5 reasons to give FX’s ‘The Americans’ a try

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Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) and wife Elizabeth (Keri Russell) seem like the average couple on FX’s “The Americans,” but they’re far from it. (Craig Blankenhorn/FX)

 

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Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) often wears a wig to hide his true identity. The show is set in the early ’80s, so maybe it worked back then. (Patrick Harbron/FX)

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Yes, more wigs! Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) usually is wearing something a little sexier, but spycraft can’t always be glamorous. (Patrick Harbron/FX)

By LIZ MINIET

They’re dropping off, one by one.

All those shows you watch from September to May — they’re finishing up for the season, or perhaps even for good.

But wait, before you surrender to the reality TV onslaught that networks unleash in the summer, you still have a chance to check out the current season of FX’s “The Americans.” The show, set in the 1980s, is about Russian spies posing as an average American couple yet wreaking havoc where they can. Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are what you’d call antiheroes (like Tony Soprano or Walter White), but I suspect you’ll find yourself drawn in.

“The Americans” still has four new episodes this season, and though the show is in its fourth season, there are various ways to catch up if you try an episode and decide you want more. (Seasons 1-3 are included with Amazon Prime membership. Episodes are also available on iTunes, and you can find recent episodes on the FX website.)

Here are five reasons to give “The Americans” a try:

  1. The acting. Don’t let the lack of Emmys fool you (there’s just one so far: Margo Martindale for guest actress). Rhys and Russell give award-winning performances week after week, and they’re backed up by a great cast, from the actors to playing their kids (Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati) to their Russian handlers (Martindale and Frank Langella) to the FBI agent who lives nearby (Noah Emmerich). If you’re enough of a TV geek (like me) to appreciate a discussion of the show’s future Emmy prospects, check out this article by Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter.
  2. The storytelling. “The Americans” rewards you for paying attention, though sometimes it feels like you need one of those whiteboards from a cop show to keep up. Overall, it keeps you on your toes in a good way, and the writers must be doing something right if viewers want to see what happens to Russian spies.
  3. It’s great as an ’80s period piece. The cars. The early video games. Pay phones. And remember that nuclear TV drama “The Day After”? It’s like doing a little time travel.
  4. Wigs, wigs and more wigs! Philip and Elizabeth are spies, so disguises are part of the game. At a point, though, watching for the wigs becomes a guilty pleasure.
  5. What else are they hiding? Russell is pregnant in real life (that onscreen chemistry with Rhys isn’t just good acting), so you can watch to see how the show is hiding her baby bump.

 

ON TV

“The Americans,” FX, 10 p.m. Wednesdays


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