Dear fans of FX’s “Archer,” when you tune in to the cartoon’s fourth-season premiere Thursday at 10 p.m., it’s going to look a little weird. Do not adjust your television sets.
In a cunning crossover, “Archer” opens with a shot of Bob’s Burgers, which comedy fans will recognize as the setting of the other animated show wherein star H. Jon Benjamin voices the title character. Inside, a mustachioed Sterling Archer is flipping burgers and saying his name is Bob Belcher. The scene is animated in the style of “Archer,” but features characters (and voices) from Fox’s “Bob’s Burgers.”
It turns out that Archer ran away from home — and his job as a secret agent — and is suffering from amnesia.
What could have been a 30-second gag about how Benjamin voices two similar-sounding cartoon characters is instead deeply integrated into the storytelling. It’s the kind of smart, hyper-referential comedy that “Archer” has perfected over the years. (See also: Archer’s frequent references to the song “Danger Zone.”)
Next week, “Archer” gives fans of FX’s “Justified” another crossover (in the form of guest Timothy Olyphant) that is much subtler, but, when you pick up on it, is even more rewarding.