FX's The Americans: Da or Nyet?

The Americans Premiere RecapFelicity who?

FX’s new circa-’80s cold war drama The Americans premiered Wednesday night and found Keri Russell morphing from America’s sweetheart into full-on anti-heroine opposite Brothers & Sisters‘ Matthew Rhys.

A quick recap of the show’s provocative conceit: Russell and Rhys play KGB spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, who are posing as a married couple in the suburbs of Washington D.C. The first episode cleverly juxtaposes the couple’s home life (where they have two American-born children) and their work life (where they’re running around in myriad disguises and hiding bodies in trunks of cars — all while avoiding getting their covers blown).

RELATED | Will Keri Russell Re-Team With J.J. Abrams on Star Wars VII?

Their two worlds collide when Stan, an FBI agent played by the perfectly-cast Noah Emmerich, moves in across the street and immediately suspects something’s off about the Jennings. In one of the episode’s most tense sequences, Stan sneaks into the couple’s garage looking for evidence to confirm his suspicions — something like the dead body Philip and Elizabeth disposed of only hours earlier, perhaps? — as Philip quietly looks on in the shadows. Stan leaves empty-handed, but it’s clear this cat-and-mouse game has only just begun.

Some other highlights from the 94-minute premiere:

* The extended opening chase sequence scored to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.”

* Elizabeth’s high-waisted Guess jeans. And luscious locks. And overall bad-assness.

* Philip’s impromptu country hoedown at the mall, which both cemented the character’s growing love of Americana and Rhys’ status as one of TV’s most underrated and versatile actors.

What did you think of The Americans? Will you be Russian to see Episode 2? Vote in the poll below and then elaborate in the comments?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Lauren says:

    Can’t wait for more!

  2. Steven says:

    Pretty good Pilot. Keri Russell will keep me coming back for more.

  3. Jen says:

    Liked it! More than I thought I would. I wasn’t that intrigued by the premise, but I’ll be watching.

    • Cindy says:

      I agree Jen, i wasn’t that intriqued by the previews, but my husband DVR’d it and I really enjoyed watching it. I liked that it was the woman that seem the stronger of the two characters – emotionally.

      • KImberly says:

        Totally agree. Fell asleep during first viewing, but I was awfully tired. Decided that the slow start was due to its being much exposition. Also decided that it often takes two or three episodes to really get into the groove. The problem just might be that the Cold War just wasn’t all that interesting to me. My dad always said that we had nothing to worry about when at war with a bunch of starving people.

  4. Ace says:

    Great show! Good concept, love the period authenticity, and I love the plot. Love it, FX! Can’t wait for more!

  5. Pat D. says:

    It was pretty good, but 3 things bothered me:

    1. I wish they had at least done the scenes in the Soviet Union in Russian with subtitles. Sure, they were supposed to be becoming American, but some scenes (like Elizabeth’s training/rape scene were long before that part) Maybe the leads couldnt pull off the language/accent properly?

    2. I never really got the feeling that it was taking place in the 1980s—it didnt really have that atmosphere.

    3. The younger scenes that were supposed to be taking place in the 60s (20 years prior), the leads didn’t look ANY younger—nevermind 20 years worth.

    Still, it was just the pilot, and overall I liked the episode, so hopefully this doesnt become yet another serial drama that gets cancelled after 1 season, LOL.

    • Alichat says:

      I noticed #3 as well, but I couldn’t think of a way for them to de-age the actors effectively….the hair and clothing weren’t selling it for me. And I’m trying to figure out how old the characters are supposed to be now. Late 30s?

      • Pat D. says:

        You’re right, theres no way they were in their teens in the flashbacks, LOL.

      • Andie says:

        I remember the previews saying Elizabeth was recruited when she was 17 and I think she went to America when she was 22. They’ve supposedly been here for 15 years, so 37ish would be my guess.

      • D says:

        She said her dad died battling the Nazis in Stalingrad when she was 2 which means she was born in 1940-1941.

        • Alichat says:

          Exactly! It’s this little tidbit that is throwing me off completely. I don’t get the impression that her character is supposed to be 40 or 41….but mathematically, that would be the case.

      • ccabek says:

        Sorry cant buy this show. There are way too many problems with the whole concept
        Keri was 2 yrs old when her dad was killed by Nazi’s in WWII. So day she was born in 1942 or 43. That would put her in her late thirties or even early 40’s. she looks like she is about 32 yrs old. Way too young. Also after living through this era of the 80’s , they missed the boat on almost everything. Most women who married in the ’60’s got pregnant very quickly. Not waiting four or five years
        The hair and clothing are all wrong for the era. And are they really using the term “sleeper cell” correctly? They are undercover spies. I don’t ever remember hearing
        that term until after 9/11.
        Why would an FBI agent tell a new neighbor he was in counter intelligence right off the bat? Weird
        Sorry even without getting into the politics of the show I am finding so many faults with the show. Who needs a new Cold War drama? Or is it a covert hit at the islamtics in our country? The pilot was the first and last show I will watch.
        As for all the great reviews., did they just skip past the reality, hoping that their loving 18-49 yr demographics won’t even notice all the mishmash and contrived devices being used? (You smart KGB agents just leave the duplicate of reported car sitting in garage? Clean out the trunk but not the back seat? Have a boom bang fight in garage and the kids hear nothing? ). And we are supposed to like these inept agents? Don’t think so

        Regardless of being the right wing fearfuls who are so scared that this just makes communists the good guys and helps Obama (as I have read) make our country become communist ( talk about paranoids ). It is just a bad show with way too many faults and easy set-ups.
        When are reviewers going to really look at a show as it is and not what they WANT it to be?

        Last show of The American’s I will be watching. Too dumb.

        • Vashti22 says:

          Keri Russell is almost 37yo in real life, so…not that she doesn’t look good for her age, but I think she’s pretty much the same age as her character. Also, if she’s in her late 30’s and their daughter is around 13yo (I’m guessing), she was pregnant at around 25yo or so – I don’t think that’s unrealistic. Sure, some woman had children right away, but not all. I think that’s really nitpicking.

          Also, I think it’s 1981, right? What we think of as being quintessentially 80’s, I think wasn’t necessarily the style yet in 1981…anyway, it didn’t bother me.

          I do think that the fact that they had the fight in the garage and the kids didn’t hear is a little unbelievable, but the layout of the house isn’t really clear to me, maybe their bedrooms are on the other side of the house. Otherwise, I didn’t think the other stuff made them seem dumb – that’s their car, a basic model/color and there were probably dozens around, I don’t get why that makes them stupid. They used different plates and added/took off some bumper stickers. Just because we didn’t see her clean the back seat doesn’t mean she didn’t.

          I liked it more than I expected and will probably continue to watch.

    • B says:

      God gotta love old people and their “, LOL”s

    • Ace says:

      You didn’t like the 80’s feel? The high waist jeans she wore or the classy Olds or the shoulder pads on the woman in the FBI office? (of course a girl would pick up on that though…) haha. I got that vibe when they were just at home or doing their dirty work, since they wore clothes that people still wear today, but some fashions and set designs looked like they were plucked straight out of my life in the 80’s. Probably could have been a bit more 60’s and I agree they didn’t look too much younger in the scenes in the 60s, but at least they tried for the 80’s. It was a bit of a blur of a decade. Nothing really distinct about the generation like the 60’s and 70’s but not bad.

      At least they got the Phil Collins song right for the year! That was awesome! I haven’t heard that one in forever!

      • Pat D. says:

        Nope…honestly, for most of the episode it just felt like 2013 with people driving around in older cars. Sure, there were *occasional* indications like the rotary payphone, but it was all too subtle for me, I guess.

        • wsm says:

          Watch Top Gun and you’ll get the same feeling. In fact, I think the Americans does a better job at portraying 80s styles than Top Gun does.

      • Joe Calise says:

        I think they were talking about the appearance of the suburb street and the mall. The ambiance was off and could easily be late 90’s. or mid 2000’s considering the fashion was not too flashy. late 70’s to early 90’s fashion was very loud to say the least, and most of the characters, including the extras, did not express much of that.

      • KImberly says:

        I thought the 80s were not all that fashionable distinct either until I started to see some of it again, like the leg warmers and tights with the baby doll shirts. I think that it is just gas a non-distinct feel because I lived it. It doesn’t really seem retro because I can’t yet look at my life as such.

      • jkgroves75 says:

        Nothing distinct about the 80s? I h az ve ti disagree with you there…check out the Carrie Diaries, they have captured the 80s perfectly. The Anericans need work, sure the jeans and cars, but it did have a 2013 feel about it. I alao didnt get much chemistry between the leads.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I thought the same things, Pat. I enjoyed the show but it doesn’t quite have an authentic feel the way “That 70s Show” or “Swingtown” did, if anyone remembers “Swingtown”. When you watched those programs you really felt as though you were back in the 70s. One of the things that seemed authentic to me was I am sure I owned every top Keri Russell wore on that show “back in the day”. ;-) Perhaps it will feel more authentic as the program progresses. Keri Russell’s hairstyle is about 7 years past its expiration date.

    • Natalie says:

      I felt the same as you about numbers 1 and 3. I actually disagree about number 2 though. I thought it definitely REAKED of early 80s. The cars, the guess jeans, the glasses, the mall shelving even…all very authentic. I found the biggest problem I had was the age thing…from the 60s to 20 years later…the actors just didn’t seem to have aged and then how young were they in the 60s? I found it a bit off, however I was impressed with the show otherwise. The fight scenes were very realistic and brutal! The acting across the board was superb and I am really excited and curious to see where the show goes from here….loved it!

      • Natalie says:

        Also as far as the non Russian speaking goes…I was bothered by it but I assume that since none of the actors or at least the good majority most likely don’t speak it, it would probably be an extremely expensive thing to have them all learn(and then who knows if they could make it sound truly authentic) and then have to add subtitles as well. Maybe they will do some of it down the line if the show does well. I certainly would love to see them all speak Russian!

        • scooby says:

          Sorry, but it baffles me why anyone would think they’d ever need subtitles. They wouldn’t have been speaking Russian. No scenes with Phillip or Elizabeth in training would involve anything other than English. Your only chance of seeing subtitles is if there’s a scene in the USSR or in the Soviet embassy that doesn’t involve their characters.

          They’re supposed to ultimately speak pristine English so they don’t just train martial arts, they’re training in language immersion. Elizabeth was corrected about her need to use contractions to seem more American. There was probably some sort of exposure to English prior to see who had an aptitude and maybe they’d have already learned it a bit for less covert work, but I bet from the moment they officially began the training program, they weren’t allowed to speak Russian at all. If she’s in deep cover in the U.S. she’s gonna be saying goodbye to speaking Russian at some point. Might as well not use it during her training and confuse her transition to English-speaking American where she’s gotta remember to speak with idioms and articles.

          I get the issue with the aging because I had it too, but they looked younger, just not the ages they were supposed to be. The key is that they were obviously in an earlier time in their lives with one another. I figure it would’ve been better if they could’ve indicated that it was earlier without giving the year, but maybe it wasn’t possible because in the Soviet Union the 60s fashions in places like Britain and the US wouldn’t have been used. They’re not going to want a cultural revolution in a place like Russia. The crazy hair and clothes just wouldn’t have made an appearance so they have to put the year up and then with that comes the pitfalls of us going ‘that doesn’t look like it’s the 60s or that they’re in their early 20s’.

          • Pat D. says:

            Thats fine…but they didnt even use Russian in the scene where they were first brought together in Moscow. Not even the general did. And I doubt he was training to be an undercover American. :)

    • Cake3k says:

      Mostly agree with you, but when it comes to the training/rape scene, it was not long before that. Notice how she says “I am sorry”, and the Captain says “use the contraction”? Clearly a part of mastering english.

      • Cake3k says:

        I do see now that this has already been mentioned. And I do agree that scenes back in Russia should’ve been done in Russian with subtitles, but I still don’t see it as very far fetched that they’re speaking English in the scenes we saw in the first episode, as it’s all about getting used to speak the language all the time.

  6. czzzz says:

    hmm… you think the recent Bones episode was priming for this? haha

  7. mountaineer says:

    Da! Very good. I can’t wait until next week. I loved the Guess jeans cameo too!

  8. Kelly says:

    I’m liking Phillip. Rhys is amazing and makes you care for him.

  9. Superhero says:

    Liked it quite a bit. My one big issue was the ending; felt it was too soon for Stan to be that suspicious of them. But overall, good stuff. Looking forward to more.

    • lara says:

      That was my issue too – not even that it was too soon, but that there really wasn’t anything off about Phillip. Those were REALLY good instincts that led Stan to believe that he might be a spy.

      • kjess says:

        Phillip’s car matched the description of the car used in the kidnapping. Then, after he gave Stan the spark plugs, he did act “off”. He just stared at him with an slightly uneasy, awkward look on his face. It could’ve been enough to make a professional a bit suspicious.

    • Lena120 says:

      But to be fair, Stan is a pro at this. We still don’t know if him moving there was a coincidence or orchestrated from the beginning. They haven’t shown us that. If he’s as good as they say he is, I think he knew who they were from the jump. If you’re gonna take out the best, you’ve gotta be the best, and they’re setting him up that way. Anytime I see Noah Emmerich in ANYTHING, I automatically assume he’s up to no good anyway. He’s just that guy.

  10. Alichat says:

    FX was selling me on the show within the first 5 minutes with the music….Quarterflash’s ‘Harden My Heart’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’! Loved the chase being set to ‘Tusk.’

    I liked it…and it has great potential. It was more risque with the language and the sex than I expected…..of course, I forgot it was FX and 10pm when I was watching. LOL! The clothing is making me cringe….memories of outfits past. I loved the mall scene with the cowboy boots, and the altercation later with the pedophile. And the curious and pained expression on Phillips face when he listened to the tape of Elizabeth’s time with the FBI guy. And the scene at the end in the garage was fantastic. I was hoping someone was aware.

    My only complaint would be that they lessen the eye liner on Rhy’s eyes….especially the lower part. It’s picky I know……but it was distracting in a bad way.

  11. Hojana says:

    It has Keri Russell in it, would could it ever fail?

    • B says:

      You must not have seen Running Wilde

    • Ace says:

      I personally loved the “the moon isn’t everything. It’s just an accomplishment to get into space” comment…since the Soviet Union beat the US in the space race. Good work, Keri!

      • Tash says:

        shouldn’t you be complimenting the writer’s for that line?

        • Ace says:

          Yes, the writers are to thank for that, but I liked how it was her character who said it, considering the fact she’s supposed to be the die hard soviet loyalist and her ‘husband’ is less so. They kind of just slipped it in there and I loved it. The writing is really good so far, and I think the two actors they’re writing for were great choices.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Matthew was one reason to like Bros & Sisters, he is reason I will try this show. Keri is good actress but getting overexposed in media, I’m tired of hearing how wonderful she is.

    • Ace says:

      See, I thought she faded off after Felicity. I hadn’t heard anything about her in years, and that’s saying something coming from someone who came from her hometown (we don’t really have too many actors come from Denver and they did a huge story on her when she got the Felicity job and she did a story for the local news once this show had started coming out) so I thought she fell off the face of the earth after Felicity, then found her way into Mission Impossible 3, then fell off the earth again and now this show. I’m happy for her and she’s looking good, so I can’t argue.

      I’m glad they picked her for the role though because I really think she’s very believable in the role she was cast. I’m glad she’s ballsy and I like how her and Matthew Rhys have both chemistry and tension with their roles. I’m really excited to see where the show goes!

  13. chris says:

    I thought it was great, this was the pilot I was looking forward to the most this season. My only complaint was mentioned already….I expected them to be speaking Russian during their training.

  14. Wow says:

    I’ll be checking out episode 2. Matt n Keri were great! Plus, I’m loving the soundtrack, Phil Collins! You can’t lose with 80’s music!

  15. Becka says:

    I didn’t think I could buy Keri Russell being a bad a**…but she was pretty killer! Enjoyed it a lot. “When did everyone in this business become so punctual!” Loved that line!

  16. cjeffery7 says:

    i like it, but in general the verdict is still out. loved the ending though. SO GOOD.

  17. mroshimaida says:

    Great show great music very 80’s very miami vice so good to see abd hear sobg pkacement like that
    ib another show.
    Also using The Who’s EMINENCE FRONT as a titke
    track was a perfect pick. Parallels tge show theme

  18. Jon says:

    If I’m going to be watching and DVRing any of the midseason shows, this is the one. I think I actually preferred this over The Following.

  19. Melanie says:

    Da!!! Loved it overall. A few minor “issues” that we’re already mentioned. Loved the jeans and hair. Very 80’s authentic.

    • ccabek says:

      80’s hair was poofy and Curley. Not like the way it was worn. It was Big hair.
      Jeans are any era depends on waist position.
      As I remember we were wearing (what is now called leggings). Tights with long shirts over them. And they were off one shoulder. Think Flashdance.

  20. Eliza says:

    I really enjoyed it. Keri and Matthew are fantastic!

  21. Josh O says:

    I am a retired military member and served during the period of the 80’s when the Cold War was still ongoing. I found this pilot better than anticipated and look forward to the remaining episodes this season. If you didn’t live during the Cold War era as an adult…you possibly can’t appreciate how much of our daily lives the “Big Bear” aka USSR was prevelant in the news and foreign affairs.

  22. HRG says:

    For the most part it lived up to its hype!
    Great show and I look forward to the rest of the season.

  23. James says:

    Other than the flashbacks where they looked exactly the same, I thought it was fantastic.

  24. Louis says:

    What an awesome show. When Alias was on I wanted keri russell to guest star on it to kick some ass but it never happened. Then she got the role in mission impossible and I couldn’t wait to see her in action. Then she died during the first 20 min so that sucked. When I heard about this show I got really excited. I love her. And she was great in the movie Waitress. Now I want Jeniffer Garner to guest star on this show so they can have the fight I always dreamed of.lol.

  25. Mo says:

    I liked it quite a lot, and I can only hope the soundtrack will be as good in later episodes. Every song was perfect in its placement. And to see so much depth to the main characters in only the pilot? So many ways things can go from here.

  26. Vicki says:

    Loved it! Good plot, makes you wanna root for the bad guys!
    Looking forward to next week…
    Keep up the good work FX, for getting it right, with The Americans.

  27. James says:

    I loved it. great concept and as these things go you can tell research went into it. I love Mathew Rhys he’s one of those actors that can convey so much in silence. Like KR not sure about her character yet. I agree with some of the other posts i think it was to soon to play the stan suspicions card. definitly has great potential.

  28. Mursal says:

    The pilot was fantastic! I cannot say enough about Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell…such impeccable acting. I’m really looking forward to a great season and more great music.

  29. ruth says:

    I was very disappointed because I could not follow the story. Why? Well, here in Tucson the transmission broke up several times (as it were a YouTube video being buffered.)

    And when it happened in the last 15 minutes for at least 9 minutes, I gave up;

  30. I thought it was one of the best pilot episodes I’ve seen in a while…SO suspenseful! Absolutely love the casting of Rhys and Russell. Can’t wait for more!!

  31. Rusty says:

    Tried to watch it. But after 30 minutes of bad writing and bad acting for a bad premise. Dumb idea for a show. I guess all of the fans of the last 10 years of tweener type shows went all gaga over it.

  32. lara says:

    Who played the FBI’s wife? She looks so familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it!

  33. Scott Revels says:

    I tried watching this but for the twenty five minutes I actually watched, fifteen of those minutes were completely black to the point where I couldn’t tell what was going on.. The other ten were spent bored because the plot was boring.. It’s definitely not getting anymore attention from me. I expected more from someone who brought us Justified.

  34. This was hands down the best pilot I have seen since Homeland. Excellent, loved how the best scenes were describing the relationship between them (Philip killing the guy for hurting his wife, Elizabeth finally revealing her own name) and how suspenseful the scene in the garage was (the girl interrupted Elizabeth while she was cleaning). Also, Kevin Walker, it’s good to have you back. Does anybody know how many episodes there are?

  35. Kristen says:

    I got a really authentic 80s feel…the mall, the ice cream shop – home. It felt like the 80s to me. One thing I agree on is the 60s scenes – they could’ve done something a little better to give them a younger look. I’ve loved Keri Russell since Felicity and she was great here – and love Rhys now too – he is extremely versatile (I felt he did pull off a younger him in the 60s scenes – not as young as it should be, but he pulled it off a bit better than Russell, although I think it had to do with her clothing and such).

  36. Catherine says:

    Yes, it was good, hope not to see a lot of American’s getting killed, backstory is interesting, hope the FBI guy is competent and a foil for the Russian spys, if not, too hard for me to watch and I will give it up.

  37. JBC says:

    Good pilot, good acting, Love Noah Emmerich.. enough said.

  38. Lou says:

    Awesome show! What was that Phil Collins song?

  39. Rebecca says:

    Amazing!!! So awesome!! Felt like I was watching a mini movie!!! Can not wait for more! Always been a Huge Keri fan and glad she has found another great show!!

  40. L2u9 says:

    I absolutely loved it, ever since they said there was going to be a KGB thriller I knew it was going to be GOOD!! I had been waiting for this too long and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint me. Well done, I hope the season remains as good and judging by the next week’s promo it probably will.

  41. Rory says:

    It has the flavor of Nelson DeMille’s “Charm School” but his was better.

  42. Lucy says:

    Such an intense show! Can’t wait for more!

  43. JB Real says:

    Forgive me, but I deleted it off my DVR immediately her 1960 character was raped. A gratuitous scene. Moving on.

    • Lisa G says:

      Actually it wasn’t. If you had watched the show you would have seen that the man they kidnapped was the man who raped her. When Phillip found out that had happened in 1960 he killed the guy. That act is what made Elizabeth look at him in a new way, open up to him, etc. Very important plot point.

  44. Sil says:

    I like the first episode… but the casting of the children is awfull, both parents have blue eyes and both children have brown eyes… that’s impossible!

  45. wsm says:

    I love all the sex, which has been missing in many shows these days. I can definitely see this evolving into a Sopranos type of show with the kids growing up over the seasons and starting to become aware of what their parents are doing.

    As for the nostalgia, it’s important to remember what was realistically 80s and what is portrayed as 80s through today’s lens. All those heavily underscored depictions of 80s teen fashions that we connect with today wasn’t necessarily the reality for 40-year-old John Doe in 1982. Consider shows like Mad Men that go with so much 60s era style that it’s almost too much to be realistic.

  46. Theresa says:

    I liked the pilot. Great premise. As the episodes stumble along, however, I have more difficultly relating in anyway to Elizabeth. Such a cold fish. And I just have gotta say, the gratuitous sex in every episode would be laughable if it wasn’t so painfully unnecessary. Aren’t there “special” channels for all this? It’s a simple time filler and just a finger in the eye of those of us getting fed up with all that. bummer, can’t watch it with my Mom anymore. We are both intrigued with the era and cold war… Could have been a good show. But it’s more and more dumbed down each episode. Too simplified and the spies are just having too much of an easy go of it, really. I don’t fear for them often. Plus, the only character I ever slightly sympathize with is the husband of that wretched woman who appears to really despise him. Now I just want them to get divorced, and she continue doing her thing for Mother Russia while he goes full on American with his kids and settles in fir a nice life with a woman who likes him… Then he won’t have to wear any more goofy disguises during his pointless and excessive sexcapades and we can end this thing. Oh and I agree with the other poster that the casting of the kids just does nothing for me. Particularly the girl. Not sure why, but finding her annoying. And A Fed agent moving in right next door… who specializes in spies? A lot to swallow. Maybe if they can get more real cold war intrigue going it might make it. I love this kind of thing when it’s interesting… But please clean it up some. I’d like to watch it with my 70 year old Mom but am too creeped out by all the dumb sex….who wants it? It’s not even “hot”! Lol that’s ok, I think Mom already quit watching. Don’t think this one will make it… Especially since every time I watch I have rewind several times as I lose interest and miss stuff! Great premise… Could be good. Please fix it! And John Boy looks pretty good after all these years!