The Archer universe is a unique universe that takes place during an undetermined time period. Many aspects are heavily influenced by the 60s and 70s — the height of the spy movie genre — while many contemporary references and aspects suggest it takes place in a more recent or current time period. The existence of the internet further proves that the ambiguous timeframe is a deliberate conceit, with Archer's lack of a specific time period serving as an homage to the last 50 years of style and technology.
Archer mentions only having “Minitel” in S5.E4. Which became popular after its launch in 1980.
Seasons 8-10 take place in separate timelines with alternate versions of the same characters. The eighth season, titled Archer: Dreamland, is set in 1947 Los Angeles; the ninth season, titled Archer: Danger Island, is set in 1938 French Polynesia; and Season 10, titled Archer: 1999, takes place in the future as envisioned during the 1970s.
Time Period[edit | edit source]
The show seems determined not to reveal the year the show is set in, as suggested when Barry Dylan's fake passport is shown with many stamps, none of which include a year, and when Sterling is asked if he knows what year it is and he appears to not even know himself. However, "The Paper" is dated 1976.
Dialogue[edit | edit source]
Archer mentions an alligator attack that happened two years earlier. This was a real attack that took place in 1989, placing the story around 1991.
Woodhouse has a tontine from Bloody April in World War I that is now worth one million dollars. Woodhouse states that they invested nearly 1,200 pounds. That would equate to $5,712 in 1917. With the assumed 10% interest stated in the episode, this would take 54.19 years to become one million, placing the time of the episode in approximately 1971.
In Killing Utne (s1e4), Archer mentions using an ATM several times. The first ATM in the US was installed in a Chemical Bank branch in New York in 1969. Utne mentions prepaid cellphones, first introduced in the 1990's.
In Placebo Effect (s2e9), the "Empire State" license plate model seen on Archer's car is from the 1950's, though knowing that Archer had the car for some time, can say that the car just has outdated license plates.
In Lo Scandalo (s3e8), Archer places the length of Malory and Savio Mascalzoni at "like 35 years" indicating that the show takes place sometime in the early 1970s, assuming the two began the affair at the end of World War II.
The Irish terrorist who interrupts Lord Feltchley's party says the Irish will be free, referencing an on going war between the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the British army alongside the crown forces of Northern Ireland, which peaked in the early 70s-80s (the troubles). However realistically, this is still a popular sentiment in present day and could reference a modern day universe. 
Malory is romantically involved with Nikolai Jakov, head of the KGB. Since the KGB was disbanded in 1991, this could place the show anywhere between 1986 and 1991.
In the season 6 finale, Dr. Sklowdowska references Wikipedia, meaning the events of that episode must have taken place after mid-January of 2001, when Wikipedia was launched.
Archer comments on how he knows who the bomber of the rigid airship Excelsior is, pointing to a Sikh man, the majority share-holder of the ship, suggyesting that Archer profiled him based on his assumed religion (Islam). The first modern Islamic bombing was in 1981, so the episode likely came after 1981.
Alternatively, since Archer is not a racist (I think we all know him a little better than that) it could be referencing Sikh terrorism from 1984 and 1985. In 1984 Sikh terrorists assassinated Indira Gandhi and in 1985 Canadian Sikh terrorists bombed Air India flight 182 in the deadliest aviation terrorist attack prior to 9/11.
Archer plays The Price Is Right trombone, so the third Archer Vice episode takes place after 4th of September, 1973.
Pam references Schindler's List, which came out in 1993, placing the episode around there.
Woodhouse's grave in the first episode of Season 8 clearly shows "19" as the first two digits of his year of death, thus seemingly confirming the show takes place before the start of the 21st century.
In The Honeymooners (s4e9) a kid is shown taking a picture of Archer and Lana with his phone, while they are climbing down the glass wall of Tuntmore Tower hotel, after placing a Geiger counter. The first mobile phone with camera was released in 1999.
Character Histories[edit | edit source]
Perhaps the most obvious points of Archer's setting in the past are the character histories. Malory Archer served as a spy in her late 20s in World War II, making her late middle-aged self to have lived around 1970. Woodhouse served in World War I in his 20s as well, making it very unlikely for him to be alive in the 2010s. However, Dr. Algernop Krieger is said to be a possible clone of Adolf Hitler and one of the "Boys from Brazil" (the novelization of which was released in 1976) making him very young if not set in 2010s, instead of the middle-aged Krieger we see present in the show. Also, one flashback shows Woodhouse reading a telegram to young Archer from his mother that references Operation Ajax, the 1953 CIA operation that put the Shah in power in Iran (the telegram also mentions "Uncle Kermit" - presumably Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., who led the operation.) Archer flashes back to his sixth birthday, and alludes to the fact that Malory was involved in a coup in Guatemala at the time, placing his sixth birthday sometime around 1954.
Fashion[edit | edit source]
From Cheryl's prim beehive and wardrobe to Lana's not-too-distant hippie getup, the fashion of Archer is indicative of a 1960s setting. Women are rarely seen in pants and a sense of formality exists in every character's wardrobe, a throwback to the era.
Nations of the World[edit | edit source]
Another giveaway to Archer's setting is the fact that the USSR is clearly in existence when, in reality, it collapsed in 1991. West and East Germany have been mentioned as well, countries that ceased to exist in 1990. Fidel Castro is also referred to as the present leader of Cuba. Also odd is the fact that Turkmenistan is hinted to be independent, which in reality became independent with the fall of the USSR. However, they are depicted as being closely affiliated with Russia, the later of which intends to use a natural gas pipeline to fuel fleets of tanks for a mainland invasion of Western Europe. Another oddity is that there is a country called San Marcos in this universe's Central America, being involved in a CIA-funded civil war similar to other Central American countries in the 1970s and 80s. An undercover ISIS operation dealing with an armed Communist group in Sub-Sahara Africa can be related to the Angolan Civil War which was waged from 1975 to 2002, with the height of the conflict in occurring in the 1980s. In the episode "Movie Star", a generally up to date (excluding South Sudan, which was not independent at the time of the episode's making) map can be seen.
Popular Culture[edit | edit source]
There are many pop culture references in the various episodes, such as Archer's referencing of Burt Reynolds movies from the mid 1970s. Another reference that definitely puts the Archer universe after the year 1986 is the consistent referencing of the Kenny Loggins song "Danger Zone", which was released in 1986 with the release of the film Top Gun. However, Archer has a flashback to him as a child playing: running around dressed as Burt with a fake mustache, in a cardboard car, indicating that he was young at the time of the movie release.
Another piece of history that might help to date the Archer Universe is the view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge. If it were prior to 2001, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center should be visible from where Barry's traffic jammed cab would be. However, the Brooklyn Bridge that is depicted is a poor representation of the real one.
Another popular culture reference is Archer's use of the phrase "drill, baby, drill". This phrase became a popular catchphrase in American culture after its use by Michael Steele at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Archer refers to karate as the "Dane Cook of martial arts." Dane Cook hit his big break in 1998 putting the show after 1998.
Star Wars is referenced a number of times; by Archer saying he left his light saber in his other pants; by Pam when she breaks the shuttle's com saying that it was "A boring conversation anyway." referencing the line used by Harrison Ford as Han Solo when he shoots the com in the detention center; by Cyril when he repeats almost there when trying to land the shuttle; and by Archer when he asks if Cyril can die after he disables the tractor beam, referencing the fate of Obi Wan Kenobi.
A flashback shows Woodhouse talking to one "Burroughs" and suggesting a drunken game of "William Tell". William S. Burroughs was an avant-garde author who, while at a party in Mexico, accidentally shot his wife while trying to shoot a drink off her head. This occurred in 1951.
Archer states that Predator hunts only in tropical forests, but in Predator 2 and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, a Predator hunts in the city, and in Alien vs. Predator the Predators hunt in a temple on an island near Antarctica. This would mean Archer has not seen any of these movies or they haven't been made yet. This puts the show after 1987, but possibly before 1990.
Archer makes a joke about needing to return to Earth through the stargate and how the chevrons are locking in response to Cyril becoming a field agent. The movie Stargate was released in theaters in 1994, placing Archer in 1994 or later.
Archer calls Krieger "Neil deGrasse Tyson". Tyson made his first television appearance in 1989, but was not widely known in the media until at least the late 90's.
Archer remembers seeing Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard, which was a movie that came out in 1974.
Archer says he totally prepared for his mission posing as a priest by watching every episode of Lucy, Daughter of the Devil, a television show that aired on [adult swim] for one season in 2007.
Technology[edit | edit source]
Despite being the category with the most frequent exceptions, the technology of Archer also reflects a past setting. As such, the Archer universe can most accurately be described as an homage to the past 50 or so of modern technology (with a little futuristic sci-fi thrown in for good measure).
Computers[edit | edit source]
In appearance, ISIS's computers are severely outdated compared to today's computers, although they are shown to be as capable as modern-era computers. For example, the characters are often seen using these computers to access the internet.
Krieger refers to his "browser history" in "White Elephant".
Perhaps one of the most explicit references to the internet is to be found in "Sea Tunt: Part II", where Archer tells Captain Murphy that "even the most cursory internet search will corroborate" his status as the second ranked pro kite-surfer in the US.
Phones[edit | edit source]
The largest part of Archer that doesn't match the '60s and '70s theme is that most of the characters have cell phones. The internet is also in existence, as Cheryl looks for online pregnancy tests on her computer, Pam has her own website and Krieger is familiar with cryptocurrency (such as bitcoins) and onion routing.
Krieger is shown using an app similar to Instagram (created in 2010) called Snacklesnap. In the same scene, Pam uses the same app, but interestingly scrolls down using her finger implying the existence of recent touchscreen technology. Strangely, she does this even though her device looks to be a high-end feature phone of the mid-2000s, complete with a faux finished physical keypad (every cell phone that appears on the show seems to be of the same design). Malory mentions Kickstarter (started in 2009). A boy can be seen using a camera-phone. The inclusion of cameras on cell phones did not become prevalent until the 2000s.
Other[edit | edit source]
Other recent technology that appears in the Archer Universe are the energy-saving products prevalent at ISIS Headquarters. Malory attempts to take advantage of tax breaks for reducing waste and energy consumption. To do so, ISIS acquires energy-saving compact-fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow toilets and other recent innovations.
Another aspect of the technology on Archer is the advanced space technology seen in the "Space Race" episodes. This includes futuristic pulse rifles, advanced shuttle ships, and a massive space station capable of artificial gravity via centrifuge. It could be however much more advanced than other technologies of the time with more funding and research.
It is shown that the technology to miniaturize matter and send it into the body has been achieved recently, although it is known only to certain sectors of the CIA, and is the knowledge is lost after a shrunken sub grows back to size in the creator's body, killing him, and then Krieger smashes the computer database containing the process.
One can see the characteristic 1960s era technology in the Monaco Grand Prix in season 2, which features Formula 1 cars that look very similar to the mid-engined, wingless cars run in the 1960s.
Weapons[edit | edit source]
The weapons that appear on the show are from a diverse variety of time periods. Some of the more recent weapons that appear are the TEC-9 and the Walther PPK/s, which were made between 1985-1990 and the Desert Eagle Mark VII which was introduced in 1990. The MP 40, a German submachine gun popular in World War II, makes frequent appearances, especially with ODIN personnel.
Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are shown armed with revolvers, placing the setting prior to the force's transition to semiautomatic pistols in the late 20th century, but after the adoption of the current Canadian flag in 1965.
In season 4 episode 12 "Sea Tunt (1)" there is a Mk28 hydrogen bomb which was in service from 1962 to 1972 under the NATO nuclear weapons sharing program.
Foods and Drinks[edit | edit source]
Archer's IV is filled with Zima, instead of cyclophosphamide. Zima was introduced in the year 1993, and was discontinued outside of Japan in 2008, thus possibly putting the time period between 1993-2015.
Malory uses the trip to Gstaad as an excuse to smuggle as much Swiss absinthe back to the United States. Absinthe production was prohibited in Switzerland from 1910 until 2005, possibly placing the timeline after 2005.
Vehicles[edit | edit source]
Many of the cars featured on the show appeared prominently or held a place of significance in the 1960s and 1970s. Volkswagen Type 1s, Aston Martin DB5s, station wagon-based ambulances and Ford Customs coexist beside modern vehicles such as DAF and Mercedes cab-over engine trucks and even Citroen Jumper vans that juxtapose the show's past setting. During a scene in which Malory explains the supposed death of Lucas Troy, what seems to be a 2005 Dodge Ram modified as an airstair set surrounded by dead ODIN agents can be seen in a photo on a hidden computer screen. The same vehicle appears more clearly in an airport scene in the last episode of Season 5 with a paintjob referencing Arrested Development's famous stair car.
Artistic licence has been taken for traffic scenes in New York. Mercedes 300 SE sedans are used as taxis, alongside more realistic 1980s Chevrolet Caprices. Ford Galaxie-based cars are used as police cruisers by the NYPD, painted in an older livery. The introduction video playing on the GPS screen of the Challenger owned by Sterling shows an older Dodge Challenger with a license plate featuring a more modern, red-striped Dodge logo. Vehicles never imported to North America appear frequently in traffic. A GAZ 24 Volga can be spotted in ISIS' underground car park. Yellow Karoza SM 11s are used for public transit in New York. The Fiat 500 appears multiple times, though they never sold enough to appear as frequently as shown in the show.
Aircraft presented in the show also reflect a past setting. Planes such as the Grumman G-21 Goose appear to be fully functional even though, given their age and lack of economic viability, their operators would be more than likely to decommission them. Commercial jet airliner technology also varies, with Boeing 707s and 727s, aircraft that have been phased out from major airlines since the early 1990s coexisting with Boeing 737 classics and 777s, the latter type having been released in 1994. The Boeing 747 appears in several airport scenes in the series.
In S03E10, "Crossing Over," Cheryl and Barry are seen in a parked car outside the ISIS safe house. The car is illustrated with New York Empire Gold license plates——which weren't released until 1 April 2010.
References[edit | edit source]
- Archer S05E01: "White Elephant"
- Archer S06E04: "Edie's Wedding"
- Archer S03E08: "Lo Scandalo"
- Archer S02E05: "The Double Deuce"
- Archer S02E04: "Pipeline Fever"
- [wiki/Automated_teller_machine#Docutel_in_the_United_States_(1969) First ATM] wikipedia.org
- Archer S01E02: "Training Day"
- Archer S04E06: "Once Bitten"
- Archer S02E13: "Double Trouble"
- Archer S02E02: "A Going Concern"
- Archer S03E13: "Space Race: Part II"
- Archer S01E01: "Mole Hunt"
- Archer S02E03: "Blood Test"
- Archer S04E02: "The Wind Cries Mary"
- Archer S03E05: "El Contador"
- Archer S04E05: "Viscous Coupling"
- Archer S03E04: "The Man From Jupiter"
- Archer S04E11: "The Papal Chase"
- Archer S02E13: "Archer Vice: Palace Intrigue: Part II"
- Archer S01E06: "Skorpio"
- Archer S05E07: "Archer Vice: Smugglers' Blues"
- Archer S06E13: "Drastic Voyage: Part II"
- Archer S04E09: "The Honeymooners"
- Archer S03E10: "Crossing Over"
- Archer S06E12: "Drastic Voyage: Part I"
- Archer S02E11: "Jeu Monégasque"
- Archer S03E06: "The Limited"
- Archer S02E09: "Placebo Effect"
- Archer S02E01: "Swiss Miss"
- Archer S05E13: "Archer Vice: Arrival/Departure"