Top US series Archer’s ‘ISIS’ crisis

Spy show decides to remove shunned acronym, coincidentally shared by a militant group.

Ayesha Shaikh/news Desk October 13, 2014

The acronym ‘ISIS’ doesn’t seem to augur well for the entertainment industry. What was the abbreviation of an organisation at the heart of the US animated spy series Archer has now been changed as it is coincidentally shared by the militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

For the past five seasons of the FX series, which began in 2009, International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) was the name of an underground, non-governmental approved spy organisation based in New York City, reported the Daily Beast. In the wake of the Islamic State wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria, swathes of which it has besieged, the creative team behind Archer decided to replace the organisation with a less notorious acronym, the CIA, Al-Arabiya News reported.

The Emmy-nominated series’ creator Adam Reed and executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis aimed at quietly eliminating the acronym from the show, whose sixth season returns in January. “We quietly [dropped the acronym],” said Reed. “Back in season five, FX said, ‘This might be a thing (problem)’. And I thought, ‘Maybe, it won’t be... maybe, it’ll be the mole that I’m going to ignore and nothing will happen’,” he added.

Although already aired at a festival in the US, creators edited the first episode of the sixth season, where they show the large, circular blue ‘ISIS’ sign in the Service’s building being removed. It also features a character explain to another that the CIA is now their superior. “We got 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,” explained Reed.

“It’s just the most awful thing and we didn’t want to have anything to do with [the acronym]. There were people online saying that we should address it and say, ‘Oh, we can’t believe these guys (the Islamic State) have co-opted our name’,” said Thompson. “But that’s the way South Park (another popular animated series in the US) would do it. That’s not how the Archer universe works. In our universe, they don’t exist,” he commented.

Interestingly, the show’s bio on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) still reads, “At ISIS, an international spy agency, global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine and betray each other.” The shunned acronym will not be removed from its previous five seasons. It is also featured on several items, such as mugs and caps, of the Archer merchandise. “We have a lot of ISIS merchandise. So, I guess that’s all going to a landfill somewhere,” Reed and Thompson quoted the show’s production company as saying.

Jessica Walter, who plays the spy matriarch Malory Archer in the show, shared, “I’m one of the few people who have the white ISIS cup. The other day, I was looking at it and thought, ‘Should I throw it out? But it reminds me of Archer’.” Reed said, “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. I’m getting looks at the hardware store’.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2014.

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