Under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, America and the Soviet Union had a famously sour relationship during the 1980s. From the dawn of the Cold War, American propaganda paired with Soviet aggressions had Americans keeping a paranoid eye turned toward Russia. Neighbors could be secret Russian spies, or the American government could be bugging public places. This terrifying and exhilarating time period of American history serves as the setting for the new FX drama, The Americans. FX combines historical details with family dramato craft one of the best dramas of the year. The Americans even deserves a rare four-recliner rating for its near-perfect plot, visuals, and soundtrack.
The main characters of The Americans are a husband and wife, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), who are actually Russian spies posing as a normal American couple. While the family’s connections to the Soviet government are enough to create an interesting story, the real drama lies in the family life of the couple and their children. Many television reviewers note that the “politics” of the family outshine the politics of America and the Kremlin. The beginning of the drama apparently started when Phillip and Elizabeth were married in a Moscow KGB office and given one-way tickets to the United States, where they were to pose as normal Americans and never let anyone know they are actually Russian. Moreover, the two agents were instructed never to tell each other about their private lives in Russia, as the less they knew about each other the more effective their cover would be. This added layer of secrecy provides for tense conversations and scenes between the couple.
Phillip assimilates well to America. He wears cowboy boots, watches American hockey, and finds a nation very different from what the Soviets described. Elizabeth is a noted “heartless android” disguised as a Soviet spy, disguised as an American. She gives sexual favors for intelligence information from American officials, and carries her allegiance to Russia on her sleeve. The controversial aspect of their family is that children are also involved in this web of lies. They are a mother and father raising children, while still carrying out their orders from the KGB. As if this were not enough craziness, their neighbor just happens to be a suspicious FBI agent. This soup of drama is what has helped make The Americans one of the hottest TV shows of the year. The Americans embraces all of the intimate and dangerous aspects of spying in the age before computers and high-tech gadgets. The 1980s nostalgia in itself is aesthetically pleasing and often sentimental.
The pilot opened with a nine-minute introduction scene set to the extended dance remix of “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac. Pair this tune with the covert actions on the screen, and this is drama gold. As if The Americans wasn’t already poised to be a hit, the soundtrack pushes it over the edge of awesome. Make time out of your schedule to catch The Americans on FX every Wednesday.