|Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in FX's The Americans.|
The last piece Critics at Large’s David Churchill was working on before he died was a post on the TV show The Americans. His ill health prevented him from finishing his post and I never did find out what he thought of the series. I’m sorry he never got to write on The Americans as I’m sure he would have had some interesting, provocative things to say about it. This post is dedicated to his memory. - ss
Note: this post also contains some spoilers.
When I first heard of the new FX series, The Americans, about a married couple, posing as Americans who are actually Soviet sleeper agents living undercover in the United States, I was worried. I thought that the series would traffic in moral equivalence, implying or stating outright that the two major opponents in the Cold War were somehow one and the same. I also remembered the outcry from the myopic left, back in 1987, when ABC aired the mini-series Amerika, detailing a future scenario wherein the Soviet Union took over the U.S. Their concerns were that the show would foment hatred against the Soviet Union, though of course, they would never have protested a Soviet TV show suggesting the reverse. This occurred during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and, of course, he was considered much more the villain than they were, though I know fear of a nuclear war between the Soviets and the U.S. also played a part in protesters’ worries that Amerika could somehow make the already tense situation between the two sides worse. In any case, the creatively uneven mini-series aired to mixed reviews and so-so ratings and pretty much vanished from the cultural radar (it’s never been released on DVD.) Fortunately, The Americans, from cable channel FX, which begins its second season on Feb. 26 – its first season is now out on DVD – is a much superior production and, equally as gratifying, functions as a timely reminder of how vicious and dangerous the Soviets actually were. (They weren’t far off the ‘evil empire’ mark Reagan said they were.) That’s not to say, The Americans is a black and white simplistic affair. It’s certainly not that. At its best, it is one of the better, more compelling cable shows of recent years.