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Everything You Need to Know About The Americans

The Americans, which airs on FX, is a period drama set in America during the 1980s. The show has received numerous nominations, awards and generally critical praise for its performances, storyline, as well as its writing and even video editing.

The series is considered a modern period drama, somewhat like the AMC series Mad Men, since it is set in the past but still within a somewhat contemporary time frame. Since its premiere in 2013, the show has gathered a significant fan base–including some notable TV critics–and although the ratings for the show have gone down in reason seasons, it is still one of FX’s most successful shows. There are currently three seasons of other show, with a fourth season set to air in 2016.

If you aren’t yet watching The Americans: you should be! Especially if you are a fan of American history, contemporary period dramas, or simply want to watch a show with great acting, great storylines, and a lot of intrigue. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about The Americans.

The Premise

Margo Martindale as 'Claudia'
Margo Martindale as ‘Claudia’

The general premise of the Americans is as follows: Two KGB agents, Nadezhda and Mischa, have been posing as an American couple (named Elizabeth and Philip Jennings) for years in order to carry out special and extremely secret operations. The couple have two children, Paige and Henry, who don’t know of their parents secret—but may be on the verge of finding out. As ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Philip’ begin yet another mission, they find that their identity and their lives may be compromised.

The Creative Team

Joe Weisberg is the Executive producer of the show
Joe Weisberg is the Executive producer of the show

The show was created and is produced by Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer who began writing after he retired from the CIA. Weisberg is the head writer for the show as well. In addition to his work on The Americans, Weisberg also wrote episodes for Falling Skies, a TNT science fiction drama; as well as the legal drama Damages. Weisberg has also written two novels titled 10th Grade and An Ordinary Spy.

It is likely Weisberg’s personal experience in the CIA which makes the show so realistic; and in fact, Weisberg has revealed that he has used his personal knowledge of CIA operations (within legal and safe boundaries, of course) to accurately portray what it would have been like to be a spy during the 1980s.

The Cast

Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings
Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings

Creator Weisberg revealed in an interview that he didn’t have any idea who he would cast in the series before the casting process officially begin. John Landgraf, FX president, came up with the idea of having Keri Russell read for the role of Elizabeth Jennings–real name Nadezhda. Matthew Rhys was brought in to read for her fellow spy and faux husband, Philip. According to those who witnessed their reads together, the pair had the perfect chemistry for the characters and were cast in their respective roles.

In addition to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, the show also stars:

Lev Gorn as 'Arkady Ivanovich'
Lev Gorn as ‘Arkady Ivanovich’

Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, the couple’s daughter; Taylor has also appeared in films such as The Otherworld and The Cook, although she is best known for her role as Ballet Girl in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot. Keidrich Sellati plays Henry Jennings, the couple’s son, in his first notable film or TV role.

Noah Emmerich plays Stan Beeman, an FBI agent who may be getting too close to discovering the truth about the Jennings; Emmerich is best known for his roles in films and TV shows such as The Truman Show, Beautiful Girls, Super 8, Frequency, Melrose Place, The Walking Dead, and Monk.

Other cast includes Maximiliano Hernandez as Agent Amador; Susan Misner as Sandra Beeman; Annet Mahendru as KGB Agent Krivola; Richard Thomas as Agent Frank Gaad; Alison wright as Martha Hanson, Gaad’s secretary; and Costa Ronin as Oleg Burov, a Soviet officer.

The Reception

The show has received much critical acclaim since its premiere in 2013; notably in 2014, the show was named as one of the best shows on television but numerous critical publications. the first season of the show received a 90% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with many describing the show as ‘absorbing,’ ‘thriller,’ and ‘clever.’

The second season of The Americans received even higher critical praise than the first, earning a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The second season has been described as ‘one of TV’s finest dramas,’ ‘impossible to miss,’ and ‘nearly perfect.’ Critics especially praised the show’s storyline in season 2 as being groundbreaking; with critic Alan Sepinwall noting that the show took a “major creative leap–the kind that can elevate a show from a strong example of its era to one that transcends eras.”

The third season of the show has also received critical acclaim, earning an uncommon 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show’s third season has been praised for its increasingly layered plot, exceptionally strong performances, and high stakes for the characters in the show. The third season has even been noted as “one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history.”

There are certainly high expectations for the fourth season of The Americans, which is currently set to air in March of 2016; however, as each season has only been getting better and better, fans and critics are eagerly hoping that the upward streak of quality continues.

The Awards

In addition to critical praise, the show has received numerous nominations and awards from several major award associations. Its more notable awards include, but aren’t limited to:

  • The Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Margo Martindale)
  • Critics Choice Television Award for Best Drama Series (2015)
  • American Film Institute Program of the Year (2013 and 2014)
  • Peabody Award (2015)
  • Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding New Program (2013)
  • Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama (2015)

In all, the show has been nominated for a total of 32 awards so far (including several Emmy Awards) with a total of 8 wins.

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