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FX continues to be a force to be reckoned with among cable networks and network TV alike. What sets the network apart from other cable channels isn’t just the word “shit,” which does tend to get thrown around a bit more frequently on FX than you’ll see on some of the more family-friendly channels, but also the grittier tone of the shows. What’s more, “gritty” is not the only sell, nor is the darker nature of many of the lead characters. Sure, we could put Raylan Givens, Clay Morrow, Constance Langdon and Tommy Gavin in a room together just to see who throws the first punch, fires the first shot, or incites the first mental breakdown (my money’s on Constance there), but there are also great stories being told, which is what often makes FX’s dramas worth the time invested to watch them.
The above ramble was inspired by the news that the network has given the green light to a pilot called The Americans, which sounds like it'll be a great fit among FX's other dramas. According to Deadline, the period drama is created/exec-produced by Falling Skies Joe Weisberg and produced by Justified’s Graham Yost. The story follows a married couple living in the 1980’s in suburban Washington, DC and posing as regular Americans, when they’re actually KGB spies.
The arranged marriage of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings grows more passionate and genuine by the day but is constantly tested by the escalation of the Cold War and the intimate, dangerous and darkly funny relationships they must maintain with a network of spies and informants under their control. Complicating their relationship further is Phillip’s growing sense of affinity for America’s values and way of life and the couple’s two children, who know nothing about their parents’ true identity.
The period piece aspect is interesting, as is the premise, which actually reminds me of a Nelson DeMille book I read years ago called “The Charm School,” which focuses on a Russian school where spies learn how to act American (and where kidnapped American’s are forced to teach about their culture, if I remember correctly).
Beyond the general plot, The Americans sounds like it’ll have an outside-looking-in element where the line between pretending to blend in and actually blending in may get a bit fuzzy. Factor in the kids, who are oblivious to the situation (imagine if your parents turned out to be secret spies) and the mentioned “darkly funny relationships they must maintain with a network of spies” and this project sounds like it’s overflowing with potential.
?FX’s EVP of Original Programming Nick Grad sounds enthusiastic. Deadline quotes him as saying, “Joe Weisberg has written one of the best pilot scripts we have ever read with two richly drawn and indelible characters embarking on an epically exciting, emotional, and morally complex journey.”
From the sound of it, The Americans is the kind of series that would fit in well at FX in that it sounds nothing like anything the network currently has on the air. The Riches is probably the closest comparison that can be made, and even then, given the time-period, the background of the lead characters and the fact that the kids aren’t in on it, it’s sort of a stretch.
Hopefully, the pilot will live up to the premise and it’ll go to series. It’ll also be interesting to see who’s cast in the leads.