I am a Communist on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.
The cable channel FX has some of the best television on in primetime. We had the dirty cop drama “The Shield,” we have the comic genius of Louis CK on his show “Louie,” we have another heart-pounding adrenalized drama “Sons of Anarchy,” and now we have FX’s virgin foray into espionage: “The Americans.”
“The Americans” stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as the middle aged suburban couple Elizabeth and Philip Jennings. They seem like a boring middle class couple living in a suburb of Washington DC. What the audience quickly finds out in the opening scene of the first episode is that Elizabeth and Philip are sleeper agents for the Soviet KGB. The best part of the series so far is the context of the series being set in the 1980s, which was the tipping point for the Cold War and the election of my personally least favorite American president of my lifetime — Ronald Reagan.
We were absolutely treated to back to back episodes on Wednesday night, and the show absolutely delivered what I was hoping when they were running teasers and promos.
One of the interesting aspects about the show is that we find out that Philip and Elizabeth have been leading a double life for about 20 years. That gives the characters a level of richness that otherwise wouldn’t be there if perhaps this show’s plot started when the character were first making their way here in America in the 1960s. They do show some flashbacks of their KGB training and their first days here on American soil. Most of the series so far revolves around the year 1981.
Another interesting plot development is Elizabeth and Philip’s children, Paige and Henry. Henry appears to be around 11 to 12 years old. Paige is a bit older at around 14. The children add an aspect to the show that was quite refreshing. Paige is in the years of life when boys, and in one episode a man, begins to take notice of her female figure.
Henry is a younger boy obsessed with astronauts. He spouts his patriotism, telling his mom how the Americans landed on the moon. Elizabeth dismissively retorts son’s assertion and replies that actually getting into outer space is an achievement all into itself. We see the space race being played out in that moment.
I love mother and son tension — don’t you?
Finally, the biggest attraction we have with the Americans: rooting for the bad guys. It’s the moral dilemma of rooting for enemies that would by all accounts try to hurt us, much like rooting for Tony in “The Sopranos” or rooting for Jax in “Sons of Anarchy.” Any of those characters would slit our throats and now we’re rooting for Communists that threatened us with their nuclear payload. These sort of moral antagonisms make TV shows like “The Americans” absolutely riveting.
So, every night on Wednesdays, I will be laying in my bed with my Communist Manifesto, looking at my oil painting of Karl Marx, wrapped warmly in my hammer and sickle blanket, and hoping the American government falls apart so we can have Communism and Socialism finally in this country. Also Wednesday nights at 10 p.m., I’ll be watching a pretty good TV show.