5 Reasons to Watch: 'The Americans'

Image via FX
Image via FX

The Americans returns tonight on FX. The odds are that you’ve probably missed this show to this point. Our own Dave Delisle didn’t even enjoy it. I, however, love this show. Since the internet only seems to like their pieces in accurately numbered categories and lists, here’s five reasons to check out The Americans.

 

The Setting

The Cold War has always been fascinating to me. Espionage, culture clash, the world on the brink of destruction. It’s a wonder everything isn’t set in this time period.

Granted, it is a bit of a grey, ugly period fashion-wise. It doesn’t have the splash of a show like Mad Men. Acid washed jeans don’t exactly compare to slick suits and psychedelic dresses. But, the end of the Cold War was as tense as it got. Any wrong move could lead to nuclear war. Plus, there’s all that goofy technology. Giant computers, floppy discs, Atari, mail delivering robots, yeah!

 

The Music

My gawd, the use music on The Americans is sensational. There was Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” in the pilot episode. The montage with Pete Townshend’s “Rough Boys” featuring Elizabeth beating the crap out of a man in a bathroom stall is stellar. The moment that really stands out is when Roberta Flack’s cover of “To Love Somebody” was used for a tragic moment in season 1. There’s more on the use of music in The Americans in this AV Club piece.

 

The Stakes

The basis for The Americans might be the global showdown between the USA and USSR, but what really matters is so much smaller. The Jennings family is the core of the show. So much of it comes down to the choice of family versus country. Elizabeth and Philip wouldn’t even be where they are without their mission. But is their old homeland more important than their flesh and blood? It helps set everything up in this lovely, murky grey area.

 

The Cast

The acting in The Americans is top notch. Kerri Russell is doing the best work of her career as (mostly) icy Elizabeth. Matthew Rhys is a chameleon, effortlessly switching Philip’s personas for each mission. Noah Emmerich has turned the token cop role into something far more interesting as Stan Beeman. Margo Martindale was terrific as Claudia, but sadly she had to move on to other work. So who do they get to replace her? Oh, no big deal, just Frank Langella. They’ve even found child actors that don’t make me loudly sigh every time they’re on screen.

 

The Wigs

Image via Vulture
Image via Vulture

No show in history of television has boasted a wig game as strong as The Americans. It’s the GOAT in this category. Curly wigs, big wigs, balding wigs. The Jenningseseses’ disguises rule. Vulture even went and compiled every one of them.

That’s half the fun of watching. Will someone see through it and catch them? They’re constantly living on the edge. The entire thing could fall apart at any moment.

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