Pop Culture

Are You Watching The Americans?

Because if you aren’t, you need to come sit by Auntie Selena for a minute. I’ll bring ’80s themed drinks and snacks. It premieres on Wednesday, the 26th at 10 p.m. on FX. Set your DVRs and Google calendars now. 

FX may continue to give Charlie Sheen’s career unnecessary oxygen, but they’re also producing one of the most complex, nuanced, and heart-stopping shows on TV. Here are my reasons why you should be watching.

Promo photo from FX series The Americans

1. The Americans is filled with women characters who are complex, dynamic, and riveting. Much like I’ve noticed about Game of Thrones, the stories in The Americans center around the women. The men have their stories, too, but the core of this show is built around Keri Russell’s Elizabeth. Elizabeth isn’t a character that’s easy to like, let alone love, but the writing and Russell’s performance make her very real. She’s not defined by any single characteristic, but by the sum of her parts. Equally complex is her mentor/nemesis, Claudia, played by National Treasure ™ Margo Martindale. Secondary women characters, from a Russian double agent forced to work with the CIA, to Martha, Elizabeth’s husband Phillip/Clark’s mark/lover who’s unknowingly feeding him information about the CIA, to the wife of the main CIA agent, to Clark and Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, are all written as real, breathing, complicated people, and it’s damn refreshing.

2. The Americans is more honest than most dramas about race in America. Early in the series, in the spectacular episode “Gregory,” the show delves into a little addressed part of our history; when the KGB recruited from racial minorities frustrated and oppressed in the “land of the free.”

Plus, this happens.

Gregory, a character from FX's The Americans. Text reads "Find someone who will love you because you're strong."

3. The Americans gets everything right about the ’80s, except Keri Russell’s hair, which is not nearly big enough. For those of us old enough to remember the early ’80s, the set and costume design is delightfully accurate. The prop master seriously deserves a raise.

This is not ’80s hair. Trust.

Animated gif of the Jenkins, from FX's The Americans
Does she even Aqua Net?

4. No other show uses pop music as well as this one. The opening scene of the pilot, which is one of the most kinetic TV scenes I’ve ever seen, is set to a fifteen minute cut of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.” Go look up “Tusk” on YouTube right this minute if you don’t know it. “Tusk” is a vital part of our pop culture canon. Honorable mention goes to their use of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”

5. Richard Thomas apparently stopped aging 30 years ago, and does a delicious turn in The Americans as a CIA heavy.

6. The show is definitely violent, but for the most part, it’s not gratuitous. Even the scenes that are gratuitous are different than violence you’ve seen before, as illustrated in the following gif.


Keri Russell's Elizabeth punches Margo Martindale's Claudia, in a scene from FX's The Americans

7. It passes the Bechdel test, which, of course, isn’t a be-all-end-all quality indicator, but it’s still refreshing.

So go watch The Americans, or talk about it with me in the comments if you’re already watching, because I’m ready to get all psyched up for the premiere in two weeks.

Top image from F/X, gifs from Uproxx.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

One reply on “Are You Watching The Americans?”

Okay, OKAY

I’ve been planning watching this for a while although I’ve been hearing very mixed comments. Maybe it’s a bit under the radar -ish about its quality?
As soon as I’ve found my series watching grove back, I’ll find the whole first season lot. Maybe it’s something for my boyfriend+me+dinner watch?

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