.”
And of course, the point was to be funny. What other reason could there be to suddenly skinny this character up? PAM IS ANIMATED. This isn’t even like a human actress decided to lose weight on her actual personal real-life body, which I would be fine with, because I firmly believe that real actual humans should self-determine the state of their bodies. Pam is an animated figure. Just let me have the one, please, guys?
This is the part where a bunch of folks are all, “Dude, you are waaaaaay overthinking this ridiculous TV show,” and that is a totally fair assessment and not one I can argue with. But the hell of it is, there are SO FEW brazen empowered take-no-shit fat women on TV. SO FEW that I have to cling to an ANIMATED FIGURE like some kind of obsessive creepy psychofan. If Pam was one of a dozen, even, I would probably feel less annoyed. But she’s not. PAM IS ALL I HAVE. And don’t be going all “Well, it’s just REALISTIC, Lesley, because cocaine makes a really effective diet” because HAVE YOU SEEN THIS SHOW. If this was done for “realism” it is literally the first thing “Archer” has ever done for that purpose.
I take some solace in not being alone in my skinny-Pam sadness. Pam is much beloved by “Archer” fans -- last Halloween, Amber Nash, who voices Pam, solicited fans to send her pictures of their Pam costumes on Twitter, and quite a few of them took the challenge to impressive lengths in terms of attention to detail. I’ve also received two (TWO!) emails this week from readers who wanted to be reassured that they weren’t bonkers weirdos for being disappointed by Pam's slimdown. YOU’RE NOT BONKERS WEIRDOS, FRIENDS. Or if you are, then we are in good company together.
This is a small thing, in a world with wars and poverty and famine and disease and brutal human struggles of life and death. I admit that. But there is something strangely validating about occasionally seeing someone who reminds you of yourself on TV -- even if they are really nothing like you because they are massive broad-stroke cariacatures. Maybe, to truly understand this, you need to have been in a situation where people who look like you are rarely depicted in mainstream media. I deeply dislike “Mike and Molly,” and I don’t watch it, but I will always smile when I see Melissa McCarthy on my television because even if we are nothing alike in any other way than simply being bigger than the other girls, seeing her there reminds me that I, and women who look like me, are not entirely invisible. ALMOST. But not quite.
I remain hopeful that Pam will eventually get off the coke and get fat again. (I can say that and have it not be horrible because she’s not real and is an ANIMATED FIGURE. Animation and puppets, entertainment’s two best get-out-of-jail-free cards!) It's altogether likely this return to form will eventually happen. But in the meantime I am finding myself a little less fond of "Archer" overall, because I guess I way underestimated how much I looked forward to seeing gross hilarious inappropriate fat Pam Poovey every week. Just let me have this one, please, guys?
In happier news, my UK readers are probably thrilled to hear that “My Mad Fat Diary” -- in my opinion, the best teen-centered TV series ever, no matter the size of its protagonist -- returns for a second series on February 17. US readers should continue to feel bereft and appalled that this series is not airing anywhere in this country, because we really, really need it.