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post #1021 of 1060 Old 05-26-2014, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by foxeng View Post

From Tradecraft to Sexpionage, Cold War K.G.B. and U.S. Spies Concur: The Americans Actually Happened


http://www.vanityfair.com/vf-hollywood/the-americans-real?mbid=social_twitter

However they didn't run around killing each other like mobsters.

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post #1022 of 1060 Old 05-26-2014, 09:41 AM
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However they didn't run around killing each other like mobsters.

Probably not as much as the series shows for dramatic purposes, but there was likely still some foul play from time to time.
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post #1023 of 1060 Old 05-26-2014, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by archiguy View Post

Probably not as much as the series shows for dramatic purposes, but there was likely still some foul play from time to time.

I've read a couple books on Cold War espionage (mostly to read about the nifty devices) and the only cases I remember where people got killed were Soviet executions of Soviet citizens spying and even those were rare since they could be used to bargain with later. In The Americans the bodies were piled up to the ceiling this season as if that were routine procedure. Phillip and Elizabeth even tried not killing someone for a change and he ended up dead anyway!

This completely prevents me from taking the show seriously in any way. The espionage has been just a weak plot to motivate the sex and violence. It's not much more believable than 24.

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post #1024 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 09:38 AM
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I was kinda stunned by how many deaths there were this season too but I wouldn't call the premise a weak excuse for sex and violence. If anything, I'd say the showrunners might have worried they were making the Soviet spies too likeable, and thought they better show just how high the stakes are in the game, and what they are willing to do to win it.

As far as real life, we don't really know how many deaths spies are responsible for...they're spies after all. The nature of the job is to hide what you do. .

"There is no truth. There's just what you believe."
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post #1025 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by scowl View Post

I've read a couple books on Cold War espionage (mostly to read about the nifty devices) and the only cases I remember where people got killed were Soviet executions of Soviet citizens spying and even those were rare since they could be used to bargain with later. In The Americans the bodies were piled up to the ceiling this season as if that were routine procedure. Phillip and Elizabeth even tried not killing someone for a change and he ended up dead anyway!

This completely prevents me from taking the show seriously in any way. The espionage has been just a weak plot to motivate the sex and violence. It's not much more believable than 24.

This is a TV show after all. Do you accept the premise of cop shows where a crime is solved every week and usually involves gunfights and car chases? Or lawyer shows where a case is wrapped up in a few days?

The Americans is basically Mission Impossible (the TV show) from the Russian perspective and minus all the cool gadgets. Maybe next season, there will be a Soviet version of Barney Collier.
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post #1026 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:02 AM
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This is a TV show after all. Do you accept the premise of cop shows where a crime is solved every week and usually involves gunfights and car chases? Or lawyer shows where a case is wrapped up in a few days?

No, I don't waste my time watching stupid television shows like those.

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The Americans is basically Mission Impossible (the TV show) from the Russian perspective and minus all the cool gadgets.

No, Mission Impossible was about a team of covert agents which would travel into presumably communist enemy countries (in the early seasons anyway) to complete a single mission in every episode. They didn't have sleeper agents in those countries and they didn't have season-long story arcs. And unlike The Americans, the show didn't have press releases telling us about how much research the producers did to make the show as realistic as possible. It was an entirely different show.

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post #1027 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by lonwolf615 View Post

I was kinda stunned by how many deaths there were this season too but I wouldn't call the premise a weak excuse for sex and violence. If anything, I'd say the showrunners might have worried they were making the Soviet spies too likeable, and thought they better show just how high the stakes are in the game, and what they are willing to do to win it.

That was a problem with spying during the Cold War: the public didn't really care. Except for the Rosenbergs, there were no cases of Soviet espionage that shocked the public. John Anthony Walker passed on nearly every technical secret about American submarines to the Soviets but despite giving the Soviets a huge advantage in the case of a war, no one really cared.

The Americans does its best to work around this problem by adding sex and violence and coming up with silly twists like the Americans passing on defective submarine propeller plans to the Soviets that... caused a Soviet sub to crash and kill everyone on it? We're supposed to think the Soviets can't test a submarine propeller?

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As far as real life, we don't really know how many deaths spies are responsible for...they're spies after all. The nature of the job is to hide what you do. .

But the nature of investigators is to figure out what they've done. Go through all the murders that Phillip and Elizabeth have committed. Apparently the FBI wasn't much better than Soviet naval engineers because they haven't noticed anyone missing yet despite the murders taking place in suspicious locations. I laughed a lot at the nerd who caught Phillip putting a trace on the ARPANET hub and got butchered and thrown in a trash can! A good spy wouldn't have had to do that.

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post #1028 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by scowl View Post

No, I don't waste my time watching stupid television shows like those.
No, Mission Impossible was about a team of covert agents which would travel into presumably communist enemy countries (in the early seasons anyway) to complete a single mission in every episode. They didn't have sleeper agents in those countries and they didn't have season-long story arcs. And unlike The Americans, the show didn't have press releases telling us about how much research the producers did to make the show as realistic as possible. It was an entirely different show.

Wow, you must not watch a lot of television then (other than The Americans). wink.gif You probably don't waste your time on Reality Shows either since those are all cast and manipulated by the producers to increase the drama and melodrama levels.

Of course there are differences between TA and MI, but if you boil down them down to the essentials, you get: Spies, covert missions, disguises, devices, intrigue, and danger, As for the authenticity of the show, the creators probably did some research and jotted down some real life events and scenarios and built the show around that. They probably have some advisors to keep things plausible, but at the end of the day, they need to create stories that will keep people coming back. I don't think the audience will stick around to watch Phillip and Elizabeth listening to wiretaps all day and sitting in cars doing surveillance.

Also, I think the deaths that have been portrayed on the show were not just the Illegals mowing down people left and right with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Each death served as a plot point. Phillip having a crisis of "faith" when he had to kill the young kid when he was caught on base. The deaths of the other Illegals which turned out to be caused by the son. Elizabeth refusing to save the Nicaraguan agent because it was for the "greater good." Even the indiscriminate killing by Larrick showed what a monster he was and P & E were right to fear him.
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post #1029 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:44 AM
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As explained in the show, the sub screw was rushed into use without proper testing and against protocol.
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post #1030 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by hooked01 View Post

Wow, you must not watch a lot of television then (other than The Americans). wink.gif

Believe it or not, there's some quality television out there. You just have to look for it. Unfortunately a recent trend is to pass mediocre shows like The Americans as serious historical drama.

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You probably don't waste your time on Reality Shows either since those are all cast and manipulated by the producers to increase the drama and melodrama levels.

Actually I do and laugh at the obvious manipulation while the producers pretend that we're all too stupid to figure out what they did.

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Of course there are differences between TA and MI, but if you boil down them down to the essentials, you get: Spies, covert missions, disguises, devices, intrigue, and danger,

What you and I consider "essential" are much different. I want believable characters, believable plots that make sense. If a show it trying to pass itself off as a slice of history, it must have some resemblance to that history.

If that's just too dang hard then bring back Alias, a great spy show that never took itself too seriously and had several brilliant plots.

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I don't think the audience will stick around to watch Phillip and Elizabeth listening to wiretaps all day and sitting in cars doing surveillance.

Have you seen any good spy films? "The Falcon and the Snowman" for example?

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Also, I think the deaths that have been portrayed on the show were not just the Illegals mowing down people left and right with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Each death served as a plot point. Phillip having a crisis of "faith" when he had to kill the young kid when he was caught on base.

Yes, and it upset him for almost ten minutes then he forgot about it and went back to killing. This was not a plot point. It changed nothing.

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post #1031 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 11:19 AM
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As explained in the show, the sub screw was rushed into use without proper testing and against protocol.

But not explained in the show: why did they do that? What if they had simply discovered in the design that they had been fooled and it could have killed sailors? Too boring for the audience?

In a real life case, the Soviets were trying to illegally import some VAX computers. FBI agents discovered the shipment, removed all the electronics and let the metal boxes travel on. It was a huge victory for the FBI even though it didn't kill any Soviets.

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post #1032 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 12:14 PM
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Have you seen any good spy films? "The Falcon and the Snowman" for example?
You can't compare a movie to a TV series.

A movie is 90-120 minutes and it's a captive audience, assuming they don't want to blow their admission money.

A TV series runs for week after week. If every episode, the spy craft was dead on, people wouldn't make it past the 2nd or 3rd episode. You'd have Rubicon, and you can see where that ended up.

Look, I think The Americans does a fine job of toeing the line between a good spy drama and having enough action (both on the streets and in the bedroom) to keep casual viewers engaged. If that's not good enough for you, then you're not going to like the show any better as it goes along. The fact is, without the casual viewer, there is no show since the fans on the genre aren't enough of an audience.

The Americans is like the A- student that still manages to get out on the field to run in some touchdowns for the home team. Maybe he'd be an A+ student taking AP courses if he spent more time in the library, but he wouldn't be nearly as popular.

I'm just glad he's smarter than that kid in the big bubble...


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post #1033 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by scowl View Post


The Americans does its best to work around this problem by adding sex and violence and coming up with silly twists like the Americans passing on defective submarine propeller plans to the Soviets that... caused a Soviet sub to crash and kill everyone on it? We're supposed to think the Soviets can't test a submarine propeller?


As SirJohn mentioned, the fault with the sub propeller was with the Russians themselves. Oleg mentioned that they put the prop on the wrong size sub. The U.S. did not seed their defense plants with faulty plans just on the off chance the Soviets would try to steal them, although that's what the Soviet leadership chose to believe over their own haste and incompetence. No wonder you think the show is mediocre; some of it is clearly going over your head.
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post #1034 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 12:46 PM
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You can't compare a movie to a TV series.

I just did.

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A movie is 90-120 minutes and it's a captive audience, assuming they don't want to blow their admission money.

A TV series runs for week after week. If every episode, the spy craft was dead on, people wouldn't make it past the 2nd or 3rd episode. You'd have Rubicon, and you can see where that ended up.

Or maybe if you don't try to build your show off a complicated and increasingly ridiculous conspiracy plot like Rubicon did, you'll end up with the brilliant spy series Spooks/MI-5 which ran on the BBC for ten seasons. Even The Killing somehow lasted four seasons.

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Look, I think The Americans does a fine job of toeing the line between a good spy drama and having enough action (both on the streets and in the bedroom) to keep casual viewers engaged. If that's not good enough for you, then you're not going to like the show any better as it goes along. The fact is, without the casual viewer, there is no show since the fans on the genre aren't enough of an audience.

At every point in television history there have been no fans of a genre. Then at some point there has been an excellent show in that genre that have created the fans of that genre. To create fans, you need an excellent show. You're telling me that creating an excellent show cannot be done therefore a weak story with violence and sex is all that television can profitably create.

If that's the case then Fox needs to stop the misleading press releases saying how astonishingly true-to-history the series is and just admit it's a campy show like Alias but with more nudity (I have no complaints about seeing Keri Russel's wonderful butt).

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post #1035 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by archiguy View Post

As SirJohn mentioned, the fault with the sub propeller was with the Russians themselves. Oleg mentioned that they put the prop on the wrong size sub.

That's right. The Soviet naval engineers had never seen a submarine propeller before so they couldn't figure out how to make it work safely. Dumb commies!

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The U.S. did not seed their defense plants with faulty plans just on the off chance the Soviets would try to steal them, although that's what the Soviet leadership chose to believe over their own haste and incompetence. No wonder you think the show is mediocre; some of it is clearly going over your head.


How did a ridiculous plot twist like this go over my head? The show terminated another subplot with a conclusion that made no sense. On the other hand, passing the Soviets false plans is something that actually did happen in history so it makes sense that it wouldn't have happened on this show.

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post #1036 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 01:02 PM
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Figuring out the plans were fake would not have had the same impact on the characters as finding out that almost 200 people died because they were duped.

It's pretty obvious you do not and will never enjoy the show. You should probably do yourself and everyone else a favor and stop watching.
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post #1037 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 01:22 PM
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There was a deliberate effort on the part of the American government during that time to build up the Soviets' military capability to unrealistic heights in order to justify the phenomenal dollars we were spending on defense. It was a form of political propaganda. While they had a formidable military, they were never the giants our government made them out to be.

It's far more likely that the Russians simply put their hastily fabricated propeller on the wrong size sub in order to test it, as Oleg said on the show, than to think the American government put false plans into multiple locations just in case the Russians tried to steal them. It's far easier to believe the former than the latter, and the show did a good job of portraying all sides of that issue, and how various people in the Soviet establishment were both affected by the disaster, and used it for their own propagandistic purposes. That's one of the reasons why the show is so good, IMO.
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post #1038 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 01:35 PM
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There was a deliberate effort on the part of the American government during that time to build up the Soviets' military capability to unrealistic heights in order to justify the phenomenal dollars we were spending on defense. It was a form of political propaganda. While they had a formidable military, they were never the giants our government made them out to be.

Its a nice story that SDI (Star Wars) bankrupted the USSR, but unfortunately untrue (I realize you didn't actually say it did).

"The Soviet Union's defense spending did not rise or fall in response to American military expenditures. Revised estimates by the Central Intelligence Agency indicate that Soviet expenditures on defense remained more or less constant throughout the 1980s. Neither the military buildup under Jimmy Carter and Reagan nor SDI had any real impact on gross spending levels in the USSR. "

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/foreign/reagrus.htm

Bizarrely we are spending a bit more on our military right now, than we did at the height of the Reagan buildup measured in inflation adjusted dollars, but less when compared by GDP %. Soviet spending outstripped ours several times over by, measured by GDP % during the cold war. Out GDP rose much quicker than theirs however.

Oh and I kinda read the whole propeller incident as the plans were faked. But it was largely the Soviet Navy's fault for the tragedy because they didn't take proper precautions, or do proper testing.
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post #1039 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 01:47 PM
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Its a nice story that SDI (Star Wars) bankrupted the USSR, but unfortunately untrue (I realize you didn't actually say it did).

I agree. It's a fairy tale - still believed by some for political purposes - that Russian communism collapsed because we spent them into submission. The USSR was calcified and imploding long before the defense buildup of the 80's, and would have collapsed of its own inertia no matter what we did or didn't do.
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post #1040 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 03:52 PM
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Anyone else flash on the Pastor ... when it was revealed that the children were being recruited without the knowledge of the parents? Wouldn't that be the perfect way to get them recruited ... getting them to protest against certain American institutions? Once they are in all the way, convert them to the cause?

One other thought, there was a discussion regarding "what it's about" . I would say it's about the toll this kind of fanaticism has on the people involved, American OR Soviet. It's about preserving your humanity in the face of so many inhumane acts perpetrated in the name of "the end justifies the means" .

Lastly, I think the note was left (could anyone read it, what did it say?) to let them know that he couldn't go through with turning "echo" over to them. As much as he was infatuated with his Russian lover (and who wouldn't be?) he just couldn't betray such an important secret to keep her. Gonna miss her!
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post #1041 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 07:33 PM
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Lastly, I think the note was left (could anyone read it, what did it say?) to let them know that he couldn't go through with turning "echo" over to them. As much as he was infatuated with his Russian lover (and who wouldn't be?) he just couldn't betray such an important secret to keep her. Gonna miss her!

The note was typed and said "Tell Nina I'm sorry." Or something close. There were questions on whether Stan actually wrote it or if it was a trick by the Soviets since it was typed. I believe it was authentic and was probably typed so it would be harder to track it back to Stan if the Soviets try to get him in trouble. Also, he didn't sign it.
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post #1042 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 07:34 PM
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Lastly, I think the note was left (could anyone read it, what did it say?) to let them know that he couldn't go through with turning "echo" over to them.

Tell Nina I'm sorry.
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post #1043 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:00 PM
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Thanks! Seems an appropriate message.
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post #1044 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 10:39 PM
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You probably don't waste your time on Reality Shows either since those are all cast and manipulated by the producers to increase the drama and melodrama levels.

Actually I do and laugh at the obvious manipulation while the producers pretend that we're all too stupid to figure out what they did.

Pretending to watch something with a false sense of superior irony doesn't make you smarter than the producers. The fact you waste your time watching it at all achieves the very result that they wanted and doesn't make you any smarter than them.

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Or maybe if you don't try to build your show off a complicated and increasingly ridiculous conspiracy plot like Rubicon did, you'll end up with the brilliant spy series Spooks/MI-5 which ran on the BBC for ten seasons.

And it has nothing to do with the fact it wasn't that expensive by comparison and was produced in the same limited season run as all BBC productions? Silent Witness has been running on the BBC for 17 seasons and that is as rote and formulaic as procedural police drama gets. Longevity has rarely anything to do with quality or realism. Plus the same reason you are vilifying The Americans is the exact reason that John La Carre infamously thought Spooks was, I quote, "Crap" and a lot of viewers in the UK think it's on the same level as 24.


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post #1045 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 11:02 PM
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Pretending to watch something in with a false sense of superior irony doesn't make you smarter than the producers.

I never said I was smarter than the producers. I said I'm not as dumb as they think I am.

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And it has nothing to do with the fact it wasn't that expensive by comparison and was produced in the same limited season run as all BBC productions? Silent Witness has been running on the BBC for 17 seasons and that is as rote and formulaic as procedural police drama gets.

I totally agree. That's why I compared this show with Spooks and not Silent Witness
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Plus the same reason you are vilifying The Americans is the exact reason that John La Carre infamously thought Spooks was, I quote, "Crap" and a lot of viewers in the UK think it's on the same level as 24.

Have you ever watched the show? It's very engaging on political level and I don't recall it ever needing sex or much violence to pad out an episode. I was hoping The Americans would be a serious drama like it but the Soviets sinking their own submarine was just too funny to take seriously so I barely paid attention to who was getting killed by the end of this season. Many people on the net had already speculated that Jarred had killed his family so the shocker ending wasn't much of a shock. Recruiting Paige into the KGB next season should be very entertaining.

And is the Carre guy someone famous? Should I throw out my DVD collections because he said a word?

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post #1046 of 1060 Old 05-27-2014, 11:16 PM
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Have you ever watched the show? It's very engaging on political level and I don't recall it ever needing sex or much violence to pad out an episode.

Yes, I've seen the first couple of seasons and seems to be on par with the rest of BBC crime drama output. It's just as guilty of sexing things up with nudity and violence (like the infamous fryer scene) and isn't much better than The Americans regarding accuracy. They still get their agencies mixed up, they still have far too many deaths and the action is ramped up to try and compete with 24. MI-5 officers were always being asked about the show when it was being run and at one point I remember reading they ran a recruiting campaign to let potential recruits know that they are not likely to be as easily murdered as they are in the show.

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And is the Carre guy someone famous? Should I throw out my DVD collections because he said a word?

I can't tell if you are being serious or not. John Le Carre is one of the pre-eminent authors of spy fiction and an ex-intelligence officer for the British Government. If you want to see something close to real espionage then watching something based off his work is a must. Less gunfights, more paperwork. All the things that make for riveting spy games. biggrin.gif

This is a good place to start, because it's short. It's not as good as the original TV show (or maybe I'm viewing it through rose-tinted glasses because I haven't seen it for over a decade) but Oldman makes for an excellent George Smiley.

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post #1047 of 1060 Old 05-28-2014, 05:03 AM
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Sinking their own submarine was too funny to take seriously? This is a country that disabled all safety measures and proceeded to destroy a nuclear plant in a mind bogglingly stupid series of events.
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post #1048 of 1060 Old 05-28-2014, 10:27 AM
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The show offered an explaination for the sub sinking. It was pretty clear the fake plans were being used as an excuse to cover up negligence and stupidity by the Soviet military.

Saying you read a lot about spies of the 60's and then claiming you don't know who La Carre was is a head scratcher. Even if you didn't read his fiction it seems you would have run across the name.

I do appreaciate your sharing the info about spying though. Sorry you don't enjoy the show.

BTW, I love MI-5 (Spooks), esp. the early seasons. Even though it did turn into almost a british 24, it was a great show, and I agree anyone who likes The Americans should check it out. Just don't get too attached to the lead characters.

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post #1049 of 1060 Old 05-28-2014, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by sirjonsnow View Post

Sinking their own submarine was too funny to take seriously? This is a country that disabled all safety measures and proceeded to destroy a nuclear plant in a mind bogglingly stupid series of events.

When put in situations where you HAVE to perform well or you die, like the old Soviet Union, then yeah, things like Chernobyl happen. The sub line is very plausible in light of other stupid things the Soviets did in the name of CYA. Their space program was full of it in the 1960's.

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post #1050 of 1060 Old 05-28-2014, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by VisionOn View Post

Yes, I've seen the first couple of seasons and seems to be on par with the rest of BBC crime drama output. It's just as guilty of sexing things up with nudity and violence (like the infamous fryer scene) and isn't much better than The Americans regarding accuracy. They still get their agencies mixed up, they still have far too many deaths and the action is ramped up to try and compete with 24. MI-5 officers were always being asked about the show when it was being run and at one point I remember reading they ran a recruiting campaign to let potential recruits know that they are not likely to be as easily murdered as they are in the show.
I can't tell if you are being serious or not. John Le Carre is one of the pre-eminent authors of spy fiction and an ex-intelligence officer for the British Government. If you want to see something close to real espionage then watching something based off his work is a must. Less gunfights, more paperwork. All the things that make for riveting spy games. biggrin.gif

This is a good place to start, because it's short. It's not as good as the original TV show (or maybe I'm viewing it through rose-tinted glasses because I haven't seen it for over a decade) but Oldman makes for an excellent George Smiley.

John Le Carre is one of my favorite authors in any genre. I have the DVDs of the British TV version Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People. I also have the BD of the remake of Tinker Tailor, starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley. Despite its murky video,scratchy audio, and absence of subtitles, I too prefer the British version starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley. Although the Gary Oldman remake is wonderful, there will never be but one George Smiley for me.
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