Tuesday, March 22, 2016
TV Tuesday: The Americans
This FX show takes place in 1980's Washington, DC. Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings run a travel agency together and seem like a typical suburban family, with their kids Henry and Paige. There is nothing typical about them, though. They are both Soviet Union spies who were sent to the U.S. when they themselves were teenagers to grow up here, get married, and become imbedded as spies who appear like any other American couple.
So, they get up in the morning, feed the kids and take them to school, maybe stop in at the travel agency for a while, and have dinner with their kids in the evening. In between, though, at all hours, one or both of them might be out on an assignment, wearing a disguise and gathering information - perhaps sleeping with a politician or meeting up with another spy or even killing someone who has gotten too close to their secret. It's all very thriller-ish, packed with action and sometimes sex and violence, while on the surface, they live this sedate, "normal" life.
Challenges are constantly coming up, from finding out that their neighbor works for the CIA to their teen daughter getting hooked on religion and joining a church. There are crosses and double-crosses, hidden secret lives, plus inside looks at what is happening within the CIA and inside the Russian embassy. One of the most amazing things about this unique show is that the viewer is witness to both sides of the Cold War, but you find yourself rooting for the main characters, the Russian spies!
The acting on The Americans is superb. Elizabeth is played wonderfully by Keri Russell, who conveys both a passion for her country and strong belief in what she is doing but also maternal love for her children. Matthew Rhys plays Phillip...though you may not recognize him at first in many scenes! His disguises are plenty and very convincing. Even the actors who play the children are excellent, especially Paige, who by the third season (and her teen years) is starting to wonder about her parents' comings and goings at strange hours.
There is tremendous complexity to this show - it's a family drama and a spy thriller, an action-packed adventure that also delves deep into its characters' emotional lives. In addition, the setting is very well-done - it really feels like the 80's without being overdone. We loved it right from the very first episode - and it just keeps getting better.
Season 4 just began on FX so is available On Demand and on the FX website. It is also available for $1.99 an episode on Amazon Prime, and the first three seasons of The Americans is available for free on Prime (or for $20 a season/$1.99 an episode for non-Prime members).