To be blunt, “Pacific Heat” is a show that’s most valuable purpose is to remind us how brilliant another show is: the long-running FX-to-FXX animated satire, “Archer.”
While the Netflix import isn’t exactly a James Bond spoof, nor does it anywhere state or otherwise imply a connection to Adam Reed’s Emmy-winning masterpiece, there are simply too many common threads to ignore the similarities: From analogous storytelling techniques, characters, and jokes, “Pacific Heat” is an obvious attempt to copy a successful series, but it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.
Such easy comparisons are what Netflix executives — and their algorithm-crunching programming decisions — are relying upon to drive viewership, and it could work. “Archer,” we must imagine, has been quite successful on the streaming platform, meaning there’s an audience of subscribers looking for adult, action-driven, animated comedies.
But “Pacific Heat” will only prove sustainable if that audience is willing to settle for an obvious knock-off: a Gucci handbag spelled “Guchi” instead of one sporting the symbolic “G” in an ever-so-slightly altered font.
It is so clearly trying to appeal to a similar crowd, we’re going to let “Archer” make the case against “Pacific Heat” itself. Below, we’ve outlined why you’re better off re-watching the adventures of Archer, Lana, Pam and the rest of the
ISIS Figgis Agency through telling .gifs of the brilliant comedy (with parentheticals pointing to problems with “Pacific Heat”).
Hopefully they’ll remind you that high quality merchandise is worth some extra use instead of sampling a cheap, temporary replacement.
(There’s no well-defined lead.)
“Archer” has become an ensemble show to rival all ensemble shows. We love each and every one of the characters so much, killing one off would be absolutely unacceptable. But — and this can’t be stressed enough after “Archer” Season 7 — without Sterling Archer, the entire show would fall apart. We’re not saying Adam Reed and his brilliant cohorts couldn’t put something amazing together from the pieces, but the show would be wildly different and almost certainly (at least slightly) worse off.
“Pacific Heat,” meanwhile, could kill off anyone as of now and we’d be fine with that. At best, it means they’re starting over. At worst, it means they did something surprising for the sake of being different. Either way, they’re coming out ahead. It’s not entirely fair to compare a show that’s had seven years to perfect its characters to one that’s just starting out, but “Pacific Heat” barely even tries to define its players, instead throwing an amorphous blob of matching characteristics at the wall to see what sticks. Guess what? Nothing does.
(These cops are just dumb-dumbs, not capable but uncaring.)
Part of what makes “Archer” so invigorating is how adept its characters are at their jobs. Sterling may get himself in a jam from time to time (with some dumb decisions), but he’s aware of his skills and relies on them to make up for his casual approach to certain jobs. The fact he always manages to escape is as satisfying to viewers as it is infuriating to Lana. And she’s no slouch herself. All in all, she’s a better agent than he is, and Ms. Kane finds herself in less predicaments because of it.
The same could be said for virtually everyone but Pam and Carol/Cheryl/Charlene, and it’s the delectable combination of miscommunication, talent, and giving zero shits between characters that adds electricity to the dialogue and drives the story forward.
“Pacific Heat’s” stars are basically just idiots. King Idiot is Zac, playing into expectations as the big and dumb dude, but Todd is the handsome doofus who puts looks above practicality and never gives into reason. This plays into the series’ attempt at satirizing cop shows instead of spy movies — as drama series detectives are always whip-smart, while James Bond is known for his brains as well as his charm — but the jokes are so obvious they dehumanize the characters into caricatures. “Archer” aims high with its humor, while “Pacific Heat” takes the easy shots.
(The animation leaves a lot to be desired.)
I know, I know. It’s early. And Foxtel may not give “Pacific Heat” the same budget as FX gave “Archer” back in the day. But what’s on screen just doesn’t cut the mustard these days. There’s barely any dimensionality within the frame, characters look too similar, and the expressions are so neutral they rely on the actors to sell a lot of the emotion through their voice work. “Archer” has always been appealing while pushing the boundaries of what it can do.
(“Pacific Heat” is arguably offensive to minorities, while “Archer” is admirably woke.)
Now is as good a time as any to mention we’ve only seen two episodes of “Pacific Heat” — that’s as many as were made available to critics — but there are scenes in both the pilot and Episode 3 that establish a problematic trend: bad imitations of Asian voices.
The voice acting overall isn’t particularly impressive, but there are multiple Asian characters of various backgrounds that sound worse than intentionally bad impressions (think “City Wok” owner Tuong Lu Kim in “South Park”) and lack contextual evidence to support an argument for satire (which “South Park” has in spades). These cringeworthy characters (mostly bad guys) represent another missed opportunity, considering how often old cop shows made minorities into “the other.” But in “Pacific Heat,” their voices are just the butt of a joke.
(There’s too much plot and not enough jokes.)
You’ll hear the death toll for “Pacific Heat” when you realize you haven’t laughed in many, many minutes — if at all. The convoluted missions this team of “rogue” cops are sent on get far more focus than is needed and should serve to remind “Archer” fans of how some of the best episodes ignore plot entirely. (“Vision Quest,” I’m looking at you.) Comedy comes first for “Archer,” but it’s a distant third behind plot and exposition in “Pacific Heat.”
(They ripped off grammar jokes…badly.)
This might burn me up the most. In Episode 3, there’s a running “joke” made by Todd about possessives and proper grammar. Some of his Asian associates don’t always use articles or the correct possessive form of a word in translation, so Todd’s translator drops “the” from a sentence or makes other very common grammar mistakes (in what sounds like a bad impersonation of non-English speakers trying to communicate in English) that Todd eagerly corrects. He only brings it up in an easy grab for laughs…and an obvious attempt to replicate “Archer’s” elaborate debates over proper grammar.
“Archer,” however, brings up difficult questions many college graduates wouldn’t have a quick answer for, rather than simply playing ping pong with simple translation errors like, “It’s bring the money,” not “bring money.” It’s not anywhere close to what’s needed to make this kind of humor work, and just one more reason you shouldn’t be wasting your time on this wannabe when the real thing is one click away.
“Pacific Heat” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix. “Archer” Seasons 1-6 is also streaming on Netflix, so make the right choice.