Debate of the Day: The Americans


I’m going against my better instincts these days and starting to watch new shows that look vaguely promising without hearing anything one way or the other first. I don’t usually like the commit to getting into a show unless I know it’s going to end up going somewhere, but I’ve tried out The Following and now, have done the same with The Americans.

It’s FX, which is the best cable channel other than AMC, and they’ve been promoting the hell out of it for six months now. It stars Keri Russell (Felicity!) and Matthew Rhys as a married couple, the Jennings, living in 1981 who are secretly undercover KGB agents. Like, deep cover. Like, they’ve been married for twenty years and had two kids deep cover.

The show premiered with more or less an hour and a half movie last night, which I’ll admit, ending at 11:40 almost had me falling asleep by the end. The show isn’t un-exciting, but so far it’s not quite as gripping as Homeland either, nor as stylish as say, Mad Men.

It is its own entity so far, and can’t really be compared to either. I do like dynamic between Russell and Rhys, as Rhys is struggling with his “missions,” while Russell is more hardcore about her devotion to the motherland. Rhys says “America isn’t so bad,” which is an impression you might get after living there for 20 years and starting a family. It reminds me of that MadTV (SNL?) sketch where a sleeper cell terrorist doesn’t want to go through with a suicide bombing after landing a big house and a hot wife.

Less believable is the interaction between the Jennings and their new neighbor, FBI counterintelligence agent Stan Beeman. Is it seriously a coincidence he moved next door to them? Because that’s how they’re playing it off. And by the end of the first episode, after getting a “weird feeling” from them, breaks into their house and is snooping around in their garage. His bloodhound senses are a bit too on point to be believable, unless this is a secret mission he’s been tasked with and these two are already being investigated. But that’s not what it seems like.

It’s also unclear who you’re really supposed to be rooting for here. The two leads are Russian spies bent on the destruction of the country. Sure, the husband might be wavering in his conviction, but is that enough to really get in his corner? Many, many, many shows have “bad guys” as the lead, but pulling  for Jax Teller and Dexter seems different than hoping a sleeper cell does what? Destroys America?

You can’t really judge a show from just the pilot, even if the pilot is a 90 minute movie. I’ll keep watching, but nothing has me particularly hooked so far.  What about you?