Lion of the Blogosphere

The Americans

The family is away at a rustic cabin, and Philip goes into “town” to buy breakfast and I see him walking out of Holtermann’s Bakery on Staten Island that’s only a few blocks from where my parents live, thus ruining any realism that the scene had. After that, I noticed that in a lot of outdoor scenes, the architecture looks like Staten Island and not anywhere in the DC area that I’m familiar with.

After I finished watching the series, I did some internet research, and yes, this show is not shot in Hollywood, and it’s not shot on location in Fall Church or in DC. The production office is in Brooklyn, and Staten Island is the preferred borough for shooting outdoor scenes, but they shoot all around the New York City metropolitan area.

* * *

Now that we get the weirdness of the shooting location out of the way, let’s talk about this series. Awesome! I liked it even better than Mr. Robot, and there are three seasons of it to enjoy. The premise is that the series starts off in 1981, and the main characters, Elizabeth and Philip, are Russian spies and assassins who have been trained to speak perfect English and were planted here in the 1960s. They have two children who don’t know that their parents are spies. And their next door neighbor happens to be an FBI agent working in counter-intelligence.

I could complain that this is yet another TV series or movie that uses the trope of the Hot Girl Who Kicks Ass, or in this case more like a MILF who kicks ass. Keri “Felicity” Russell is a skinny 5’4” woman who doesn’t look like she could kick ass, even with advanced KGB unarmed combat training.

Leaving that complaint aside, the series is an absolutely wonderful mélange of spy intrigue, action, and family drama. It’s mind-bending for more than just the reason that it makes you sympathetic to KGB agents. This is a very much a dark psychological drama which makes you ponder the true meaning of truth, honesty and loyalty. It explores the emotions of being a parent more so than many a conventional family drama that I’ve watched.

* * *

Even though one of the main characters is a MILF who kicks ass, I find the show very anti-feminist. Women in the show are either stupid and easily fooled (like the homely FBI secretary who Philip seduces and scams) or evil seductresses who use sex to get what they want from men.

* * *

If you are old enough to remember the eighties, you will get a kick out of all the eighties stuff like VHS movie rentals, answering machines with cassette tapes in them, old telephones, old televisions, old videogames, and a lot of old computers with green screens and big 5 ¼” floppy disks, plus typewriters.

The outdoor and on-location scenes, unfortunately, have the occasional anachronism in them.

* * *

One thing this show gets completely wrong about the 80s is the hairstyles. They really need to watch this Bangles video (wow what an awesome video).

And more great 80s hair: The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian.

Madonna has great hair in Borderline.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 4, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Television

37 Responses

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  1. Keri “Felicity” Russell is a skinny 5’4” woman who doesn’t look like she could kick ass, even with advanced KGB unarmed combat training.

    That’s American TV for you. There’s no amount of training you could give a slender 5-4 woman to make her able to beat 180+ pound, reasonably in shape man in a fistfight. Even Rhonda Rousey would get her arse handed to her by any average Joe.


    January 4, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    • I’d accept that she could beat a typical male office worker who doesn’t have any fighting experience, but she beats a lot more than that in the series.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      • I like the show a lot too but it’s maybe the single worst example of this that I’m aware of. She beats up CIA and mossad agents a foot plus taller than her with a hundred extra pounds of muscle.

        In general the two protagonists are way too skilled at everything they do but you can argue that part of what the show does in subverting the typical genre tropes and treating the “bad guys” the way most films treat the “good” ones.

        You should watch the second season of Fargo. I had no idea how tired I was of Italian centric mob dramas until I saw the show which focuses on a German mob family centered in Fargo fighting off the corporatized multiethnic kansas city mafia trying to take over their territory. The second season is virtually entirely independent of the first and significantly better in my opinion. It’s set in 1979 and there’s also a lot of great period detail and has a great soundtrack.

        Lloyd Llewellyn

        January 4, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      • Nah, still wouldn’t work if she’s giving up 40-80 pounds. Even the most fit women barely have knockout power – that’s why you see so few KO in any sort of female fighting, even the dominant female just rain minor blows down forever until their opponent is a bloody mess, or win by submission. And the female physique is also not build to withstand great blows – even with superior training she can get in a few light karate chops or kicks all she wants, but one solid punch from a reasonable fit guy pretty much ends it for any female.


        January 4, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      • Americans and Fargo are excellent.


        January 5, 2016 at 6:01 am

      • Although I’m usually the first to complain about 90 pound women beating up 6’4″ guys on TV, in this case it doesn’t bother me as much since assuredly her character has far more training in lethal hand to hand than the usual ass kicking TV woman.

        Mike Street Station

        January 5, 2016 at 10:00 am

    • The most realistic example of a “butt-kicking babe” I’ve seen on TV recently was Rachel McAdams in season 2 of True Detective. When the big bouncer grabs her, she stabs him multiple times with her butterfly knife, in rapid succession. That’ll work.

      Dave Pinsen

      January 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      • I really like True Detective. My life feels like Vince Vaughn and Rachel MacAdams in that show.


        January 5, 2016 at 5:59 am

    • yeah, there was a scene last season where she manhandles two FBI agents, one of whom slams her head against the hood of a car. all she suffers is a toothache.


      January 5, 2016 at 12:24 pm

  2. Lion,

    If you still read books, I recommend you read Ready Player One. You can buy the paperback at Costco for $10. It’s set in the future, but it’s chock full of ’80s references. The idea is that the billionaire creator of the virtual reality Internet everyone uses 20 years from now was a Gen-Xer, with no heirs. So he creates a game within the virtual reality, and the winner of it will get his billions, and control of the company that runs the VR.

    Gamers all have to study ’80s movies, video games, etc., to compete.

    Dave Pinsen

    January 4, 2016 at 9:20 pm

  3. This is my favorite TV series.

    The third, and most recent, season is fascinating because it was written from a mostly right-wing perspective. The first two seasons were obviously written by, and for, highly educated moderate liberals. But the show takes a 180-degree turn in the third season, it is like watching a prime time television drama written by Reagan-era cold warriors. I kept checking the ending credits to see whether Caspar Weinberger and James Baker were listed as writers. Obviously you don’t see shows like that very often.

    The ideological switch is completely unexpected. I really liked the show during the first two seasons, even though it had a slightly liberal perspective, but the third season — wow.

    There is so much to like about this show — I could go on for hours about how wonderful it is. And it brings a fresh and interesting perspective to almost everything. For example, the FBI agents on the show are portrayed as highly competent and dedicated middle managers, basically. They are not Supermen, not geniuses, not macho, and they act like regular people as opposed to caricatures. This relatively understated depiction of the FBI agents actually makes them seem like formidable and frightening adversaries. They wouldn’t seem as threatening if they were made out to be James Bond types or super-elite law enforcement officers, but their realism makes them a terrific adversary for the KGB agents who are the stars of the show.

    Also, almost all of the characters are really complex. I especially like Stan, Phillip, Arkady, Paige and Nina. (Well, Arkady, the KGB station chief in Washington is very capable and I like seeing him work. The Soviet system that he is a part of is ossified and bureaucratic, but Arkady is a decisive man of action and it’s fun to see him get things done within the confines of the Communist bureaucracy.)

    Joe Schmoe

    January 4, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    • The creators of the show were real CIA types, so I think that may explain some of the right leaning (or realistic) view.

      Mike Street Station

      January 5, 2016 at 10:03 am

      • It’s also subversive in the sense that two attractive, likeable people are representing an evil, despotic political system.


        January 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm

  4. Not that Soviet spies accomplished much. Rudolf Abel was the leading KGB spy in the United States during the peak Cold War years of the 1950’s. In his years of service he provided almost no useful information of any sort, at least in part because his cover identity of a retired businessman turned amateur artist did not give him access to classified information.



    January 4, 2016 at 10:09 pm

  5. IFC has been airing “Desperately Seeking Susan” lately – now that’s a very 80’s period piece.


    January 4, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    • Thanks, I will rewatch the movie. I haven’t seen it since 1985.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 4, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      • Wasn’t that movie crap though? When I think of 80s movies I think of 1) all those Mickey Rourke movies; 2) Angel Heart (Lisa Bonet was hot and naked); 3) 9 1/2 weeks (really got the girls worked up); 4) St. Elmo’s Fire (Ally Sheedy); 5) Repo Man; 6) the Breakfast Club (Ally Sheedy again); and that ridiculous Prince movie Purple Rain.


        January 5, 2016 at 12:51 am

  6. If you really want to get nostalgic about how women looked in the ’80s, including beautiful hair, check out Rosanna Arquette in Desperately Seeking Susan, via the video for Madonna’s “IntoThe Groove.”

    Sid storch

    January 4, 2016 at 11:01 pm

  7. As is my general rule with such things, the moment it even hinted at mudsharking I was out for good. This rule leaves me very, very little to watch on television any longer.


    January 5, 2016 at 1:56 am

    • Then be sure to avoid Star Wars VII Political Correctness Awakens.

      Nedd Ludd

      January 5, 2016 at 9:52 am

    • “As is my general rule with such things, the moment it even hinted at mudsharking I was out for good.”

      I think in the context of the show, it made sense. I don’t think it was gratuitous.

      Mike Street Station

      January 5, 2016 at 10:05 am

    • It was a ploy to infiltrate Civil Rights groups, and use them against US society. The recent ISIS video explicitly calls on BLM types to embrace jihad.


      January 5, 2016 at 2:59 pm

  8. In elementary school (Greenwich Village, 1950s) our class would go to Staten Island for an afternoon in the country. It really didn’t look like the city at all (or any city, Boston being my only other reference point). Also: 5-1/4″ floppies were the small ones: at work, ca. 1980, we had 8-inch floppies for our minicomputers (PDP-11?). Now that Mad Men is gone, The Americans is the only program I watch and I can’t wait for it to resume in March. (I wonder if there is a cable channel that’s all Woody Allen all the time.)


    January 5, 2016 at 8:08 am

    • You were probably being taken to clove lakes park, which is genuinely bucolic.


      January 5, 2016 at 5:07 pm

  9. Unfortunately fidelity to 1980s hairstyles would be very distracting to a modern audience, and probably make it impossible to take the show seriously. I noticed the German series “Deutschland 83”, which is about an East German agent living as a mole in the West German army also seems to dial down the crazy hairstyles and clothing even though they play up the 1980s tech.

    Peter Akuleyev

    January 5, 2016 at 9:46 am

  10. Lion, do you know about Yuri Bezmenov, former KGB agent and defector?
    His 1983 lecture on political subversion is especially interesting:

    “The main emphasis of the KGB is NOT in the area of intelligence at all, only about 15% of time, money, and manpower is spent on espionage as such. The other 85% is a slow process we call either ideological subversion or active measures.

    To change the perception of reality of every American that despite of the abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusions. That process is legitimate and open, you can see it with your own eyes.”

    Well worth the time:

    I would like you to review that!

    It’s spooky how he is essentially describing the present day United States.


    January 5, 2016 at 10:47 am

    • Yes, but notice how it at no point described Soviet society! That’s the point – their goal was to destroy American society from within via pandering to leftist social causes, while in the Soviet Union these same causes were never tolerated. They knew how to deal with that sort of trash then and still do today. Nevertheless the story of American decline is a story of self harm and a general lack of intellectual rigour more than anything else – attributing the current state of affairs to the KGB is nothing short of fanatical delusion.

      Vladivostok 2000

      January 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

  11. If the real life Soviets were as successful as theses two, Russia never would have lost the Cold War. When you think about it, this show is Hogan’s Heroes in reverse. The Rooskies score major victories in the areas of sabotage and espionage while the hapless Americans run around chasing their tails.


    January 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    • Yep, it’s not realistic at all. Amusing, but not realistic in the slightest. Incidentally, the creator of the show was apparently a CIA agent – Joe Weisberg. Most interesting aspect of the show is the odd sense of mutual respect between the KGB and FBI, clearly something that might pervade in a real setting but would have been unthinkable on television up to and including the ’90s.

      Vladivostok 2000

      January 5, 2016 at 3:19 pm

  12. It’s my favorite show on TV right now, along with Homeland! I’m excited for the new season!


    January 5, 2016 at 12:47 pm

  13. “The Americans,” is a pantheon show up there with “Breaking Bad,” and “The Sopranos” (I still haven’t seen “The Wire”). Season 3 is the best season of any show I’ve ever seen.


    January 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    • Breaking Bad is the one show that you should watch. It probably is the best show ever made. The Rorschach test for Walter Whites behavior is fascinating.


      January 5, 2016 at 6:46 pm

  14. Indeed the Americans is probably the best story on television.

    Even the bad guys love their kids and their country but can still act monstrously. Even the good guys can be idiots. There isn’t good vs. evil, but rather courage and strength vs. weakness inside of each soul. Making the right choices isn’t easy; otherwise nobody would suffer consequences for their stupid behavior. I can’t stand stories that make it look so easy for the heroes, which is why I’m so reluctant to see that new Star Wars thing.

    Without struggle against weakness, where is the heroism? What makes our human struggle so compelling are our mortal limitations. Make the heroes too “perfect” or “powerful” where is the challenge to overcome weakness or withstand temptation. Because Hollywood refuses to portray women and ethnic minorities with genuine serious weaknesses or moral failings, their characters can never overcome to become truly heroic or interesting. It’s a pity because these characters are being denied the complexity and opportunity for growth because we’re too afraid of offending the public’s sensibilities. Instead of endowing these characters with the full range of the human experience because we see them as human equals, we prefer the presentation of empty ciphers painted up with the right pigmentation. That’s the real racism in Hollywood.

    Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

    January 5, 2016 at 2:57 pm

  15. Did you have bread delivered to your house like we did via the Holtermann bakery truck like we did? Delicious. I graduated hs wire one of the Holter Mann daughters.


    January 5, 2016 at 5:10 pm

  16. O/T, but very prole related.;-mom-directs-son-to-take-it-police-say/1146728/

    Lion, this is a great example of bad parenting typical of prole trash of all stripes. In this video, the parents tell their kid to grab the cellphone dropped by someone at the restaurant, where they then fled the scene immediately.


    January 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm

  17. The Americans is my favorite TV show. The ending of the final episode last season with the Reagan “Evil Empire” speech juxtaposed with the other scenes was truly an awesome moment in TV.

    By the way, for the Contras episode, Oliver North is listed in the credits. So there’s that.


    January 5, 2016 at 8:54 pm

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