There’s a lot of frustration in tv: shows cancelled in their prime, producers pushing weird storylines for viewers, actors leaving before the show is done. But what has to be the most frustrating is watching a show that really COULD be good, could be great, and just never pushes that far. That’s me and my latest binge-watch, The Americans.
The Americans is an FX drama starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. The premise is that they’re Russian sleeper spies in the 1980’s – posing as an all-American couple with two kids in the suburbs while doing whatever KGB spies do in the DC area. You know what is interesting about that premise? EVERYTHING. You know what we’re focusing on in the middle of season 2? The couple freaking out about their daughter attending church.
Here are super interesting themes and plot points that come in the show or are implied:
- Elizabeth and Phillip are complete strangers when they first meet to be “married” and Elizabeth is super uncomfortable with the whole thing for about 15 years
- Phillip is in love with his “wife” but is afraid she thinks he’s hideous or disappointing
- Their kids are being raised with typical modern all-American values that the two hate
- KGB! Russia!
- Capturing the 1980’s zeitgeist! 80’s power!
- They become BFFs with their FBI next door neighbor
- The Reagan administration
- spiiiiies. Super spies! Lifetime trained spies!
- the transition between being a Russian spy in Moscow and moving to America
Instead, here are things the show has spent the majority of time on:
- Elizabeth and Phillip’s cold, loveless, and awkward marriage
- their daughter Paige going to church and quitting volleyball
- the cold, loveless, and awkward marriage of their next door neighbors
- lots of slow car chases
- lots and LOTS of boring dinner/breakfast family conversations
- did I mention their cold and loveless marriage ALL THE TIME
- Keri Russell wearing her hair sideways forever
Keri Russell is pretty flat and humorless in the show, I think she is not suited to the role at all. Matthew Rhys is amazing but can only really shine when he’s spy acting as someone else. The writing is rather atrocious in season 1 but is starting to pick up in 2. The best part of the show is Annet Mahendru who plays a Russian double (triple????) spy and is genuinely amazing and please get her her own show. Please stop showing me Keri Russell yelling at her kids to get ready for school because they’re going to be late like, every single episode. I am watching a spy show please. No backpacks.
The show is certainly gaining traction in the second season (I’m halfway through). They’re still being weird about Elizabeth and Phillip’s marriage – everything is good, then it’s not, nobody talks about anything. They are priming their daughter to become a more complex character but it’s going to be slow. The missions can sometimes be interesting. I think what is severely lacking is an actual goal/endgame. Destroying the Americans isn’t really something that’s going to happen…just little bits and pieces along the way. So what are we watching for? If that ultimate goal is a fool’s errand, then emphasize that and play off it it more. How is this going to end and why should I keep sticking around to find out?
I’m still here, so I guess they’re doing something right. I just wish the show would tighten up the weekly plots and writing a bit more and give us a clear plot pathway, at least something to root for. And for god’s sake do some work to match your sexy and stylish marketing.
I WISH that was the show I was watching. Only time will tell.