Photo by Michael Parmelee/FX
If you've been watching much cable television or the NFL playoffs over the past month, chances are you've seen the intense trailer for the third season of FX's The Americans.
One of Variance's top five Best TV Shows of 2014, the Cold War-period drama centers around Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in roles opposite of what fans have come to know them for: a pair of Soviet KGB spies. By day, they're a couple of murderous, native Russian crooks posing as travel agents. By night, they're a loving "American" family living in the suburbs with their two children.
Season three begins Wednesday (Jan. 28), but don't let that deter you from starting this riveting series (from the beginning, of course).
Still not sure if it's for you? Below are six reasons you should watch (no spoilers).
With the creative renaissance happening in TV these days, there's admittedly no shortage of costumes and makeup on screen. Because The Americans is set in 1980s Washington, D.C., you won't see animal skins or zombie blood. But the show makes up for that with some ridiculous, sometimes outrageous hairpieces. If you weren't around during the Cold War era (or maybe you were), you're sure to get a kick out of some of the very '80s hairstyles.
Russell and Rhys as partners in crime and as husband and wife are an incredible combination. There's an alluring kinship between the two that translates extremely well and makes you cheer for their success, despite the fact that yes, they're really the enemies.
If you're like me and didn't much care for history (or science or algebra) in high school, it's possible all you know about the Soviet Union is that they were America's nemesis. The good thing about The Americans is that it doesn't require viewers to hit the books (aka Wikipedia) before tuning in. It certainly helps to have some basic knowledge about the time period, but the drama has made clear it's not as concerned with historical accuracy as it is with great storytelling.
Speaking of accuracy, it's widely known that actual KGB spies weren't necessarily killing adversaries in Virginia suburbs. So the show definitely takes some liberties in order to create story lines that can translate well into five or more seasons. But the basic premise of the show is at its core full of high stakes. Two KGB spies—whose children have no idea!—living undercover next door to a FBI agent. There's no email, no text messaging or smartphones. If they get trapped on a failed mission, they can't Facebook message each other for help or send their location via Google maps. And as they head into the third season, the stakes are much higher than ever, with no signs of slowing down.
After two seasons, the FX series hasn't become a ratings giant (yet), but it's clear Russian spy rings make for some damned good TV. How good? NBC has decided to make its own KGB-inspired drama called Allegiance. Of course, it hasn't taken long for others to notice the Peacock's sudden interest in making a serial about espionage. The differences between the two are many, but it makes one thing clear: The Americans is on to something.
That said, the third season and its gripping plots could grow the show beyond cult favorite status and into new territory. So there's still time to get in on the action before it's the mainstream hit all your mainstream-leaning friends are chatting about. Come Emmy season this summer, it's also possible this underrated thriller finally gets some award love. Thus far, only recurring actress Margo Martindale has been nominated (no wins). But with veteran players like Breaking Bad and Mad Men now gone or on their way out, respectively, it's time for some new blood.