“The Americans,” a new show on FX, offers a different perspective to the U.S. and Russian conflicts that occurred during the Cold War. It’s very rare that a show focuses on the “bad guy.” A possible example of this would be “Breaking Bad,” a drama that centers on a Walter White, a chemistry teacher turned meth dealer. “The Americans” takes it a step further, giving the characters little for us to sympathize with, something that delivers an interesting dynamic but also condemns it to a probable small viewership due to the challenge it presents.
The Americans revolves around two KGB spies, Elizabeth (Keri Russell, TV’s “Felicity” and the recent “Dark Skies”) and Phillip Jennings (Matthew Rhys, TV’s “Brothers and Sisters”), stationed in American pretending to be average, suburban citizens in the early 1980’s. Throughout the first four episodes, there have been flashbacks to the main characters’ pasts in order to allow the viewer to see how they became KGB agents. In the show’s present time, Elizabeth and Phillip are shown dealing with missions, attempting to assimilate into American society while still remembering their origins, and finding time to concentrate on their children who don’t know their parents’ secret…all while living next door to Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich, “The Truman Show”), an FBI agent.
Although the show has great writing, acting, and a believable sense of realism, “The Americans” seems to be lacking in an area that I can’t really explain. The show is good by all means; maybe even great. But I’m becoming less enthused to return each week. If you’re familiar with “Mad Men,” you might know what I’m addressing. “Mad Men” is essentially a perfect show. But it’s not very exciting and can sometimes be a chore to watch. There’s also something else that really concerns me about “The Americans”…we already know how the Cold War ends. The lack of mystery could have a largely negative effect on the show.
I’d definitely recommend catching an episode or so of “The Americans” if you have the time. I’d try to start with the pilot, which is pretty great by pilot standards. There’s a large chance that “The Americans” could eventually become something big and maybe even win an Emmy or so. But there’s also a possibility that the show could alienate its audience what with the main characters being enemies of our country, lose viewership due to disinterest, and get canceled after the first season. It will be interesting to see what becomes of it.