Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I’m sure there were Russian spies back then. My guess is they primarily worked sources for information. They weren’t Boris & Natasha. Every week this pair gets some MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE assignment then spends the next hour killing people, donning disguises, installing bugging devices in cabinet members homes, transmitting and receiving coded messages on Radio Shack whizbang equipment, and sleeping with sources. All the while they’re getting their kids off to school and having the usual squabbles married couples who have been assigned to each other by the KGB have.
And this is only the first season. By year three they should be hijacking the space shuttle and banging Nancy Reagan.
But I love the show.
It’s goofy fun. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf meets Moose and Squirrel must die.
The number one reason I watch is because of Matthew Rhys. As the husband, Phillip he lights up the screen. Always interesting, often surprising, and despite the dering-do, always real and nuanced. He can fool you into thinking this is not a cartoon despite wearing a ridiculous wig. Al Pacino wasn’t able to do that last Sunday on HBO.
Noah Emmerich as the FBI borscht hunter is also excellent. He’s one of those character actors you’ve seen in a million things and never gave him much thought. But here he shines, adding sensitivity and dimension to what could easily be a cliché role.
Keri Russell is gorgeous to look at, especially when she dons sleek leather cat burglar togs. Think Honey East. But if I’m being honest, I don’t love her character. She hasn’t smiled once since episode two and she’s got kind of a Soviet flag stuck up her ass. I’d love her to get the following coded instructions from Moscow: Lighten up and show more cleavage.
The marital fights are starting to get a little tedious. He wants to make it work then he’s mad. She wants to make it work then she’s mad. Go see Dr. Drew or figure it out. Their stance on extra-marital sex is interesting. It’s okay to sleep with other people in exchange for information but not colleagues. This feels more Clinton era than Reagan.
Richard Thomas plays the calculating FBI director, but who are we kidding? It’s John-Boy in a J. C. Penney's suit.
From the constant disclaimers you’d think each episode had more sex than LAST TANGO IN PARIS but in fact there’s only brief nudity and worse, it’s not Kerri Russell who gets naked. Still, they probably go to limit of what’s allowed on FX.
There are nagging little questions like how does Matthew’s wigs stay on even when he’s being tortured? Why doesn’t John-Boy say goodnight to everybody? Don’t the kids get suspicious when Mom packs herring in their lunch boxes? Is Marina Squerciati a stage name? Is the Russian Tea Room still as good now that it’s no longer under original management? And just who the hell are we supposed to root for – the Ruskie spies or our FBI?
Still, none of that matters. THE AMERICANS is a hoot. I look forward to Matt & Kerri’s further adventures together, although if I had my way – Matt would dump her for the former girlfriend Irina, Kerri would hook up with Yakov Smirnoff, and Margo Martindale would marry Alexander Haig.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM