For a goofy show about a bunch of half-wit spies, sorry, investigators, FX’s Archer is a remarkably literate show that is dense with references from all over the place. This list from the first three episodes of this season is by no means comprehensive, so feel free to mention ones I missed in the comments. After putting this together, it’s a good idea not to play “Trivial Pursuit” against the Archer writing staff.
Hollywood mansion complete with dead body floating in the pool – straight from Sunset Boulevard
Shanghai Moon – not an actual movie, but there are a loooot of Asian restaurants with that name.
Tennessee Tuxedo – 1960s cartoon penguin with a dimwitted walrus pal Chumbley. Character voiced by Don Adams (TVs Get Smart).
The bumpers with their colorful silhouettes and tinkle music is pure Charlie’s Angels, a 70s detective show based in L.A.
The Figgis Agency seems to share a decorator with Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.
“Mancy Drew” – Malory’s insulting Archer. Based on child detective Nancy Drew.
Lawyer Allen Shapiro’s house looks like an exaggerated version of Stahl House, a famous glass residence that overlooks Los Angeles.
Pam wants to be a “folksy B.A. Baracus” referencing Mr. T’s character in The A-Team, which was set in L.A.
Krieger fires up a thermal lance, “like Jimmy Caan used in Thief.” The 1981 film was Michael Mann’s feature film directorial debut.
Archer is polishing an open top 80s Ferrari much like the one driven by Tom Sellick in Magnum P.I.
The infrared mode on the goggles is just like Predator, the 80s action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura.
Archer was bleeding like a “Russian princess.” A not entirely accurate reference to the last Russian royal family, the Romanovs. It’s slightly off because hemophilia tends to occur in males more often than females, as it did with the Romanovs.
Twice Archer tumbles down a cliff side which reminds you of Homer Simpson’s multiple spills down Springfield Gorge all the way back in The Simpsons second season.
Pam names the puppy on their fliers, “Furlock Bones”
While trying to cover for Cyril, Malory says many of the world’s great detectives were on the autism spectrum and mentions Sherlock Holmes and Daryl Zero. The first name is readily recognizable with the second referencing the lead character in the 1998 detective film “Zero Effect” staring Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller and Fear The Walking Dead‘s Kim Dickens.
“Who am I, Alphonse Bertillon?” French police officer and researcher who in the 1840s pioneered the use of physical characteristics (height, weight, etc.) in police work (before fingerprints became a main identifier). He also standardized the mugshot process.
The trail of blood and dog excrement was like a Family Circus cartoon that traces Billy’s meandering path through the neighborhood.
A chauffeuse is not only a female driver but also a kind of chair.
The disk exchange was made at the Korean Bell of Friendship at Angel’s Gate Park in L.A. Site of a famous scene in The Usual Suspects.
Fran Trunkington – Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback and host of TVs That’s Incredible.
Trunky Brewster – Punky Brewster, 80s family sitcom starring Solei Moon Frye
Other trunk puns – Sandy Trunkin, Trunkin Hines, Archie Trunker, Trunkingham Palace and Trunkminster Fuller (after the architect who popularized the geodesic dome).
“Copy that, Mav. What’s the hard deck?” – From the film Top Gun, home of the Danger Zone!
Lana calls Shapiro “Poppin Fresh” because of his similarity to the doughy, white spokesman for Pillsbury. Later Archer calls him Senator Sta-Puft, after the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.
The lead motorcycle goon calls Lana, Miss Daisy, despite the fact she’s the one driving, not the one being driven.
A.k.a Trunkmaster Flex – Funkmaster Flex, hosted the first hip-hop radio show in New York
Archer said the bikers were going to try to “woodchipper” him, referring to the classic Cohen Brothers film, Fargo
Ray thinks he might have to go undercover so dresses like a biker. Of course he’s dressed like a biker from the Village People or the Blue Oyster Bar from the Police Academy movies.
“Earl Campbell called he wants his thighs back.” Campbell is a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer with the Houston Oilers. Known for gigantic thigh pads and tear-away jerseys. Currently battling it out with Nolan Ryan for the title of Sausage King of Texas.
When he hears one of the bullies from his past, Archer drops the coffee cup he’s drinking just like Det. Kujan in The Usual Suspects.
The whole plot of the third episode with its switcheroo murder plot is reminiscent of the noir classic Double Indemnity.
Archer’s swirly in the dirty toilet looks an awful like a similar scene in Sin City.
The baby AJ is called an “octoroon bastard.” There was a famous abolitionist play called The Octoroon, which played at New York’s Wintergarden Theater (the longtime home of the musical Cats) before the Civil War. In its day, The Octoroon‘s popularity was second to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
When getting ready to kill his old bully, Ivy, Archer is singing the theme to the show Have Gun – Will Travel. It was also the song sung by the guys in Stand By Me.
Jethro Dull – because Ray is a hillbilly and asked a dumb question. From the band Jethro Tull of “Aqualung” fame.
Cyril’s bully revenge fantasy is straight out of the lotion scene from Silence of the Lambs.
Archer does a mean George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life impression.
The comic books Doctor Strange (bloody and broken hands after a car accident) and Daredevil (Sterling Archer, man without fear) are referenced during the car chase.
Malory’s new favorite word is “feckless” – She calls Archer her “feckless son” in the first episode and the whole group feckless in the second episode.
Archer is having problems adjusting to Pacific time. In the first two episodes he offers a client a drink at 9 a.m. “I’m still on Eastern time. It’s lunch time there.”
Both Archer and the goon unzip Lana’s top and stuffs the Longwater disk into Lana’s bra.
“You don’t work-a the case, you don’t getta the paycheck.” – Boom! Fridge magnet
“Wanna try yanking on the pipe?” – Phrasing, deal with it.
Pam isn’t doing “phrasing” any more. Her reply to “thanks for coming” is now “ON MY TITS! WHAAAT!?!”
“That wasn’t so hard was it?” – Lana said … phrasing … boom … huh? Archer isn’t feeling it.
Armagnac VSOP Cognac is the liquor of choice this season.
The dead Italian prime minister from Season 3, Episode 8 was brought up. Archer will not schlep to Staten Island for any other reason than body disposal.
Cheryl still loves huffing rubber cement and Pam loves her fo-ties sho-ty.
Lana chokes Cheryl to shut her up (much to Cheryl’s delight)
There was the prank voicemail to end all prank voicemails, “He trained crickets!” It was so good Malory took Archer’s phone away.
Archer’s ringtone is still the song, “Mulatto Butts.”
Archer said he was in Rampage Mode while beating up the bikers.
The old liquor bottle as cell phone gag is one of Archer’s favorite.
Ray’s biathlon past is brought up when Archer is under sniper fire from his old nemesis, Ivy. They are both former biathletes and Archer wonders if they know each other.
Ray still eats sushi for lunch.
Cyril yells “Suppressing fire” every time he uses a gun.
In the car chase with Ivy, Archer does a car-to-car jump for about the fourth time.