Who's psyched? Best new show of last year comes roaring back tomorrow night. Break out your leg-warmers, headbands, and Walther PPK's, baby... Phil and Liz are back!
From the HOTP thread....TV Review'The Americans': FX series starts 2nd season well
By Dave Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle
If Scott Fitzgerald were still alive and writing TV reviews, he might observe that there are often no second or third seasons in American television. You create a great show and against all odds, it hits big the first season and then what? If it's a high-concept show, you have to keep the high-wire act going without squandering the credibility you worked so hard to create in the first season.
Five episodes into the second season of "The Americans" on FX suggest this is one great series that isn't in immediate danger of that second-season slump. All of the elements that made it must-see last year are working at full throttle in season two, which kicks off Wednesday night: intrigue, deception, sex, duplicity, spy vs. spy stuff and, most of all, irony.
The show is set in the early days of the Reagan administration, when the Cold War was building toward a climax in singularly operatic style. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings live in a well-manicured Washington suburb with their teenage daughter, Paige, and young son, Henry. They run a travel agency, and by all accounts, live relatively uneventful lives.
Except, of course, that Philip and Elizabeth are Soviet spies. Their kids don't know that, though, nor does their neighbor Stan Beeman, an FBI agent.
Elizabeth and Philip were perfectly cast as a suburban couple and have played their roles to perfection, until recently. They are still efficiently cold-blooded about carrying out orders from the Center, a.k.a. the KGB, even if it involves going to bed with other people in order to use them. They are also just as efficiently cold-blooded assassins when they have to be.
But in spite of the lie of their marriage and their primary allegiance to Moscow, they have developed feelings for each other. As avidly as they try to hold on to their Soviet values, they are getting quite used to American life.Following cliff-hanger
The new season picks up after the cliff-hanger first-year finale, when Elizabeth (Keri Russell) was wounded as Philip (Matthew Rhys) saved her from getting caught in an FBI trap, set up by Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and his boss, Special Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas).
"The Americans" devoted its first season to developing an unusually complex and multi-layered conceit. Philip and Elizabeth have to lie to the world to survive, but that also means lying to their own children.
Beeman is supposed to be a walking talking symbol of truth, justice and the American way. Yet he is having an affair with Nina (Annet Mahendru), a Russian woman who he thinks is spying for him but is, in fact, a double agent. Beeman, of course, is lying to his wife, Sandra (Susan Misner), every time he comes home from work very late at night.
The tangled web is still being woven in the second season - deceit begets deceit, lies breed more lies. Paige is old enough to know that something isn't quite right about her parents' marriage. At the same time, she is lying to her parents about where she is and what she's doing.
Typical teenager, right? Not when she's an unwitting player in her parents' duplicitous conceit. And her lie isn't about seeing another boy: It's about finding herself drawn to Christianity, which is bound to upset her parents.
This is a critical moment for the show, the point at which everything can go wrong. Irony and coincidence are crucial to the series, but they have to be credible, and "The Americans" is skating along an especially sharp edge right now.
There's a moment in one of the new episodes, for example, when the family is playing a board game and Elizabeth needs to get the kids out of the house. OK, so? Well, the game they're playing is Life.
Ouch. That kind of heavy-handed telegraphing in the script can bring the whole show down like a house of cards if it's not nipped in the bud.Too obvious
Don't underestimate your audience that way. We're smart enough to know that Philip and Elizabeth are playing their own game of life. We don't need to be hit over the head with obviousness.
Show creator Joe Weisberg and his writers need only look to Showtime's "Homeland" if they need a reminder of the challenges in trying to keep the plates spinning for a high-concept show in its second and third seasons.
So far, they seem to know the key, as it is in any great TV drama, is character: Write great characters, keep them real and, most of all, believable and you are halfway home. It doesn't matter if a day at the office involves disguises, assassinations, high-level spying or using sex to compromise an asset. It's all in a day's work.THE AMERICANS
Season two premiere, 10 p.m. Wednesday on FX.