Leftridge: TV Time: The Americans Returns Next Week, Will Probably be Good

americansIf you haven’t watched the first season of FX’s The Americans, there’s still some time to check it out before Wednesday night’s premier. It’s not on Netflix, though, so you’ll have to find it on whatever virus-riddled Slovakian website you use to look at weird porn. (Upon further review, it appears that Amazon Prime Instant has the exclusive rights, so, well, there’s always that option, too.)

It’ll take you a little bit of time to power through the initial 13 episodes—it’s an hour long drama, as is the current fashion—but it’s worth it.

I’ll wait here…

…okay. How was it? Pretty great, right? Compelling? Expertly paced? Well-acted?

Exactly.

pizzalightI’ll admit, I was skeptical when the show premiered last season. On one hand, FX has had a pretty terrific recent track record of  producing TV dramas. And since I’m a fan of things that give me nostalgic twinges for my childhood, I also liked the fact that it was set in the 1980’s. But I like the things that I remember and love from being a kid; playing Nintendo with my dead-eyed friends, taping Bon Jovi songs off of the radio, Pizza Hut pizza that used to be good, Alf. When I was young, the REAL Cold War started after Chris Holman threw an ice-ball at my eye in a neighborhood snowball fight, and the whole thing had very little (or nothing) to do with the Russians.

Plus: I’ve gone on record as saying that frankly, I think spies are a little stupid. (Not spies themselves—they’re typically pretty smart, I’d imagine—but the idea of fictitious spies cavorting about has never really done anything for me, ever.)

But as we get older—and hopefully wiser—we begin to take an interest in the past. History becomes something to study and understand, possibly as a conduit for an enlightened tomorrow. A wise man—I think it was Sherwood Schwartz—once said something like, “if we don’t understand the future, that shit’s just gonna happen again, motherfucker,” and I think he was right.

hairbrian_bosworthSo there’s nothing wrong with a show that sometimes focuses on America’s geo-political turmoil during a period when I was more concerned with the proper way to tight-roll my jeans and whether I could talk my parents into letting me get a kick-ass Brian Bosworth haircut. I was too young to fully grasp the complexity and seriousness of the era’s environment, but that’s why we have books and Wikipedia, and shows like The Americans.

In case you missed it—and haven’t really put it together yet, based off of my inane ramblings—the show is about two married KGB agents who live in Washington DC and, you know, do spy stuff. This would all be very passé, except that their new neighbor is an FBI agent who focuses specifically on spy stuff, AND the two KGB agents don’t really love each other on account of this all being an arranged situation, but because of human emotions and whatnot, they maybe DO love each other, but then again, maybe love is just too goddamned complicated, even for calculated, uncaring, super-intelligent Russian spies.

To simply sell this as either A) a spy drama with a human-condition subplot or B) a character driven drama where the characters all happen to be hugely important in a greater landscape, however, is doing the program a disservice. It’s a little bit of both those things, but it’s also a richly intense portrait of life, period. It’s actually pretty easy to see ourselves in any of these characters’ shoes, and that’s what makes this show work on a multitude of levels. The plots are mostly straight-forward, the characters aren’t unnecessarily complicated (other than, you know, being human or whatever), and, because some shows have all the luck, the suspense and drama never feels forced or contrived.

The-Americans-ImageAnd that’s why I’m glad I learned long ago that sometimes you might have a book with a cover that looks unappealing, but you should go ahead and check the book out, anyway. Because, even if you think spy stories are boring as hell, there could be much more to the spy-story than a lot of boring cryptography bullshit and wrist watches that do more than wrist watches should. Sometimes, a story is a lot like the Transformers and there’s more than meets the eye.

The Americans second season premiers Wednesday on FX, 9pm CT.

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16 Responses to Leftridge: TV Time: The Americans Returns Next Week, Will Probably be Good

  1. Natural 1 says:

    I liked the first season ok but you really need to be checking out True Detective. Best thing on tv right now

  2. admin says:

    Brandon picked this one last year and I thought it was excellent.

    Hearing Season Two will be even better.

    As for True Detective, I tapped out on that one after the first episode

    • I’m cheap, so I don’t know True Detective. I’ve heard nothing but glowing things, though. (And H, for what it’s worth, I’ve heard you’ve gotta make it through three episodes for it to really pull you in.)

      I just finished Top of the Lake. Holy shit. EVERYONE needs to check it out. It’s on Netflix. Takes even longer than three episodes to draw you in, probably, but it’s worth it.

      • Pete says:

        I agree with the firstg guy though For real. True Detective is where it’s at. Greatest show on tv today. Americans is oak from what I seen, ,, but it’s not TrueDetective st all.

      • admin says:

        Brandon:

        I heard the same thing, only two episodes. But after that first one, life’s too short…There’s too many tempting options.

      • Hot Carl says:

        Top of the Lake wasn’t bad…had a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe. The broad from Mad Men was great in it. I’ve been pushing people to catch The Fall with Gillian Anderson. Fantastic show.

  3. Pete says:

    At all I meant to say lol

  4. balbonis moleskine says:

    True Detective with Woody and Wooderson is the best new show on TV, hands down. Admin you missed the second episode: full bush and it wasn’t even covered in antlers

    • admin says:

      OK, OK…

      Maybe I’ll go back. But can we at least agree that first episode was as slow moving and boring as imaginable. And there’s so many other good options.

      Take Lilyhammer to name one.

  5. chuck says:

    I gotta go with the crowd here, True Detective is the best show on TV. This is really McConaughey’s year. “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Mud” and “Wolf…” are excellent, but True Detective takes it to a whole different level. Most of the time, when I hear actors talk about their “art” I wanna puke, but MM exists in his characters the way Streep does and P. Hoffman did.

    I will try “The Americans”.

    🙂

    • chuck says:

      By the way, check out “The Yellow King” references to True Detective. Also, I like sticking around after the show and listening to the brilliant writers (Forgot their names) discuss the particulars.

      Seriously, it’s the best entertainment on TV, imo.

  6. Super Dave says:

    True Detective will clean up come award time. It’s a very intense drama that requires you to pay attention to the show along with the ability to add 100 and 100 and come up with 200. This isn’t a series where you spend time reading and sending texts like at the movie theater Hearne.

  7. PB says:

    Will agree with everyone else that True Detective is outstanding and already belongs somewhere in the patheon of greatest tv shows ever. And as said, you bailed way too early admin, as the second episode featured perhaps the best exposed rack (my God!) in television history, the third episode an acting tour de force by MM and the fourth episode a Children of Men-like continuous shot of a ghetto gone amok. And all that ties into a great character study within an intriguing murder mystery. Excellent.

    As for The Americans, it took a while for me to get into that show as I thought the first few episodes were kind of cheesy with it’s spy game in the 80s motif, but once they started to focus more on the characters, things really took off during the last half of the season and I’m now really looking forward to the second season. Added bonus, that Russian double-agent that has the FBI neighbor guy all flustered, is sexy as hell.

  8. Jimmy Cliff says:

    True Detective—+1

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