Did you watch The Americans last night? The new FX show about two sleeper cell KGB agents living in suburban Maryland (or wherever, the DC-metro area, OK, agent Boring?!) in the 1980s? You should have watched it! You blew it! Just kidding, there is still time to make up for your mistakes! Probably! The pilot episode was really good, and the show holds a lot of “promise.” Ugh, is there anything worse than TV speak? I mean, yes, like, war and female circumcision and that video from earlier today. But you know what I mean. Anyway, in The Americans, Felicity plays a young Russian spy who lives in a suburban home with her fake spy husband and their two real non-spy kids. (They did not show this scene in the pilot, but I think every spy is just issued one cyanide capsule that you hide in your molar for if you get caught, and one baby capsule that you hide in your genitals in case you get bored? In this case: twinsies! None of this is true, can we please get back to talking about the show? No YOU got us off track, with your FACE.) They’ve just kidnapped a high-grade Russian defector but they blew the mission and now he is locked in the truck of their 1977 Oldsmobile. Meanwhile, an FBI agent has just moved in across the street. Does he know? Does he suspect? Was he in The Truman Show? Meanwhile, Felicity’s husband is having second thoughts about this whole “being a secret Russian spy” thing but she is a die hard Russian spy 4 lyfe. Will they get divorced? Will they go on Donahue? Who will take the kids to Teddy Ruxpin practice?! (1980s.) The show sets up tons of fun stuff. Why don’t I marry it? Uh, I wish that I could, thanks for reminding me!

The spy stuff is obviously cool, always. Spies rule. It’s also cool that the show follows “the bad guys.” That’s fun. But I think the part I like the most is the weird relationship between Felicity and the guy from Brothers and Sisters. They’re doing what amounts to a job together, but it involves actual children and decades of living in the same house, and the weird tension between him kind of falling in love with her and just wanting to be her husband and her never forgetting that they have a job to do and the motherland and trying to cut his head off in the kitchen and cetra and cetra: it’s a really interesting TV relationship! Good job, TV! You are great! (That being said, their relationship is also a mega-bummer. Like, do you remember that scene where they pour acid all over a dead body and then dump it into the river while Phil Collins is playing and suddenly they can’t keep their hands off of each other, and this is supposed to be a turning point where she realizes how much he cares about her and wants to protect her and that is why she raw-dogs him in the backseat and then also stands up for him in the private Tea Time with the Russian Hotel Guy? Well, that was the best it ever got for the two of them, but you also can’t help but associate her sexuality with either private trauma and/or the manipulative tool to elicit a required response. So right now he is mostly getting the sad end of the stick.)

Also the actor who plays the husband is really good at transitioning between being this sort of nerdy schmoe and being an angry face danger spy. Good job. Good acting.

There are obviously a few things that are a little bit silly or at least difficult to swallow. Some of them are just TV things where you know they have to do them for TV because that is how you transmit certain pieces of information, but at the same time they break from the reality of a situation. Like, the idea that you can be born and raised in Russia and live there until your mid 20s and then come to America and speak flawless Midwestern English and dress in the correct clothes and know about jogging in the park, or whatever. I just don’t think the 1980s Russian intelligence service was sophisticated enough to know about pet rocks and jazzercise. Or, like, when the papa takes his babushka to the astronaut conference and grinds his teeth while they say the pledge of allegiance. Oh please. That motherfucker would be screaming that pledge. ME LOVE AMERICA LONG TIME! (Speaking of Russians trying to figure out how the United States works, have you been reading Simon Rich’s novella that the New Yorker is serializing all week on its website? It’s very funny. A++.) But like I said, it’s TV. Give it a break.

So yeah! The Americans! Score another one for FX, right? Those guys. Love those guys. Love having fun. Love America. Love The Americans.

Comments (24)
  1. i enjoyed it-but i couldn’t stand the husbands smile. Too me it looks like the face the guy from scrubs would make after accidentally pooping his pants in the middle of a joke.

  2. I didn’t read this post because I didn’t watch it but I will be watching it in the next day or two (probably…who has time to catch up on the DVR these days?)
    Anyway, i bet it’s a good show cause of Graham Yost…but is anyone else too weirded out about the idea of rooting for the Russians in the Cold War? I mean, I love rooting for bad guys, just not Historically bad guys.

    • I kinda like Noah Emmerich, so I’m already rooting for the good guys. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Actually, I’m really not that jingoisitic. Only when it comes to international soccer, hockey, and spy TV shows.

    • Well, they are only the “bad guys” if you look at it from your own historical perspective. This isn’t even a “your freedom fighter is my terrorist” situation; USA and USSR were both doing the exact same things to each other… Neither one was the clear villain of the cold war.

      • Except for the genocides. Whatever your opinion of American proxy interventionalism in Asia and Central/South America (and trust me, my opinion is: bad news), the USSR was doing all that, plus gulags and intentionally starving millions of Ukrainians.
        However, I think I understand your deeper point about it being more of an equally matched situation – I was rewatching Archer yesterday, and I completely understand why they chose to make the villains the Soviet Union. It’s two sides, it’s easy to understand while still being nuanced; it really works for a Big Spy Game story.

      • Oh, sure, use your “I’m from Canada” credibility to rain on our “we won the cold war” parade.

  3. Gabe, based by that still it looks like you’re in it! Congrats!

  4. Ug, why do all the good shows happen to people who can afford cable? (Except Bob’s Burgers, which is network and excellent.) Is FX one of those channels that’s uptight about posting on-line? Because I love Felicity and commies, so this is perfect.

  5. Are you recapping this every week??!?!!?!? (Please say yes!)

  6. I was shushed by one of their crew members (Professional Shusher?) while they were filming a scene at Columbia on 118th last month. I wasn’t even talking or mouth-breathing! I was just walking home from work!

    Naturally, I will be boycotting this show. Mostly because I am not interested in it, but also because of my new archenemy.

  7. They’re not really Americans??? Thanks for the spoiler alert!!!

  8. Yes, the Simon Rich serial is…incredible. He must have just got his MFA.

  9. I really liked the pilot, but definitely lol’d when the issue of raising their kids American came up and the wife’s response was “There’s still hope!! I can raise them socialist!”

    I immediately wondered if any Tea Party asshole that happened to be watching saw this and was like “AHA!!! I knew it!! Obama is simply carrying through the wishes of a socio-nazi-ruskie America that began during the Cold War!”. But then I was also confused as to what their end-game is…to topple evil America, or to get us to compromise a bit and just cause a societal shift to the left??” I hope I didn’t ruin the show for myself during the pilot episode!

  10. Also, the KGB officer referring to Reagan as a madman…he’s gotta be baiting the Videogum audience, right??

  11. THIS WAS some scary FUCKIN shit.

  12. Fun show, but, as an old man, I was distracted by all the anachronisms. Like those brightly colored bendy straws in the above photo. We didn’t have those. There was shit like that all over this show. Completely took me out of it. If Mad Men can do it for the 60′s, these guys can manage the 80′s. Come on, t.v.

  13. This is a show I will be happy to watch beginning promptly at 10:19 every Wednesday so I can hopper those FX house ads. Holee Molee.

  14. Very disappointed to learn, after seeing the image, that Eric Bana isn’t in this. I’ll probably never recover.

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