160 of 170 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2013
Okay. From the very first time I saw an advert for this show, I was intrigued. Finally, a new show with a unique premise - I just had to watch it, if only to get away from the 10th reincarnation of one of those once-successful cop shows.
And what an ambitious premise it is: Set in 1980's Washington D.C., the "Americans" in question are in fact not Americans at all, but Russian sleeper-spies, sent to the U.S. in the 1960's but only being activated (at least for the more dangerous capers) in the 1980's time-frame.
Of course, the first question I asked myself was if they would be able to pull off the 1980's Cold War 'feel'. Personally, I think they were successful at this - the show definitely has that 80's aura, and the period clothing, technology, and mind-sets of the characters is spot-on.
I also really love the way these "Americans" have their own struggles, in addition to the work itself. The characters deal with such issues as their true feelings inside an arranged 'marriage' of long standing, the impact of those feelings on their work, their relationship to their two children (who do not know that their own parents are in fact KGB spies!), the relative levels to which Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip (Matthew Rhys) have been assimilated into the evil capitalistic culture of America, and perhaps the best part of all - their struggles in dealing with their new KGB 'handler' Claudia, played magnificently by Margo Martindale.
The characters are very likeable and appropriately conflicted, if flawed, and not since Tony Soprano have I found myself 'rooting for the bad guys' to this extent. The acting on the part of the entire cast is great, the writing tight, and I don't feel as though things are being dragged out endlessly - the show moves along, which is good.
Here's hoping that S2 will be as good as S1. If so, we are in for a wild ride indeed!
99 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2013
Were it not for the fact that this astonishingly good series was unaccountably first broadcast on the UK's most rubbish television channel, and with each episode shredded to smithereens by commercial breaks, many people would now be talking about The Americans in the same paragraph, if not in the same sentence as, The Sopranos. Never has there been a stronger case, then, for putting one's name down for a box set many months before it's finally released.
Astutely written, immaculately cast from top to bottom and always directed with the utmost flair it's impossible not to marvel at the sheer cleverness of the whole enterprise. A cynic might proclaim how unbelievable is its premise but to them I would simply say, go look at the credentials of its executive producer (a former CIA officer) or do some rudimentary research into real-life spy Anna Chapman. If you still feel you can't suspend your disbelief, d'you know what? It simply doesn't matter (because you soon will.) The ingenuity of the plotting, the confidence of its execution, and not least the mesmerising performance of Keri Russell makes it impossible to look away. Drama this good improves the quality of your life.
Oh, and the wedding in the penultimate episode is worth the admission price alone.
76 of 86 people found the following review helpful
With the debut of the original FX television drama "The Americans," the network seemed to be inspired by the success of Showtime's EMMY winning "Homeland" which also addresses covert action on domestic soil. The FX channel, to me, has long been a leader in adult and challenging programs. In fact, they virtually changed the landscape of basic cable original programming with two of my all time favorite shows in "The Shield" and "Damages" and provocative button-pushers like "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me." If not for the adventurous FX (which continues to churn out some of TV's best shows), I don't think other networks (especially AMC with hits like Mad Men and The Walking Dead) would have been as likely to develop original programming. So thank you FX! Not all of the great shows should be on premium cable! "The Americans" fits comfortably into the niche of quality entertainment made for audiences looking for great storytelling. It has a nifty premise, to be sure, and its introductory season of thirteen episodes was a bona fide ratings and critical success.
Combining elements of a domestic drama with that of an espionage thriller, "The Americans" is set in the Reagan administration eighties when the Cold War was in full affect. On the surface, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings and their two children are the ideal suburban family. Living in a tranquil Washington DC neighborhood, they run a successful travel agency and do all the things that happy families in America are supposed to do. There's just one catch, though. The Jennings are really Soviet agents implanted into the United States, their marriage is just an assignment, and they use their business to cover for their information gathering missions. One of the show's most successful elements is in developing this central relationship. Having lived together for so long (not to mention shooting out a couple of kids), Phillip and Elizabeth still struggle to separate the personal from the professional. As the season progresses and the couple become more strained, this relationship will be put to the test of love versus loyalty.
At times, "The Americans" can seem far fetched. Much of the set-up is fueled by contrivance and coincidence. They just happen to move in next door to an FBI agent assigned to root out Russian spies? Once you give yourself over to the premise, however, it's easy to get into the intrigue and duplicity. Of course, it helps that the leads are portrayed by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Both are superb in very difficult roles. Given the fact that they employ a wide array of improbable disguises and noticeably artificial hair pieces, they still sold the characters as complex, multi-dimensional, and absolutely believable. The main story lines of Season One involve the double life the couple leads as it parallels the operations of their FBI counterparts. The neighbor (well played by Noah Emmerich) is actually running an informant in the Soviet embassy as Rhys is doing almost exactly the same thing with an American.
The tension escalates as the episodes push forward, the couple always one step ahead of the FBI. As they get a new handler (EMMY nominated Margo Martindale), their allegiances start to be tested. What if, in the end, the only ones they can rely on are each other? As I said, I really liked this as a relationship piece. When focused on the primary story threads, "The Americans" is grandly entertaining. There are a few missteps. The children, although a necessary component to the show, have a tendency to derail the action. In one completely superfluous plot strand, they find themselves in harm's way when accepting a ride from a stranger. Uggh, it reminded me of when Kim was stalked by a cougar on 24, that's how silly it was. But really, that's a minor complaint. Overall, the show demonstrates an intricate structure and smart scripts. But what will really sell you are Russell and Rhys, a true TV power couple. About 4 1/2 stars, room to grow even more in Season Two. KGHarris, 8/13.
81 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2013
Here's another example in the argument that TV is doing more adventurous stuff than the movies.
This show is very well done.
When I missed an episode and couldn't wait for it to pop up on on Demand, I went the Amazon route and it was a good experience.
56 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2013
I really enjoyed the pilot episode. It has the "Homeland" feel to it, but that's about it. This is another story altogether. In Homeland, its one potential guy who might have turned terrorist. But in this, the debate is if the KGB even exists, and in 1981, they were beginning to access the threat. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play married KGB spies. No one would ever know they are Russian spies. They live in a perfect neighborhood and have two children. They blend in perfectly. Of course, the children are Americans and have no idea what their parents do. I think this show has a lot of potential. I will be interested to see how it plays out and what complications arise for Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, especially now that their neighbor is an FBI agent. It's nice revisiting the past. SO far, so good.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2013
This is a very fresh treatment of the old cold war days. It is less about intrigue and more about the anxieties suffered by the characters. Though it may be difficult for some viewers, one may find oneself rooting for the bad guys. Doctrinaire communists embedded in America of the 80's? Masquerading as the "family next door"? It's easy to feel the personal conflicts that this setting engenders for the KGB couple and their family. Excellent plot lines, excellent casting and excellent acting.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2014
I had no intention of watching this because I figured, why should I watch a show about subversives trying to abuse my country? Wow, am I glad I was bored and zipping around Amazon looking for something to occupy my time. The Americans is well written, directed and acted. The Americans is 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. They speak like us, live like us and "are the neighbors next door".
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play the married couple, Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings. And thank goodness Keri Russell survived the "Felicity haircut" because this woman can act! I never would have thought she had it, but she does. She and Matthew are a well-matched pair. If you love spy dramas and you're all about James Bond, you will love this. If you just like great shows this is right for your too. You will find yourself pulling for them to get out of their scrapes with both the FBI and their own people who seem hellbent on sabotaging them along the way. And no one is safe. Characters are sacrificed for the sake of the story and real life, so it keeps you on your toes.
Never in love when they were put together as a couple by the KGB, after two kids and several years, their emotions are starting to move toward one another, but it's not easy as past loves, current lovers and the job as well as every day life get in the way. Of course we see more than one instance were Philip is definitely in love with his "arranged" wife, but Elizabeth is only just coming around. Their main complication is that Elizabeth is a radical KGB operative devoted to her country despite American life and friends rubbing off on her. Philip, on the other hand, likes the American fit. So much so, that his wife questions his "loyalty" to mother Russia. She's also worried that her American born-and-raised children are getting the sanitized idealism of what America is all about and she has to catch herself from correcting their notions. The kids, of course, have no idea who their parents really are.
It's also interesting to see what we were doing to the Russians during the cold war as well. By placing this story during the Reagan administration, many of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when some of this went down. At least I find it so.
The latest fly in their soup comes when an FBI agent and his family move in across the street from the Jennings. Seasoned with years of undercover work, Agent Stan Beeman played by Noah Emmerich is getting "vibes" from the couple who come to welcome his family to the neighborhood. But Stan has his own problems: a floundering marriage; a new position at the FBI with a boss, Frank Gaad (played by Richard "John Boy" Thomas) intent on finding every "commie" in America no matter the cost, and a beautiful Russian Embassy worker that Stan turns to help the FBI.
As I said, acting, writing and directing is top notch. The stories are excellent and I watched the entire first season episodes back to back because I couldn't get enough. I don't think you will either. Enjoy
34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2013
***There are 4 actors omitted from the video details:
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (as Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings)
Margot Martindale (as Granny) and Annette Mahendru (as Nina)
"The Americans" is for viewers who thrill to think and feel "out of the box". It's especially geared to viewers who are able to suspend personal ideologies as a way to explore competing mindsets. And most definitely it's for people who do not wince at a serpentine/circuitous vision of good vs. evil. Without the influence of the anti-hero trend (Think Homeland, Dexter), this series could probably not even exist.
Having watched every episode, and many of them twice, I'll admit that I'm hooked on both the show and watching through Amazon every week. Super convenient, cheaper than a cable upgrade and no commercials.
I'd like to add a review (SPOILER ALERT!) of a tough episode to watch: #3. The "Gregory" episode literally takes no prisoners. It shocks with violence as loyalties run raw and destructive. Laced with bleak images and flashbacks, a big chunk of history gets packed into 45 minutes, maybe too much "history": It soon becomes clear that Gregory has been the fulcrum of the Jennings's teeter-tottering relationship for 14 years. And that's a revelation which hits Phillip like a molotov cocktail. Episode 3 exposes the deepening faults in a dangerous partnership and sham marriage. Despite the fatalist vibe, if you plan to even occasionally watch this series, the "Gregory" chapter is a must see.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2015
Finally, reluctantly, watched The Americans. It is slimy insidious anti-Soviet propaganda but nonetheless engaging. Only the Soviets are really portrayed as violent in executing their intelligence assets and no mention is given of the American mass murder campaigns around the world in this period. How the CIA was allying with the Latin American landlord class, the mullahs in Afghanistan, the wahabbis in Saudi and the Gulf, the zionists et al to murder the secular populists and the left around the world and to create a world of fanaticism, chaos, violence, exploitation and ecocide. I'm cheering on the KGB but unfortunately know the bad guys won in the end.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2014
I really enjoyed the first season of this spy thriller. Since Amazon is still missing information about the release date and extras as of this posting, here is the information I found at [...]
...Fox Home Entertainment is now showing on their official schedule that this item will be in stores on February 11th. Here also is the finalized list of bonus material which will be found on either disc format, followed by the finalized package art (same as what we've previously shown you):
"The Colonel" Commentary featuring Joseph Weisberg, Joel Fields and Noah Emmerich
Executive Order 2579: Exposing the Americans
Perfecting the Art of Espionage
Ingenuity Over Technology