Archer producer Casey Willis explains the many thrills that can arise from “Dining With The Zarglorp,” while PBS has whales- walking whales. Read on for more.
Archer (FXX, 10 p.m.): “Chaos ensues” is usually a pretty solid ending descriptor for an Archer episode. Here’s how you’d use it for tonight’s episode: “The gang encounters a giant space monster called the Zarglorp. Chaos ensues.
But as is so often the case, it’s man that’s the real monster. Well, man and the flesh-eating creepy-crawlies that live inside this thing. We asked Casey Willis, a co-executive producer on the show, what it is about 1999 that makes it so ripe for monsters. We also asked about Pam.
The A.V. Club: This is an eventful episode. How would you describe it to someone who’s not yet had the pleasure?
Casey Willis: I think we can just go ahead and say they get swallowed by a giant creature, because that happens in the first couple of minutes. They get swallowed by a giant space monster, and while in the belly trying to escape, they encounter some unwanted visitors.
AVC: We won’t give anything away here, but Glenda McMillian Price is sort of a perfect Archer guest character, and Jillian Bell (who does the vocal performance) is so funny. What is it about that character that screamed ‘Jillian Bell’?
CW: Well, we wanted to use Jillian, and then when we got her in the booth, it wasn’t so much that the character screamed Jillian Bell, as that Jillian was able to infuse some really awesome things into the character that we hadn’t really even planned on. There’s usually not a lot of improvising when we record Archer, because the scripts are so tight. But with Jillian, we had a lot of fun playing with her and that character trait of being braggadocious and self-aggrandizing. So she was really able to kind of riff off that and come up with a person who was a virtuous, but really wants to tell you about it. And then [as we learn more about her], she was able to infuse even more interesting stuff with her, which we really, really enjoyed.
AVC: What is it about people who can’t wait to tell you how virtuous they are that’s so irritating?
CW: We all have met those people, or know those people and you can totally see through it right away. There’s other people that you meet, and you might think they’re cool at first, and then maybe after a while you think, “Oh, I don’t know if that person’s actually cool.” But when somebody has given themselves so many pats on the back right off, right from the jump, you see through it right away. It just kind of pulls up memories, probably from childhood of a Hermione Granger type person. The “Oh, you forgot to assign us homework” type of goody-two-shoes. It’s like, come on. We could have gone all weekend without homework, and you spoiled it.
AVC: Hermione Granger, slandered.
CW: I mean, I love Hermione, and she’s not like this character, but you know. She had her moments. I feel like we’ve all met this person.
AVC: It’s not like darkness is an unfamiliar quality in Archer, but this episode goes some places. Is there something about this 1999 season in particular that seems to invite morbid humor?
CW: Yeah, I think so. We knew this was going to be the sci-fi season, but then the more we start researching, the more we start planning the storyline and visual elements, that’s when we really started realizing, “Oh, there are a ton of sub-genres inside the sci-fi genre. There’s the big grand space opera, and there’s the horror movie stuff-like the Aliens trilogy-.and then there’s the weird, psychological space stuff that we’re exploring in this episode. It really feels like, like anything can happen in this season. With the other coma seasons, with Danger Island for example, everything was contained in that little island. We had some strangeness that happened there, but it was all kind of grounded. But now, we’re in 1999. Almost anything goes.
AVC: What went into the decision to make this coma iteration of Pam a rock monster?
CW: [laughs] Well, she just seems to be getting bigger and bigger with each coma season. So after Danger Island, we thought, “Well, what happens to Pam next?” And the most appropriate thing was to make her bigger and stronger and thicker. Rocks are thick.
When Whales Walked: Journeys In Deep Time (PBS and Smithsonian, 9 p.m.): That is a title you do not turn away from. That is a title you immediately search on YouTube:
The official language tells us this is a chance to follow “top scientists from around the world on a global adventure as they follow clues from the fossil record and change what we thought we knew about the evolution of iconic beasts,” and that’s great, but honestly, you had us at the walking whales.