5 Lessons Other Shows Could Learn from FX’s The Americans | TV Binges

5 Lessons Other Shows Could Learn from FX’s The Americans

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The Americans / FX
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buy non prescription drugs generic Orlistat 120 mg FX’s The Americans wrapped up its third season on Wednesday in immensely satisfying and intriguing fashion. Hold on, let’s take a step back: The Americans is television show on the FX network. It’s a spy drama about set during the Cold War about a pair of deep undercover Russian operatives working against the United States. It is fantastic.

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http://www.swazilandforum.com/?n=come-fare-trading-con-un-euro The clarification is sadly required because, according to the Nielsen numbers, not very many people are watching The Americans. Which is a tremendous shame, not just because it’s been one the very best shows on TV for the last three years, not just because it features two of the best lead performances you’ll ever see, and not just because it’s television’s first great spy thriller; but also because it provides so many example of smart decision-making and storytelling that other shows could learn from.

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Without further ado, here are five lessons that the rest of TV could learn from The Americans.

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1. Sex and violence are used to tell the story; they are not the story themselves.

Tastylia Wholesaler The very first scene of the pilot episode of CBS’ Stalker plays out as follows: A young woman leaves her car, immediately receives a menacing call, and encounters a masked man who chases her. Panicking, she locks herself in her car. The masked man proceeds to douse the car in gasoline, and light it on fire. The car explodes, burning the woman to death before we ever learn her name.

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Stalker is ostensibly about the “Threat Assessment Unit” of the government, but that’s a thinly-veiled guise for what it’s actually about: violence, Paul Krause Jersey with some sex thrown in. And I shouldn’t even pick on it, because there are so many shows that traffic in exactly the same kind of lowbrow cynicism, using corpses as little more than compost to fuel the story of each episode.

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When you think about it, murder is one of the most common occurrences across all television; but what the best network crime procedurals do is use it tell human stories, whether about the investigators or the victims, that reaffirm rather than negate the humanity of all involved.

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To be sure, The Americans is not a procedural. But if “making you feel queasy about what’s on screen” is the test, then The Americans is near the top of the list. Season three featured one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve ever seen (it involves a suitcase and let’s just leave it at that) and a running story about one of the alleged protagonists being required by his job to seduce a 15-year old girl. Oh, and someone was definitely lit on fire. It’s all deeply unsettling, and on paper it reads like the kind of smut that Stalker and its ilk are peddling.

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But that comparison is absurd, because stories like those are not what The Americans is about. Sure, they’re representative of the events that occur on-screen, but the show is about how Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (the two spies, played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, respectively) react to those events and how their lives are affected. It’s one thing to watch a captured spy burn to death. It’s another to follow them home and watch them live with it. Which brings us to…

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2. Characters first, plot second

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Do you remember Low Winter Sun? No? That’s probably for the best. AMC premiered the crime drama a couple seasons back, looking to capitalize on its own brand and the public’s fascination with “gritty” police Nick Vigil Jersey shows. Unfortunately, what the show took for “gritty” missed its mark and landed somewhere between “stale”, “pandering”, and “why am I watching this again?”. Just recently, NBC premiered “American Odyssey” with a pilot so dryly plot-driven that the hour felt like being swept up in a riptide of sand.

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The Americans is about the people involved in the story, and the story is the lives of those people. From the Jennings, to their kids Paige and Henry, to the FBI and the agent who lives next door (Stan Beeman, played by Linval Joseph Womens Jersey Noah Emmerich), to the employees of the Russian embassy, The Americans takes care to make each character distinct. Nobody is a cog in a plot machine, and none of the main cast feel like they exist as support beams for the story. Characters have individual points of view, which evolve over time and constantly come into contact with others. Shawn Williams Jersey That’s where the drama comes from; it’s not whether the Jennings can complete the mission so much as it is how they will complete it, why they’re deciding to complete it that way, and how they will live with the actions they take.

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3. Teenage girls don’t have to be awful!

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It’s true! I know, you watched Homeland and still have Dana Brody nightmares, right? Homeland is an occasionally excellent show that has some very bad instincts, and nowhere were those instincts more damaging than when the show turned Dana into a walking Bad Idea Jeans commercial who embarked on the world’s most unwatchable road trip. This problem exists with dramas in general: conflict is important, and the easiest source of drama within a family dynamic is from a smart alec teenage daughter getting herself in trouble over and over again.

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The Americans countered this by spending its first two seasons establishing Paige Jennings (Philip and Elizabeth’s 16-year old daughter, played by Holly Taylor) as the kind of daughter any family would be proud of. She’s smart, independent, and not a troublemaker. She’s respectful of her parents, but also ignorant of the secret that defines their and her existence. So when season three revealed itself to really be about Paige and her grappling with the realization that such a secret exists, viewers were left with more to consider. It’s the rare case on TV when a teenage daughter comes into conflict with her parents, does not handle the results of that conflict well, and yet remains entirely sympathetic even as she’s undermining the show’s central characters.

 

4. It’s okay to have a “Big Bad,” but it’s also okay not to

 
Through two seasons, Dexter knew this. Season one of Dexter – one of the all-time great TV seasons – featured a big bad. Season two did not. Both were very good. But then? The series got lazy, and the remaining seasons played out like dull marches towards inevitable conclusions. The Big Bad would die, Dexter would learn something about himself, blah blah.

 
Season two of The Americans featured Andrew Laric, a U.S. Agent with a penchant for killing Russians. He was the season’s Big Bad, for all intents and purposes, as his was the dominant storyline of the year (though the show took many detours). But season three? Not a bad guy in sight! From Philip and Elizabeth’s perspective, the biggest threat posed to them came from a well-intentioned pastor and their own daughter.

 
Once a serial drama becomes predictable, it becomes stale; at the very least, The Americnas is unpredictable.

 

5. If you want big ratings, maybe don’t make your show about two Russian spies

 
Alas, of all the theories about why The Americans isn’t a cultural phenomenon like Breaking Bad, this one strikes me as the most logical. A series can employ great actors, create fantastic characters, and tell compelling stories. It can feature some of the most explicit sex scenes this side of premium cable and ample shots of the definitely-not-unattractive Keri Russell in various states of undress. It can regularly have awesome car chases, shootouts, and just brutal deaths (if that’s your thing). It can be smart. It can even be brilliant.

 
But if it’s about Russians in the 1980’s? No dice! Just blank stares from the public, followed by “USA! USA! USA!” chants.

 
Sometimes TV is not fair. During the planning, general franks and his team expected http://writepaper4me.com/ that 150,000 international troops

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Nancy Warren

April 30, 2015 11:42 pm Reply

Very nice review. I love The Americans. I agree it is one of the best TV shows
I’ve watched.

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