The Americans

I loved the first and second series of this American drama shown on television here.  I believe there is a third series with yet another on the way but the second series was particularly strong.  The conceit is a good one and one that works better over the extended format of a television series; it would be weaker as a film.


Two KGB agents live the all American life with their son and daughter in the suburbs of Washington DC.  All seems well and ‘normal’ with this family except Philip and Elizabeth carry out missions for the Soviets as instructed by their handler.  Their children know nothing of their parents real identities and neither does the neighbour who happens to be an FBI agent working in counter intelligence.  All of this is made more potent by the fact that it is the 80s and Reagan is not a conciliatory player in the Cold War.

Throughout the series we see the conflict in both parents as their children grow up as Americans.  Philip in particular finds his feelings as a father can get in the way of his mission.  Elizabeth sees her children grow up in a system she is dedicated to overthrowing and has limited room for manoeuvre in terms of combating the messages given by the American school system.  Their real ‘job’, masked by their pretend work as travel agents, is just one aspect of who these people are and that makes this a fascinating series.

There are three main strands to this series and, although they interweave, the fascination comes from the idea that no one knows where the enemy is.  We see the FBI at work, the inside of the Russian Embassy and the spies themselves.  We know how the activities of these strands affect the others even if they rarely cross paths.  Having been brought up to fear the Soviet Union, and having been taught for many years that the Russians wanted to take over, the most amazing thing is my sympathies are all with Philip and Elizabeth; that is clever television!

‘The Americans’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?


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