I recently discovered a fairly good TV show called
THE AMERICANS. This show revolves around an attractive 30-something couple – “Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings“, who own their own home, and run a Travel Agency just outside Washington DC.
Born in the good ol’ USA, their two children (as well as their friends, neighbors & travel colleagues) are totally unaware that Phillip & Elizabeth are actually deep cover KGB agents who spend their days in hair-raising espionage against the US Government.
Historically influenced storylines all set against a socio-politically accurate 1980’s, we see images of R2-D2, Reagan & Gorbachev, fashions, celebrities, etc. Set over 30 years ago, no one has cellphones, nor email. Coffee is just a hot beverage; nothing fancy, and a walkie-talkie (you remember those) is about the size of a loaf of bread.
THE AMERICANS is a mesmerizing show, with the lead characters overcoming life-or-death challenges. For better or for worse, they are this TV show’s “heroes“, and while I’m not exactly routing for these Soviet agents, I am unable to take my eye off the screen. OK maybe I am “routing”, but only in the same way I routed for Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone. In fact, for its violent edginess and grit (we can practically smell the gunpowder in our living rooms) – THE AMERICANS seems a hybrid of SOPRANOS and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (more like the former).
Regrettably as a TV show, THE AMERICANS does have one problem. The occasional need for our “suspension of disbelief” (as a spy show, this blemish probably isn’t making history).
Nowhere is this more of a problem than in the relationship issues between Phillip and Elizabeth. Occasionally & without warning, the show plummets into a poorly written melodrama, focusing on abrupt & unrealistic (& uncharacteristically childish) marital tensions between Phillip and Elizabeth. At my side, my wife verbally echoes my thoughts, “Wouldn’t they have discussed this before now?” For some – this could be a deal-breaker, but I’m a devotee and (so far) I can overlook this issue. If their marital difficulties can’t be resolved, then at the very least, I hope they’ll become more believable.
On a brighter side, THE AMERICANS respects the audience by respecting its characters. With THE AMERICANS – even though the US government is “the antagonist” – the FBI & CIA agents, etc. are duly “capable”, dangerous and smart; an entirely worthy adversary. They are not the keystone cops, and they not bumbling. Rather – the US agents are just a step or two behind the show’s “heroes” (relatively speaking).
One final accolade. A respectful nod must be given to the director of photography Richard Rutkowski, who makes every single shot look like a painting. Perfect lighting, perfect everything.
In short – this show is impressive and nostalgic. On a scale of one to ten, I’d recommend THE AMERICANS with an enthusiastic “7”, optimistic for improvement.