I had no idea what ‘The Americans’ was going about when I sat down to watch it, ( I tend not to read the blurbs on these things as I believe it will bias my opinions as I am weak willed and impressionable).
But any programme or film that starts with a blow job, quickly followed by a chase scene and knife fight soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk is going to pique my interest.
That the sex is rather amusing and the man attached to the turgid member receiving the aforementioned fellatio seems to have his pleasure sensitivity levels set to ridiculous. And is ready to shoot his bullets before his gun is even out of the holster, with a fizzog twisted into a gurn of ecstatic exaltation not seen since this side of an acid rave up circa 1990, well that just makes it all the better.
Anyway, the bad guy being chased and eventually caught is a Russian spy, and the agents chasing him, well, they’re Russian too but not normal Russian agents. Oh no not on your nelly .
They are Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, undercover superspies sent by the KGB to pose as a regular couple who live in the suburbs with their nice American kids and their nice American jobs. Oh and the icing on the cake; it’s set in the motherfucking 1980’s. Oh yeah!
That there is the basic premise of ‘The Americans’, Fx’s new show that somehow has not been bought by Channel 5 or Channel 4 and is being aired by rubbish old ITV. As you can no doubt tell, I think it is fine premise indeed.
I guess this is the first ‘Homeland’ inspired political action thriller to appear in order to capitalise on that series’ runaway success. It’s not as confident in what it is as ‘Homeland’ and nor does it have its intensity, veering from heavy, uber seriousness to a lightweight almost camp vibe. Which is odd, considering it’s only a three parter and does not have worry so much about having to consider all the people all the time in order to get another season.
I am toying with the idea though that this is intentional, the show does not shove 80’s references down your throat. There is no super massive big hair, shoulder pads or pixie boots and no one watching Knight Rider and listening to Axel F.
In fact it’s the only the references to President Reagan and another sex scene where the huffing puffing is replaced by the grating wail of Phil Collins singing ‘In the Air Tonight’ that I even noticed the period.
However 80’s TV and Film was always bit odd; ultra-violence was graphically displayed but always juxtaposed with a witty one liner or wise crack to release the tension, it was dramatic theory played to extremes and now looks distasteful and almost perverse.
Even though ‘The Americans’ doesn’t operate anywhere near those bizarre altitudes, it does reflect them. We have vigilante revenge violence, then a camera lingers with saucy attention on a punctured hand as it spurts blood and of course it’s all set against the end of The Cold War.
And get this for a nod to ‘high concept’, the Jennings’ have a new neighbour, and what does he do for a living? He’s an FBI expert in espionage and spying!
Basically, ‘The Americans’ is an 80’s show made with all the those morally questionable corners sanded down, which is much better than it sounds.
Great stuff, I am going to watch part 2 right now.
10pm, June 1st on ITV