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Mike Cohen
The Americans
on Feb 23, 2013 at 5:06:56 pm

I have watched the first 3 episodes of the new series on FX. It is like "Homeland" in the 80's. Here is the plot in one sentence.

A Russian couple, posing is Americans, conduct espionage in greater Washington DC, while raising two kids conceived in their sham marriage, and dodging the FBI who are not yet on to them but who probably will be since they have the lead FBI agent living across the street coincidentally; at the same time this couple realizes that after 20 years of pretending to love each other they might really love each other.

Thanks to the semicolon, I fit that all into one sentence. Not sure if my 11th grade English teacher Mrs. Leveroni would agree!

Based upon an actual case of Russian sleeper agents in the US in the 2000's (I had not heard anything about it but it is all documented here on wikipedia so it must be true), this show is engaging and as you figure out who all the characters are you can follow the story.

Both main characters (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (a Welshman playing a Russian playing an American) use a lot of disguises, so you need to pay attention. Plus the 3rd main character, Keri Russell's hair, can be distracting at times.

Like in Homeland, there are two precocious kids - a 13 year old girl and a 10 year old boy, who of course do not know that their parents are not really travel agents (they do in fact work at a travel agency - remember those?).

Now KGB agents need to use all of their training to get the job done, so FX is able to portray sex acts and violence in every episode. And since the two main characters are not really married, these sex acts are no big deal - except for when they realize maybe they do love each other - but duty comes first.

The show makes a point of using early 80's pop music for the soundtrack. I had to confirm that In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins was in fact from 1981 - most people became familiar with the song form Miami Vice a couple years later.

Filmed in New York City, but taking place so far in DC, Virginia and Philly, the creators have been somewhat cautious with locations and props and vehicles and wardrobe. I caught a couple of ATM signs in "inner city Philadelphia" but they were out of focus, but it seems pretty authentic. It is especially interesting seeing what spy gadgetry they have come up with, such as the umbrella/poison dart needle and the shoe telephone.

Overall this looks like it will be a good show, as long as they don't overdo it on having a complex operation go down in every episode. The real life spies that inspired this show did not accomplish very much actual spying, and they were deported back to the motherland in 2010. The producers decided to set this in the early 80's because Russian spies in the present day just seems pointless.

The series has been renewed for a 2nd season, so it is ok to invest the time. The first 3 episodes are on the FX website for free if you want to catch up.

Mike Cohen

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Tim Wilson
Re: The Americans
on Feb 23, 2013 at 5:56:45 pm

I'm going to pass on this one, but agree it's definitely worth a look. Whoever cast Keri Russell as a steely badass deserves a real pony. Awesome.

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Americans
on Feb 26, 2013 at 2:19:35 pm

But do they ever get Moose and Sqvirrel?

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Mike Cohen
Re: The Americans
on Apr 4, 2013 at 11:41:13 pm

I'm trudging through this series. Every episode follows the same formula:

Main characters have a mission that not even Ethan Hunt could pull off.

In the process they both sleep with someone else either to get information or just because

They tell each other "it's over"

They save the day for Mother Russia and fall back in love

Meanwhile they nearly get caught by the FBI guy who lives across the street but then they don't

Meanwhile the same FBI guy sleeps with the mole inside the Russian embassy

Meanwhile son other unlikely scenario goes down

Family Ties happy ending until next week when all Hell breaks loose again.


PS. Kerri Russell's hair is attached to a spinoff series entitled American Hair which might actually be less predictable.

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