It seems, on the surface, like a throwaway shot. During the premiere episode of the sixth season of Archer, FX’s outrageously funny animated spy series, spy matriarch Malory Archer (Jessica Walter) is seen speaking on the phone with her juvenile, coddled son. In the background, you can see two movers rolling out a large, circular blue ISIS sign.
You see, for the past five seasons, ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service) has been the name for the underground, non-government approved, New York City-based spy organization at the heart of the show. In light of recent events, however, the creative team behind the Emmy nominated series—creator Adam Reed along with executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis—made a decision to quietly eliminate the acronym from their show.
“We quietly did,” Reed told The Daily Beast. “We were waiting for it to go away—at least I was. Back in Season 5, FX said, ‘This might be a thing,’ and I thought, ‘Maybe it won’t be? Maybe it’ll be the mole that I’m gonna ignore and nothing will happen.’ We got sort of lucky and could organically make a merger with the CIA, so we went back and retroactively painted out the ISIS logos in parts of the show, and we just don’t talk about it in dialogue.”
A different version of the premiere episode aired in July at San Diego Comic-Con, but the Archer creative team went back and added the scene of the movers rolling out the sign, and re-recorded dialogue of Malory explaining to her agent-son, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), that the CIA are now their overlords.
“We won’t say ISIS anymore, and the only visual representation of it will be that sign rolling off the show,” said exec producer Thompson. “It’s just the most awful thing, and we didn’t want to have anything to do with it. There were people online saying that we should address it and say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe these guys have co-opted our name.’ That’s the way South Park would do it, coming after them and saying, ‘These assholes stole our name,’ but that’s not the way the Archer universe works, where it’s all our own creations. In our universe, they don’t exist.”
While the Archer team erased the ISIS name from the Season 6 premiere, they didn’t retroactively remove it from all other seasons of the show, so the signage and name will still appear in Seasons 1-5. Also, FX created a bunch of ISIS merchandise that they now need to figure out what to do with.
“I’m one of the few people that has the white ISIS cup and it’s mixed in with all my other cups,” Walter said. “The other day, I was looking at it and thought, ‘Should I throw it out? But it reminds me of Archer.’”
“I gave my Dad one of the ISIS hats and he said, ‘You know son, I’m not going to be able to wear the hat anymore,’” said Reed is his genial southern accent. “I’m gettin’ looks at the hardware store.’”
He adds, “I was at a meeting with the FX execs and I said, ‘You know, with all this extra ISIS merchandise, you should just make the bad guys buy it.’ Dead silence. And then they said, ‘We have a lot of ISIS merchandise.’ So I guess that’s all going to a landfill somewhere.”