The Americans (2013 TV series)

The Americans
Genre Period drama
Serial drama
Spy thriller
Created by Joe Weisberg
Opening theme "The Americans Theme" by Nathan Barr
Composer(s) Nathan Barr
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 52 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Location(s) New York
Running time 39–54 minutes
70 minutes (pilot)[1]
Production company(s) Nemo Films
DreamWorks Television (2013)
Amblin Television (2014-present)
Fox Television Studios (2013–14)
Fox 21 Television Studios (2015–present)
FX Productions (2013–15)
FXP (2016–present)
Distributor 20th Television
Original network FX
Audio format DTS-HD Master Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1
Original release January 30, 2013 (2013-01-30) – present
External links

The Americans is an American television period drama series created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg.[2] The series premiered in the United States on January 30, 2013 on the cable network FX.

Set in the early 1980s during the Cold War, The Americans is the story of Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB officers posing as an American married couple living in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., with their children (Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati) and their neighbor, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counterintelligence.[3]

The fourth season premiered on March 16, 2016.[4][5] On May 25, 2016, FX set an end-date for the series by renewing it for a fifth and sixth season. The 13-episode fifth season will air in 2017, followed by a 10-episode sixth and final season in 2018.[6]



The Americans was created by Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer.[2] Despite its spy setting, Weisberg aimed to tell the story of a marriage.[7] The series focuses on the personal and professional lives of the Jenningses, sometimes incorporating real-life events into the narrative. The show's creator has described the series as being ultimately about a marriage:[8] "The Americans is at its core a marriage story. International relations is just an allegory for the human relations. Sometimes, when you're struggling in your marriage or with your kid, it feels like life or death. For Philip and Elizabeth, it often is."[9] Executive producer Joel Fields described the series as working different levels of reality: the fictional world of the marriage between Philip and Elizabeth, and the real world involving the characters' experiences during the Cold War.[9]

"The most interesting thing I observed during my time at the CIA was the family life of agents who served abroad with kids and spouses. The reality is that mostly they're just people going about their lives. The job is one element, and trying to depict the issues they face just seemed like something that, if we could bring it to television in a realistic way, would be new."

Joe Weisberg, creator and showrunner of The Americans[8]

Working at the CIA, which Weisberg later described as a mistake, has helped him develop several storylines in the series,[10] basing some plot lines on real-life stories,[10] and integrating several things he learned in his training, such as dead drops and communication protocols.[11]

Weisberg was fascinated by stories he had heard from agents who served abroad as spies, while raising their families.[11] He was interested in bringing that concept to television, with the idea of a family of spies, rather than just one person.[11]

Weisberg says the CIA inadvertently gave him the idea for a series about spies, explaining, "While I was taking the polygraph exam to get in, they asked the question, 'Are you joining the CIA in order to gain experience about the intelligence community so that you can write about it later'—which had never occurred to me. I was totally joining the CIA because I wanted to be a spy. But the second they asked that question ... then I thought, 'Now I'm going to fail the test.'"[12]

Weisberg was partially influenced by the events of the Illegals Program to write a pilot script for the series. His research material included notes on the KGB's Cold War left by Vasili Mitrokhin and conversations with some of his former colleagues at the CIA.[7] He stated that, unlike the circumstances involving the Illegals Program (which culminated in 2010), he had opted to set the story in the early 1980s because "a modern day [setting] didn't seem like a good idea", adding, "People were both shocked and simultaneously shrugged at the [2010] scandal because it didn't seem like we were really enemies with Russia anymore. An obvious way to remedy that for television was to stick it back in the Cold War. At first, the '70s appealed to me just because I loved the hair and the music. But can you think of a better time than the '80s with Ronald Reagan yelling about the evil empire?"[7]

After reading Weisberg's novel, An Ordinary Spy, executive producer Graham Yost discovered that Weisberg had also written a pilot for a possible spy series. Yost read the pilot and discovered that it was "annoyingly good", which led to the beginning of motions to develop the show.[13]


Weisberg stated that he had no idea about who would star in the series before casting began.[14] FX president John Landgraf had the idea to cast Keri Russell in the series.[14] Leslie Feldman, the head of casting at DreamWorks, saw Matthew Rhys in a play and suggested him to Weisberg.[14] Russell and Rhys had met briefly at a party years before, but were not fully introduced.[15] They both were attracted to the series because of its focus on the relationship between their characters. Said Rhys, "You have two people who have led the most incredibly strange life together with incredibly high stakes, in this scene of domesticity that is an absolute lie, and at the end of the pilot they're finding each other for the very first time."[15]

Russell described the pilot script as "interesting", continuing, "It was so far from a procedural. And [originally,] I didn't know that I wanted to do it. I always say no to everything. I never want to do anything. [Laughs.] But I just couldn't stop thinking about it. I read it ... and I kept trying to figure it out, because it's so not clear. It's still not clear to me. But there's so many different levels to it."[16]

Rhys said of his character, "He's a sort of gift of a part in that he's very sort of layered and multi-faceted. And when you meet him, he's at this great turning point in his life where everything's changing for him. You just get to do everything. You get to do the kung fu, and you get to do the emotional scenes, you get to do the disguises. It's the full package for an actor. It's a dream."[16]

Noah Emmerich was initially hesitant about taking a role in the series. He explained: "The truth is, from the very beginning, I thought, 'I don't want to do a TV show where I carry a gun or a badge. I'm done with guns and badges. I just don't want to do that anymore.' When I first read it I thought, 'Yeah, it's really interesting and really good, but I don't want to be an FBI guy.'"[17] His friend, Gavin O'Connor, who directed the pilot episode, convinced him to take a closer look at the role.[17] Emmerich stated that he responded to the aspect of marriage and family. "It was really interesting, and it was really intelligent and unusual, and it stood out from the pack."[17]

After recurring in the first season, Susan Misner, Annet Mahendru, and Alison Wright, who play Sandra Beeman, Nina, and Martha Hanson, respectively, were promoted to series regulars beginning with season two.[18][19] After recurring in the first two seasons, Lev Gorn, who plays Arkady Ivanovich, was promoted to series regular for season three.[20]

Filming and locations

The series films in New York City[21] at Eastern Effects Studios in Brooklyn.[22] Other shooting locations include: Mamaroneck,[23] Coney Island Avenue,[24] Kew Gardens,[25] Morningside Heights,[26] and Farmingdale.[27] Shooting of the pilot episode began in May 2012 and lasted until mid-June.[28] Filming began for the rest of the first season in November 2012 in the New York City area. The production used location shots to simulate a dramatic setting of Washington, D.C. Early filming was delayed by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy.[22] Filming for the second season commenced in October 2013.[10]

Cast and characters

The surnames of most of the Russian characters are not revealed. In scenes taking place inside the Soviet embassy, the characters address each other in a familiar but respectful manner, using given name and patronymic, without mentioning surnames. "Ivanovich" means "son of Ivan" and "Sergeevna" indicates "daughter of Sergei".

Main cast

Recurring cast


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113January 30, 2013 (2013-01-30)May 1, 2013 (2013-05-01)
213February 26, 2014 (2014-02-26)May 21, 2014 (2014-05-21)
313January 28, 2015 (2015-01-28)April 22, 2015 (2015-04-22)
413March 16, 2016 (2016-03-16)June 8, 2016 (2016-06-08)
513[6]2017 (2017)[6]TBA

The general plot of The Americans follows two KGB Directorate S agents, Nadezhda and Mischa, as they pose as an American couple, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, and attempt to carry out covert intelligence operations shortly after Ronald Reagan's election to President, while keeping their true identity safe from outsiders and their children.

Season 1 follows Stan Beeman turning Nina Krilova into an American spy in the Rezidentura. After Beeman kills Vlad, a young and inexperienced KGB officer, in retaliation for his partner's murder, Nina becomes a triple agent, confessing to the Rezident. The season ends after Nina blows an operation to capture Elizabeth picking up a dead drop under surveillance, but Elizabeth is shot and badly wounded.

Season 2 follows the Jennings attempting to capture technology and data relating to the United States efforts to develop stealth aircraft. At the same time, Elizabeth and Philip attempt to solve the murders of two other Directorate S operatives, Leanne and Emmet. Believing that Captain Larrick, a Navy SEAL, is responsible, they agree to free him from blackmail after he gets them access to a training camp for Nicaraguan Contras. At the end of the season, it is revealed that Jared, Leanne and Emmet's son, murdered them after they discovered he'd been recruited by the KGB. They are then approached by Claudia, their handler, who informs them that their daughter Paige has been selected as the next recruit, under a program to develop "Second Generation Illegals" who can pass background checks and presumably be hired by the FBI and the CIA.

Season 3 features the Jennings coping with the stress of preparing themselves to reveal their true nature to Paige. To make her more comfortable with the notion, Elizabeth becomes more involved with Paige's church activities, though she later confesses that she was doing so as a coping mechanism after learning her mother was dying. The main storylines for the season include the arrival of a Soviet defector whom Stan is assigned to monitor (and fears may be a double agent), the war in Afghanistan (which takes a toll on both Philip, who has a son serving in the army in Afghanistan, and Oleg, whose brother was executed by the Afghan resistance). Other plots include exploring the relationship between the Soviet Union and the anti-apartheid movement, the manipulated Martha's secret spying on her FBI bosses being uncovered, Nina's time in a Soviet Gulag, and Oleg's attempts to protect her through his father's influence.

Philip and Elizabeth eventually reveal the truth to Paige, who then travels to Germany along with Elizabeth for a secret visit of her grandmother. Philip arranges the murder of an FBI employee who then is framed for the spying, in order to protect Martha (who discovers that her husband is a spy, though Philip omits that he works for the Russians). However, the trip to Germany only increases Paige's contempt for her parents, leading to her calling her reverend mentor and revealing her family's secret to them.


Critical reception

Over the course of its run, the series has received critical acclaim,[29][30][31][32][33][34] with several publications in 2014 naming it one of the best shows on television.[35][36][37]

Season 1

Season Critical response
Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1 90% (48 reviews) 78 (35 reviews)
2 97% (37 reviews) 88 (31 reviews)
3 100% (53 reviews) 92 (23 reviews)
4 99% (43 reviews) 95 (28 reviews)

The first season of The Americans received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 90 percent approval rating with an average score of 7.8 out of 10 based on 48 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "The Americans is a spy thriller of the highest order, with evocative period touches and strong chemistry between its leads."[32] Metacritic scored the show a 78 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[29] The American Film Institute listed it as one of the top ten television series of 2013.[38] Rob Brunner of Entertainment Weekly described it as "an absorbing spy thriller"[39] while David Hinkley of the New York Daily News praised the pace, noting that "It's a premise that requires as much clever dramatic footwork as you might expect, and creator Joe Weisberg, a former CIA agent, handles the challenge".[40] Verne Gay of Newsday called it a "smart newcomer with a pair of leads that turns The Americans into a likely winner" and gave it a grade of an "A−".[41]

Some reviews were not as optimistic. The Washington Post was cautious in its outlook, stating how, "it's easy to see how stale it might get in a matter of episodes."[42] Variety, while finding the concept "intriguing and provocative", ultimately concluded that, "The execution ... isn't worthy of the premise."[43]

Members of the cast and crew at the 74th Annual Peabody Awards

Season 2

The second season received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 97 percent approval rating with an average score of 8.8 out of 10 based on 37 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "Adding fuel to the fire, The Americans retains all the suspense and action of season one while enhancing the level of excitement... and wigs."[33] Metacritic scored the show an 88 out of 100 based on 31 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[30] Several entities have rated the show among the best television for 2014, including the American Film Institute, The A.V. Club, and Grantland.[35][36][37]

Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter called the series "one of television's finest dramas" and praised the ability of the writers in "nailing down season two ... by picking up where the story left off and making sure that this spy-vs.-spy thing has real-life costs."[44] Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praised the series for doing "the near-impossible of making viewers cheer for Russian spies in America and at the same time for the American FBI agents who are trying to unmask those Russians living in suburbia."[45] Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the second season, stating how the show has, "taken a major creative leap—the kind that can elevate a show from a strong example of its era to one that transcends eras."[46]

Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times did not approve of its portrayal of the children, expressing concern for how viewers are expected to accept the dangerous situations the children are placed in while the show continues to use crime and violence to advance the story in The Americans and other like-minded shows.[47] The New York Daily News questioned its survivability: "Credibility starts to fray when our heroes, or anti-heroes, keep needing miraculous last-second evasions and escapes."[48]

Season 3

The third season received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 100% approval rating with an average score of 9 out of 10 based on 53 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "Family-driven drama and psychological themes propel The Americans' tautly drawn tension, dispensing thrills of a different ilk this season."[34] Metacritic lists a score of 92 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[31] Alessandra Stanley's review in The New York Times states that, "'The Americans' is an unusually clever, subtle drama that uses the conventions of a Cold War thriller to paint a portrait of a complicated, evolving but not unhappy marriage...[E]very season gets more complicated, and is all the better for it."[49] Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post declared that the first four episodes were "every bit as taut and finely crafted as the stellar prior season of the show."[50] Todd VanDerWerff of Vox said "The Americans is in the kind of incredible stretch of episodes TV dramas sometimes hit in the middle of their runs" and that it is "on one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history."[51]

Season 4

The fourth season received widespread acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 99% approval rating with an average score of 9.2 out of 10 based on 43 reviews, with a critics consensus of: "With its fourth season, The Americans continues to deliver top-tier spy drama while sending its characters in directions that threaten to destroy their freedoms – and their lives."[52] On Metacritic, the season has a score of 95 out of 100 based on 28 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[53] Brian Tallerico of praised the series and wrote, "It is that depth of character and nuance in the writing that elevates The Americans, along with its willingness to offer stunning narrative developments. [...] I'm now convinced that when we close the final chapter of this televised novel we may finally appreciate one of the best shows we've ever seen."[54]

Awards and nominations

International broadcasts

The Americans airs internationally in Australia on Network Ten,[55][56] Canada on FX Canada,[57] Ireland on RTÉ Two,[58] and the United Kingdom on ITV.[59][60] ITV dropped the series in January 2015 and did not acquire the third season.[61] On July 20, 2015, ITV acquired seasons three and four for their subscription channel ITV Encore.[62]

Home media releases

The first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on February 11, 2014,[63] in region 2 on March 24, 2014,[64] and in region 4 on February 5, 2014.[65] Special features include audio commentary on "The Colonel" by Joe Weisberg, Joel Fields and Noah Emmerich; three featurettes—"Executive Order 2579: Exposing the Americans", "Perfecting the Art of Espionage", and "Ingenuity Over Technology"; gag reel; and deleted scenes.[63]

The second season was released only on DVD format in region 1 on December 16, 2014,[66] and in region 2 on January 26, 2015.[67] Special features include two featurettes—"Operation Ghost Stories: The Real Directorate 'S'" and "Shades of Red: The Mortality of the Americans"; gag reel; and deleted scenes.[66]

The third season was released on DVD in region 1 on March 1, 2016. Special features include deleted scenes and a featurette titled "The Cold War for Paige".[68]

See also


  1. "The Americans". Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  2. 1 2 Holson, Laura M. (March 29, 2013). "The Dark Stuff, Distilled". The New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  3. Harnick, Chris (August 9, 2012). "'The Americans': FX Orders Cold War Spy Series Starring Keri Russell". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  4. Hibberd, James (March 31, 2015). "The Americans renewed for season 4". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  5. Wagmeister, Elizabeth (January 16, 2016). "'The Americans' Season 4 Premiere Date Revealed". Variety. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Andreeva, Nellie (May 25, 2016). "'The Americans' To End Run With Two-Season Final Renewal By FX, EPs Ink Deals". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 Waxman, Olivia B. (January 30, 2013). "The real CIA behind 'The Americans'". Time. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  8. 1 2 Arnold-Ratliff, Katie (March 12, 2013). "Spy vs. Spy: A Q&A with The Americans Creator Joe Weisberg". Time. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  9. 1 2 Thomas, June (January 31, 2013). "A Conversation with the Americans Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields". Slate. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  10. 1 2 3 Leeds, Sarene (October 5, 2013). "'The Americans' Invade New York's Paley Center". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  11. 1 2 3 "DIRECTV Interview: The Americans Masterminds Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields". DirecTV. April 24, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  12. Bernstein, Paula (October 7, 2013). "'The Americans' Changes Focus in Season Two and Other Intel from PaleyFest". Indiewire. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  13. Brioux, Bill (January 30, 2013). "The Americans debuts on FX Canada Jan. 30". The Canadian Press. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  14. 1 2 3 Radish, Christina. "Creators Joseph Weisberg and Joel Fields Talk THE AMERICANS Season Finale, Crafting the Cliffhanger, Season 2, and More". Collider. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  15. 1 2 Egner, Jeremy (January 24, 2013). "The Spy Who Married Me: Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys on 'The Americans'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  16. 1 2 Prudom, Laura (January 30, 2013). "'The Americans' Premiere: Keri Russell And Matthew Rhys Talk Sex, Spy Games And America Vs. Russia". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  17. 1 2 3 Potts, Kimberly (March 11, 2013). "Yahoo! TV Q&A: 'The Americans' Star Noah Emmerich on His Character, His Twitter, and His Celebrity BFF". Yahoo. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
  18. Mitovich, Matt Webb (March 8, 2013). "Americans Ups Susan Misner to Series Regular". TVLine. Retrieved March 14, 2013.
  19. Mitovich, Matt Webb (May 7, 2013). "FX's The Americans Promotes Two for Season 2". TVLine. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  20. Andreeva, Nellie (September 5, 2014). "Lev Gorn Upped To Regular On 'The Americans', Books 'NCIS' Arc". Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  21. ""The Americans" Filming on the UWS Today". The Upper West Side blog. December 3, 2012. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
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  25. Swanson, Carl (February 25, 2013). "How The Americans Blew Up a House". Vulture. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
  26. Marya, Radhika (March 18, 2015). "8 Things You Didn't Know About Shooting 'The Americans' in New York City". DNAinfo. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  27. "FX television show 'The Americans' takes over Adventureland in Farmingdale". Newsday. October 15, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
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  35. 1 2 Poniewozik, James (December 8, 2014). "AFI Names Best TV of 2014, From The Americans to Transparent". Time. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  36. 1 2 Adams, Erik (December 11, 2014). "The best TV shows of 2014 (part 2)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
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  47. McNamara, Mary (February 26, 2014). "Review: The overlooked victims in 'The Americans' — the kids". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
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  49. Stanley, Alessandra (January 28, 2015). "Navigating a Cold War, at Work and at Home 'The Americans' Returns to FX With Season 3". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  50. Ryan, Maureen (January 28, 2015). "8 Reasons (Among Many) To Love 'The Americans'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  51. Todd, VanDerWerff (April 2, 2015). "The Americans is on one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history". Vox. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
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