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OFFICIAL The Americans Season 1 DISCUSSION Thread

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 OFFICIAL The Americans Season 1 DISCUSSION Thread
Unread 3 years agoclass of '06 - away - #1
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Premieres Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 10/9c. on FX.

The Americans is described as a period drama about the complex marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected president. Rhys and Russell play Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, KGB Directorate S illegals in an arranged marriage that grows more passionate and genuine as it is constantly tested by the escalation of the Cold War and the dangerous relationships they must maintain with a network of spies.

Complicating their covert situation further is Philip’s growing sense of affinity for the American way of life, plus the arrival of a new neighbor, Stan Beeman (White Collar‘s Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent whose beat is tracking foreign agents on U.S. soil — including Russian spies posing as Americans. Well that’s an unfortunate coinky-dink.

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Unread 3 years agoclass of '08 - away - #2
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Been seeing the teasers commercials for this for a while but they never revealed what it was about. I'll give it a try tho.
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Unread 3 years agoclass of '06 - away - #3
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Unread 3 years agoclass of '04 - on now - #4
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May give this a try. FX usually puts out heat.
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Unread 3 years agoclass of '06 - away - #5
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Little over a week till premiere!
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Unread 3 years agoclass of '06 - away - #6
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The Bottom Line
Comparisons with Homeland are inevitable, but the pacing and nuance driving FX's look at enemies among us might have real staying power.

FX's latest drama, starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as sleeper KGB agents in suburban 1980s Washington, D.C., is as much about an unconventional family as it is about Cold War games.

Comparisons are dangerous, especially in the ever-evolving, week-to-week world of truly great television series. But here goes: I enjoyed the first two episodes of FX's spy series The Americans as much as I did the entirety of season two of Homeland. (Remember, the beginning of Homeland's season two was perfectly pulse-pounding before a deep creative spiral began.) There is something about Americans -- which also explores spies and terrorism on U.S. soil -- that invests me with the same type of hope I had at the beginning of Showtime's gem. What separates the two is a vastly different approach to pacing.

Americans stars Matthew Rhys as Phillip Jennings and Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, two KGB spies posing as Americans and living in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C. Ronald Reagan has been elected president and is calling the USSR "the evil empire." The Soviets are playing the long con: For years they trained the pair to be "Phillip" and "Elizabeth," disparate patriots who wanted to serve their country against the threat of America. They were put into an arranged marriage and sent to the U.S., where they had two children. Although there are multiple flashbacks, particularly in the pilot, we meet the spies when daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) is 13 and son Henry (Keidrich Sellati) is 10.

While with Homeland, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) comes back from being held by al-Qaida and the is-he-or-isn't-he spy/terrorist conceit gets played out quickly, Americans has a sophisticated storytelling advantage in that the Jennings family has been hiding below the surface for ages. The couple poses as travel agents, and the kids have no idea their parents are spies -- they don't even know they're Russian. But now things rapidly are getting more stressful for Mom and Dad. The pilot opens with Elizabeth, Phillip and another KGB agent trying to kidnap a former KGB agent who has turned for U.S. government cash. The kidnapping is partly botched, and immediately suspicions on both sides prick up. A Soviet agent at the KGB safe house dourly explains the new changes coming. "The American people have elected a mad man as their president," he says. "He makes no secret of his desire to destroy us. Our war is not so cold anymore, Elizabeth."

With KGB agents on U.S. soil beginning to flip sides willingly for money, Rhys is utterly convincing as a spy who has let doubts pour in and come to love America. Why not stay? Why not flip? Wouldn't that make their lives better and less stressful and guarantee safety for their kids? But Elizabeth is hard-core and despises him for even thinking of turning.
Meanwhile, at the FBI, word comes down that the spy snatch has infuriated Reagan. A high-ranking Cabinet member explains tersely: "President Reagan is outraged that the KGB thinks it can kidnap someone with impunity on American soil. The president has signed top-secret Executive Order 2579 authorizing Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence officers to take all necessary steps to neutralize all Soviet Directorate S sleeper-cell agents in the continental U.S."

In the room, of course, is FBI agent Stan Beeman, a new neighbor of Directorate S sleeper-cell agents Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings.

Rhys and Russell are superb, giving eye-popping performances in which they convince as both sublimely ordinary parents and dangerous spies. It's thrilling to watch them navigate the nuanced pace, and the show's placement during the 1980s makes for a fresh period piece (though Russell doesn't have to play Cyndi Lauper, she does have to don some serious high-waisted jeans).

Americans is not in some feverish race to make every episode feel like a cliffhanger. (That was great during season one of Homeland but led to the trouble with season two.) Instead, series creator/writer/executive producer Joe Weisberg, who worked for the CIA before turning to writing, allows the show to breathe. He is a.ssisted by the steady hand of Graham Yost (Justified, The Pacific, Band of Brothers) as executive producer and Joel Fields (Ugly Betty, Rizzoli & Isles) as exec producer/writer.

Homeland turned out to be determined to get all the spy stuff out of the way so a love story could bloom. On Americans, the love story has a wealth of incredible emotional layers, but the emphasis always is on the spying.

It's too early to really judge Americans against Homeland, but if the latter is getting away from what hooked you in the first place, then you might find what you're missing on Americans. Here's to more episodes, more espionage and respect for colluding against the enemy instead of merely canoodling with them.
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Unread 3 years agoclass of '06 - away - #7
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - away - #8
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - away - #9
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20 minutes in and Im already hooked
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - away - #10
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decent pilot, nothing special though
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #11
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Definitely will continue watching.

at beating that dude's a.ss then taking a hot dog.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - away - #12
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - on now - #13
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So is no one here because they didn't watch the show, or because they dislike SM that much?

I'm on westcoast time, I still got 30 minutes to go til showtime.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #14
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This sh*t was legit. Im hooked already, some of it because I wanna fu*k Keri Russell, but mostly because its a dope show.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '09 - on now - #15
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C.R.I.P. said:
This sh*t was legit. Im hooked already, some of it because I wanna fu*k Keri Russell, but mostly because its a dope show.
Yessssssss... I haven't been this excited for a pilot in a years. FX got another one on there hands.


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Unread 2 years agoclass of '12 - away - #16
JBAL NY 47 heat pts47 space
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wasnt all that hype going into it but figured i'd give it a shot cuz FX usually got them quality shows



sh*t got me by surprise. i got high hopes for this sh*t


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Unread 2 years agoclass of '07 - on now - #17
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FX is k!lling it. great pilot
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - away - #18
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '04 - away - #19
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JBAL NY said:
wasnt all that hype going into it but figured i'd give it a shot cuz FX usually got them quality shows



sh*t got me by surprise. i got high hopes for this sh*t


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I don't think they're going to have to. Stan looked in the trunk, saw nothing then had that, "The fu*k am I doing here, I'm just imagining sh*t" look on his face.
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Unread 2 years agoclass of '06 - away - #20
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The only spy show on TV made by an actual spy.



In The Americans, the new FX series that premiered Wednesday night, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two wholesome residents of an all-American suburb of Washington, D.C., circa 1981. But behind the facade of domestic drama, The Americans is an entirely different kind of show: The Jenningses are deep-cover KGB agents at the height of the Cold War. The series was created by Joseph Weisberg, who worked in the CIA’s directorate of operations from 1990 to 1994.

Slate talked with Weisberg (who is also the brother of Jacob Weisberg, the Slate Group’s editor in chief) and his fellow writer, executive producer, and showrunner Joel Fields about authenticity, history, and making viewers fall in love with murderous Russian spies.

Slate: Unlike any other espionage drama that I’m aware of on TV, this series was created by a former spy. I hear that Joe plays the “spy card” when he feels that real spies wouldn’t do something the other writers are suggesting for the characters. Do you worry that viewers aren’t used to accurate portrayals of the spy world?

Joe Weisberg: I used to worry about that, but now I only worry about the other writers in the room mocking me. People are used to things they’ve seen on TV. If you showed the way things really work, it would be boring. Like police and war, so much of this work is just sitting around, punctuated by moments of extreme violence.

Joel Fields: There was a great day before we started shooting when Joe sat us down—the writers, Adam Arkin our producer/director, and actors Keri, Matthew, and Noah Emmerich—and took a half-hour with a white board explaining surveillance to us, teaching us how to know if you’re being followed when you’re driving a car, without anyone knowing you’re looking. And then we all went outside and got to practice traffic surveillance.

Weisberg: I had a great ulterior motive. The only way they would stop mocking me about the spy card is if I gave them spy cards. But coming up in our third episode, we have a surveillance sequence that, for my money, is done more accurately and in a more interesting way than any surveillance sequence I’ve seen before.

Slate: Are there any other areas, other than surveillance, where you feel you had more realism than the typical TV/movie version of the spy world?

Weisberg: General tradecraft stuff. What we call communications, which is using signals to contact each other. Dead drops and the way agents are run and handled. A lot of what you see of spies in TV and movies has to do with blowing things up. In the real world, there’s a lot more recruiting and handling and running agents—which is all about relationships and human drama, which lends itself very well to a television show.




Slate: Homeland faced a backlash in Season 2 around realism and credibility. Is your show a response to Homeland’s having lost track of the real world?

Weisberg: I twist myself up in knots thinking about that. In a way, it’s all about what feels real, what you accept as real. I read a lot of criticism of Homeland where people said, “How would she ever be able to get to walk around headquarters when she’s just a visitor?” I worked at headquarters for four years, and I was leading the charge. I was outraged. And then at one point, I remembered, “You know what? There was a special badge for visitors who don’t need an escort. And Carrie would be someone who maybe would have been given one of those badges. Actually, crazily enough, that might be realistic.” But it doesn’t matter that I know that, because it seems totally unrealistic.

What matters is how it feels. John le Carré says he doesn’t strive for realism, he strives for authenticity, which he defines as what feels authentic. He fully accepts that his novels are not in the least bit realistic, but he tries to make them feel real. You make your own choice—are you going to suspend disbelief or not? I willingly and happily suspend disbelief. I love Homeland.

Slate: I’m fascinated by Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship. I wonder if the biggest challenge to their survival will come from outside—from the FBI—or from inside their marriage.

Fields: The Americans is at its core a marriage story. International relations is just an allegory for the human relations. Sometimes, when you’re struggling in your marriage or with your kid, it feels like life or death. For Philip and Elizabeth, it often is.



Slate: In Episode 2, the story revolves around an event in the life of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and a meeting with his British counterpart, John Nott. That made me ask myself, “Did that really happen?” Are you trying to get viewers to question the official version of the Reagan ’80s?

Fields: The show works on different levels of reality. There’s the fictional world of Philip and Elizabeth, their marriage, and their life. There’s the real world of what happened during the Cold War. And then there’s this hazy in-between world. So, for example, Caspar Weinberger was a real person. The show is speculating what nobody can know, which is what was going on in the secret world of the KGB at that time. Could they have possibly tried to put a bug in his home, and if they did, what would they have done with that information? Who knows?

There are times when we take leaps, but they’re careful leaps. For example, in Episode 4, the Reagan a.ssassination episode, the Jenningses go back and listen to some things off that bug. Now, we don’t know for sure that the KGB did that. However, we do know that there were tapes made of the White House Situation Room that day, and we used sections of those tapes in the bug that Philip and Elizabeth listen to. The question becomes what would they have done had they heard what actually happened? Among the things we found out in our research of that day was that Al Haig not only went on television and said, “I’m in control here,” but he also requested, and received, a copy of the nuclear football—the briefcase with the missile launch codes. So that episode asks what would these two spies do in the tension and fog of that day if they had that information.

Slate: You do some tricky things with viewers’ sympathies. In the first couple of episodes, it felt to me that Philip and Elizabeth were the more likable, sympathetic characters—even though they were working to undermine my country. Stan Beeman, the FBI man, felt less sympathetic, because his motivations and ideology were less clear, at least at the beginning. You made me identify with the Russian spies!

Weisberg: In the early days we used to worry: Will we be able to get people to sympathize with KGB officers? Then we cast Keri and Matthew and started watching, and that question evaporated, because they were so likable and sympathetic that we stopped worrying about it. Then we started writing the stories, and they do some terrible things, so we started worrying about it again.

Fields: What we have are these two characters who are f!ghting for their country. They’re f!ghting for a system that they believe in. But in 2013 we all know that repressive socialism was an utter failure. We know that system is not going to work.

Slate: Joe, your second novel, An Ordinary Spy, was set in the CIA, and you played around with censorship and how the CIA has to approve anything written by former agents. Did you also have to run The Americans by the agency?

Weisberg: Any script I write has to be submitted to the Publications Review Board at the CIA. They ask for a month, and we don’t really have that much time, so I send them in with what’s called a request to expedite. I always feel a little bad about it: “Dear Publications Review Board, here I am again asking for the expedited review ...” There haven’t been any occasions yet where they’ve asked me to take anything out of a script, which is what I expected, because I haven’t worked there for a number of years at this point. I still worry a little bit, though. Before giving the demonstration of surveillance techniques, I had to submit a request ahead of time, but that was approved also. Joel’s scripts go in, too, if we write them together.

Slate: So any script that has your name on it has to be reviewed by the agency?

Weisberg: That’s right.

Slate: There are certain similarities between the work of a CIA agent and a TV writer. They both deal with deception, misdirection, recruitment—albeit of viewers rather than a.ssets—and loyalty-building. Are you aware of taking the skills you developed in one job and applying them to the other?

Weisberg: That had never occurred to me, but Joel is nodding his head.

Fields: But Joe swears that the hours were much better in the CIA.

Weisberg: It’s true, it was 9 to 5.
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