Having seen my post about Archer’s semi-pre-laps, the good folks at FX sent over a copy of Adam Reed’s actual script for the Skytanic episode I cited. (FX seems awesome. Let’s all write shows for them.)

I’d been working off a transcript, so it’s interesting to see how those scenes actually looked on the page. (Complete scripts of Archer are available in the Writers Guild library, FYI.)

Some differences worth noting:

1) On the page, we see Malory’s dialogue as a true pre-lap, occurring before the cut.


Cyril! It’s not what it looks like!


Well then what is it?!


Malory, arms akimbo, surveys the room. Signs of a struggle. Pam stands nervously over by the bed, wringing her hands. Cheryl/Carol lies face down on the bed, nude and lifeless.

To me, what’s most interesting about Archer’s technique is not exactly where the cut is falling, but the implied line that sets up the next scene. Both Lana and Pam apparently said, “It’s not what it looks like!” Malory’s line seems to answer both questions.

In other cases, the cut repeats the last thing said, but changes the context. Earlier in the episode:


Psh! Cyril?! With another woman?!

(gestures at herself)

Malory, seriously: look at me.


CLOSE ON Cheryl/Carol, looking up at us, eyes slightly bulged, as a man’s hands squeeze tightly around her shapely throat.


Look at me! Look at and choke me!

In both cases, the writer is calling attention to the cut. It’s like a literary star-wipe. The technique works great in a heavily-stylized show like Archer, but would feel very wrong in more realistic shows.

2) In Archer scripts, vocal noises without true dialogue are written in brackets rather than parentheses:


[mortified gasp]

3) A recurring joke in the show is that Malory’s secretary keeps changing her name. I love that they call her Cheryl/Carol in the script, despite the extra typing that requires.

4) Look at what Singh is wearing:

And there is Lana, stripped back down to her bra/panties/stockings, with Singh in the background, stripped down to his Spreefs, rubbing scented OIL on his belly.

Spreefs! It’s funny and just right. Even though the viewer will never see that great word, it makes the script read better.

Scene description matters. It’s a little gift the writer gives the reader.