To watch or not to watch: “The Americans”

The Americans

I like TV that makes you think. Too often shows just pander to their lazy audiences, especially comedies. After all, who wants to come home from a long hard day at work and think? I, however, have always been partial to shows with a heavy-hitting undercurrent. I want to be taken for a ride.

As a senior in college, I took a course in television criticism. It was the first journalism class that actually allowed me to feel like I was doing something other than just taking notes on lectures about AP Style and the difference between slander and libel. We watched pilot episodes of several shows and analyzed them. I wrote term papers of ten or more pages on shows like Gilmore Girls and Boy Meets World. It re-wired my brain by giving me a fresh perspective on one of my most beloved “hobbies.” It helped me in the long run, particularly where entertainment journalism is concerned, into really letting the theme of a scene kick in and noticing nuances in character development. This isn’t to say I spend every moment dissecting the plot of what I’m watching—it just means that when I want to, I can flip a switch and really delve into the heart of a storyline with a keener eye.

Something tells me this will come in handy when watching FX’s new spy drama “The Americans.”

It’s 1981 in Washington D.C. and Ronald Reagan has just been elected president. Keri Russell (of Felicity fame) and Matthew Rhys (from Brothers & Sisters-yay!) are Elizabeth and Philip Jennings. They’re your typical suburban couple by day … and Russian KGB operatives working undercover by night. Their marriage was arranged for them back in Moscow almost 20 years ago, their children have no idea who they truly are, and an FBI counter-intelligence agent just moved in across the street. Ah yes, the American good life.

Back in January when I began seeing teaser trailers for this show, I was vaguely interested. I thought about setting my DVR for the pilot. Then I forgot. I had never watched Felicity and therefore didn’t care too much about Keri. Having no clue who Matthew Rhys was yet, I didn’t see any other familiar faces that would entice me to watch. I’m always leery of shows with half seasons because they seem experimental and usually hit or miss, plus I had already decided to give The Following a shot. (There’s only so much room on a DVR, after all.) But apparently it was the most-watched debut of any FX series ever, bringing in 5.11 million viewers and prompting a speedy sophomore season pick-up. Can’t argue with that. After realizing that it was, in fact, Kevin Walker kicking ass and taking names, I went ahead and bought the pilot on iTunes last week. Aaaaand I’m hooked. I bought the whole season the very next day. Worthy of a bingefest, I’ve only gotten to the second episode as I want to save it for some rainy weather and knock it out in a single weekend.

If any of you are guilty of the same faux paus of ignoring the signs of an excellent TV show, but you’re still unsure if you should get swept up in the hype, you can read my gut reaction play-by-play of the pilot coming soon.

Did any of you watch The Americans?
Is it good enough to keep going for the full season?
(No spoilers please!)


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