WHY THE AMERICANS IS THE BEST SHOW ON TV RIGHT NOW
House of Cards, Dexter and Breaking Bad, what do these TV shows have in common? They go (in some cases went) against the tide. They tell their story from an ‘unpopular’ narrative. The protagonists in these shows would normally be the ‘bad guys’ in the real world; yet they have attained likable “antihero” status, winning the audience by telling us the story from their own perspective.
The Americans is one of such stories. Set in the 1980s during the last decade of the cold war, it tells the story of two Soviet spies undercover in the suburbs of Washington DC as everyday Americans trying to live the dream while passing intelligence to their KGB handlers. Imagine such a story being proposed to networks in the 90s, it would have been shot down immediately.
However this is the golden age of content. Our storytelling has evolved and likewise the audience or how would you explain the boldness of such a plot on an American TV network? So without revealing too much, here are my top reasons why you should see this show.
There’s no doubt The Americans has a stellar cast and most characters, if not all are amazing. But I would like to focus on the key protagonists, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings played respectively by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys both very talented actors. Their beautiful on-screen chemistry transfers to us every challenge and victory Elizabeth and Philip encounter in their dangerous assignments- both physically and emotionally. You can’t help but admire their partnership under the circumstances. Did I mention that they are parents too?
The 80s Pop Culture
This one may be a bit biased because I am a huge fan of that era. We know about The Rocking 80s; big hair, rise of synth-pop music and the zany fashion sense. I am more interested in the music though. The Americans features some iconic artistes of the time through their music, and in a way that reflects the mood of that episode perfectly. Like in one particularly somber episode, Queen’s Under Pressure slowly bleeds into the scene before picking up fervor.
I can’t count how many times my jaw was on the floor trying to contain an intense scene- and there are several of those. Given the secret nature of their job, Elizabeth and Philip have to pretend as regular Americans working 9 to 5, raising unsuspecting children- who by the way have grown into the American lifestyle- and at the same time avoid threats of death and elude discovery by an ever persistent FBI agent played by Noah Emmerich. Try raising kids with all that baggage and the result should be an early nervous break-down. But our “anti-heroes” seem to persevere and I hope for their sake (and mine) that they continue to.
The Americans must have one of the best writing teams on TV. Every dialogue, arc and plot twist has led to a development of one or more characters whom we have grown to love. Even if they represent what we have been taught to resent in the real world. The show has succeeded in making Elizabeth and Philip a part of us so that we fear when they are trapped and laugh when they win. Isn’t that the hallmark of fine writing?
Now the looming question on the mind of every viewer is “Will they ever get caught?” and if so, how? To be honest, this is something I haven’t quite prepared myself for. There is so much at stake here considering how the US treats spies. What will happen to their children? At least, in Breaking Bad we were let down easy because of Walter White’s notorious alter-ego, Heisenberg.
The Americans is different because the Jennings appear to be this lovely couple that just want to do their duty and protect their children; unless they are going to change? I guess we have to keep watching to find out.
The Americans airs Wednesdays 10pm eastern time on FX Networks.