Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tune In or Tune Out: The Americans (F/X)

The Americans
Created by Joe Weisberg 
Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich

Tune-in or tune out is going to be a new series centered on new television shows.  The goal is to provide people with the opportunity to gage a shows viewership potential.  This week I am tackling the new F/X series The Americans starring Keri Russell (Felicity) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters).

The Americans follows Phillip (Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Russell), a married suburban couple who are also spies for the Soviet Union living in America during the 1980s.  The central premise of the show follows the couple as they hunt down a Soviet defector.  While this moment is action packed the series centers on the familial dynamic of the Jennings.  Phillip and Elizabeth have set up "good life" in America, they have two children, and are established.  When an FBI agent moves in across the street after their operation gets blown then tension builds and they two have to navigate their love for the Motherland, and their lives they have built.

The Americans is a fast paced thriller/drama, with strong acting.  While at an hour and a half the show lost steam every now and then I think the hour long dramatic episode will suit this show well.  Rhys and Russell have strong on screen acting chemistry, and they prove they are incredible actors who will help make this material even stronger.  Russell is in fact the MVP so far; she kicks ass, and is one talented actress. 

Some of my favorite moments were watching Phillip and Elizabeth try to pretend their love for America.  As Phillip is at a school assembly with his son he pretends to mouth the words of the National Anthem. There are moments when this seems forced, and like it will become contrived like with the first meeting of the FBI agent, and he states oh I hate Soviets.  While this could become a flaw my hope is Weisberg will get this out of his system. 

While I thought the FBI moving across the street would be cliche along with the constant mention of hating the Soviet Union, I am intrigued by Noah Emerich's character and the depth he could bring to this agent.  I think there is a lot this show can do with this, and my hope is that with Weisman's FBI background he will flesh out this story.

I can move past all of this, but my biggest complaint about this show is that the emphasize dates and time frames quite often, but this does not feel like a "period show."  There is nothing within the art direction or even the clothing to signify the 80s.  Russell could have had bad hair again, and gotten away with it this time.  The show needs to fix this piece because it feel essential to the plot, and they need to do more than just play Genesis.

Yet this was an engrossing television show, with great performances. If you like strong family drama mixed with some action packed thriller moments then this is a show for you.

Update Status 2/25/13

After a few episodes this show is losing me fast, and while I like the concept and cast, I am not sure if the premise, writing, etc can sustain me as a long time viewer.  F/X shows are hit or miss for me, and while many of them are creative they are often some of the more inconsistent with their seasons, look at Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Damages, Sons of Anarchy, and Justified.  Although the latter two are their most consistent.  I feel as though many of their shows seem like they would be better mini-series.

Current Verdict: Two More Episodes and, if there is little improvement I am Out!

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