The Americans — An Adventurous and Sexy Drama…but is it True?
The Americans is a riveting drama that explores the overlapping link between Soviet and American spy agencies during the Cold War. The cable television series boasts great action, fantastic dialog, and showcases award-worthy acting performances from stars Kerri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich and Annet Mahendru. The show’s premise takes you back to the Reagan presidency at the height of the Cold War when both American and Soviet governments attempted to get a leg up on their adversaries through a shadowy network of spies and government agents.
The show follows the life of what appears as an average American family, living in a typical DC neighborhood, with the slight twist that the parents, Philip, and Elizabeth, are living the double life of covert Soviet spies. The couple was sent to the U.S. as teens, became married and blended into American society. They had willingly joined a group of deep-cover agents and sleeper cells, loyal to their homeland and taking orders from Moscow. The characters take you on a journey that includes wild 80’s style costumes and wigs and presents a wide variety of spy gear, including poison umbrellas, secret pen microphones, and tiny pocket-sized spy cameras. Within the original storyline is a recollection of real world events that led America out from the era of McCarthyism and into an era of FBI and CIA covert intelligence and counterintelligence operations.
The show is thrilling, engaging, and very creative, but how much truth is mixed in throughout the fictional story? Its creator, Joseph Weisberg, worked in the CIA’s directorate of operations during the 1990’s and had to seek special permission from the CIA’s Publications Review Board before releasing a script. When reviewing the scripts, the CIA looks to determine if there is just too much truth being disseminated on the show. A good sign that the show’s creators and writers are riding a fine line between truth and fiction.
This season’s episodes deal with the Soviets attempting to gain information about the Arpanet and Stealth technology, subjects that have viewers believing that these were operations that could have indeed taken place during this period. The show also delves into the lives of other Soviet agents living in America and explained on the show as ‘illegals.’ While the resident criminal networks were indeed a project of Soviet intelligence agencies during the 40’s and 50’s, most of the networks were dismantled, and many were no longer feasible during the heightened tensions and counterintelligence of the 1980’s. However, in 2010 news was released by the Department of Justice about a program known as the ‘Illegals Program,’ a network of Russian sleeper agents believed to be planted in the United States by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. A group of individuals was arrested and deported back to Russia in exchange for four Russian nationals imprisoned on espionage charges. These real-world events and technologies lend credibility to an intriguing story, bathed in the secrecy of government spies operating on the cusp of nuclear war. All the makings for entertaining television to be sure.
This past week, the show announced the opening of an exhibit at The American Spy Museum which features costumes and gadgets from the series. On the museum’s webpage, they state that many of the devices used in the show were deployed in real life by KGB operatives in the U.S. during the Cold War.
The mini-exhibit runs through July 2014, and you can find out more about the exhibit by visiting http://spymuseum.org.
The show is produced by DreamWorks Television and airs Wednesdays at 10 pm on FX Networks.